Saturday, October 2, 2010

N.C. State loses, but will win big games like this

So the first big game in Tom O’Brien’s tenure became a loss. N.C. State, before the third-largest crowd in its history, couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead and fell to Virginia Tech, 41-30.

There are ample reasons for why the outcome turned out the way it did. Virginia Tech returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, a stunning turn of events that a good team can’t allow to happen. State’s rush defense allowed 317 yards, and a 54-yard scoring run by Darren Evans in the third quarter was a killer.

And yes, Russell Wilson spiked whatever Heisman hopes he had with a three-interception effort that included too many deep-ball shots that were became interceptions.

But the underlying sense of watching N.C. State, playing at 3:30 p.m. in a regional contest while North Carolina and ECU were relegated to the fuzzy video of ESPN3, was the Wolfpack will play in games like this again – probably this year. Don’t be stunned at all if State plays Virginia Tech a second time, in Charlotte for the ACC title.

The ACC’s Atlantic Division this year is weak. Only Florida State (in Raleigh on Thursday, Oct. 28) and Clemson (State travels there Nov. 6) pose real threats.   State can beat Boston College and ECU, its next two opponents. Then comes that showdown with the Seminoles.

But to win, and to keep winning, State must shore up some of the weaknesses that hurt it Saturday. The Hokies smashed the Wolfpack defensive front, especially along State’s left side. That’s were Evans plunged through for his critical touchdown. State’s young secondary allowed too many open receivers, and there are better passers ahead than Tech’s Tyrod Taylor.

N.C. State also needs a running game opponents fear, and Mustafa Greene will improve rapidly. You had to love the catch and cut he made on a vital pass from Wilson.

This is a good team, and good program, despite the sting of Saturday’s loss. There will be more games like this in future years, as Mike Glennon gets his chance, young players like Mustafa Greene and Rob Crisp emerge and State’s  promising group of freshmen mature.

State may be in get position for a game like this again this season. Sometimes programs need to suffer the pain of tough losses to grow and learn to win big games like Saturday.

UNC's four unanswered second-half touchdowns rip ECU

North Carolina scored four touchdowns in the second half after falling behind 17-14 to defeat East Carolina 42-17.

The Tar Heels struggled in the first half with missed opportunities and penalties. Twice quarterback T.J. Yates overthrew open receivers who had beaten the ECU secondary for what would have been touchdowns. A roughing the kicker call on UNC's Bruce Carter negated excellent field position in ECU territory and restarted a Pirate drive that ended in a touchdown to make it 14-7 ECU.

But the Tar Heels managed to tie the score at 14-14 late in the first half when UNC's Da'Norris Searcy intercepted a pass and went in from 47 yards out. Searcy, who had been scrutinized under the recent investigations, was cleared to play for the first time earlier in the week.

In the second half, the Tar Heels started to wear down the smaller Pirates, especially with rushing yardage. Carolina held the ball for 22 of the 30 second-half minutes and scored on three straight possessions after UNC's Casey Barth missed a 37-yard field goal. The Heels went from being behind 17-14 to going up 35-17.

Shaun Draughn scored his third touchdown of the game on a 13-yard cutback run in the last minute to put the finishing touches on the 42-17 victory.

Draughn ended the game with 137 yards rushing while Johnny White bettered him with 140 yards. It's the first time in six years that two Carolina runningbacks have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game.

East Carolina got up early - on its second drive - as Dominique Davis threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lance Lewis to culminate a long drive where Davis went eight-for-eight.

UNC came right back to tie the score on its next drive when Yates hit Jheranie Boyd with a 25-yard scoring strike on third-and-10.

ECU went up 14-7 on a trick play where receiver Dwayne Harris threw a 40-yard TD to fellow receiver Joe Womack.

Searcy's interception tied it at the half before State took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Carolina took the lead for the first time at 21-17 when Yates found Dwight Jones running a crossing pattern for 13 yards and a touchdown. The big play in the drive was a 32-yard pass play from Yates to Zach Pianalto.

Three rushing touchdowns later by Draughn, the game was over.

"If you can run the ball," UNC coach Butch Davis said, "it keeps the other team's offense off the field and tires the other team out."

Davis also said it was key that the Tar Heels did not turn the ball over and picked off three passes. In addition to Searcy's key interception, UNC's Kevin Reddick and Gene Robinson intercepted tipped passes.

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill, aka Weebles, agreed that the turnovers were costly. But he said that other mistakes also hurt the Pirates. "Penalties hurt us - that's an understatement - and it put us in some tough situations," he said. The Pirates were penalized 13 times for more than 100 yards whereas the Heels were penalized 10 times for 80 yards.

As Carolina was steamrolling in the second half, the adversity built but McNeill said he needs to teach the team to just play the next play. He said the team is "young and talented and they're going to make some mistakes."

East Carolina finished with a respectable 347 total yards but that's 100 fewer than the Pirates have averaged plus they only managed 64 on the ground. Carolina racked up 444 total yards with 263 on the ground and 181 through the air.

UNC improves to 2-2 while ECU falls to 2-2.

Random Thoughts: East Carolina was every bit as good as UNC until the Pirates wore down. Coach McNeill has done an excellent job of getting his offense to buy into his passing, quick-playing offense. The defense is simply too small and inexperienced to help the offense much at this point though. McNeill has the Pirates playing better than I thought they would at this point in the season. While they are 0-2 against ACC teams, they are 2-0 in their own conference and will be a force.

Durham Bulls play-by-play announcer Neil Solondz did a commendable job as the ESPN3 announcer for the game. He has a good voice and seems to know the two teams fairly well. He did have the "huh?" moment of the game however when he said that an ECU runner had "a negative gain of two yards." That would be a two-yard loss to you and me.

His sidekick, commentator Jay Taylor, wasn't nearly as good. He had too many "duh" moments to mention but the one I liked the most is when he said the ECU defender wouldn't have been called for interference if he had turned around and not touched the receiver. Ah, duh.

It was nice that Time Warner Cable broadcast the ESPN3 game to its viewers in the state. Otherwise, the game would have only been available through online streaming video. Unfortunately, technical difficulties cut the first few minutes of the game.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Tar Heel women's soccer blanks State 3-0

North Carolina's speed, depth and quick ball movement wore down N.C. State in the second half and the Tar Heels went on to a 3-0 victory in Raleigh tonight.

Carolina held a 1-0 lead at the intermission against the gritty Wolfpack squad after a Kealia Ohai goal from a sharp side angle. The Heels had numerous opportunities to score before that one finally went in.

In the second half, it was apparent that the Tar Heels were getting stronger and the Wolfpack was getting weaker.

Carolina took a 2-0 advantage with 26:33 left when Courtney Jones blasted one to the back of the net from well beyond the box.

About eight minutes later, Carolina went up 3-0 as Rachel Wood headed in a corner kick.

The No. 3 ranked Tar Heels outshot the Pack 19-6 including a 10-2 advantage in the second half. UNC's goalies had four saves while State's Kim Kerm made eight saves against the aggressive Heels.

Carolina moves to 10-1-1 and 2-1 in the ACC while State falls to 7-5 and 1-2 in the ACC.

The rivalry showed when a bank of State fans in bleachers near the goal harrassed Jones, who had been physical in attacking the net. Two student fans were escorted out. Moments later Jones answered the taunts with that long, powerful goal. When Wood scored to make it 3-0, she looked toward that group of State fans and mockingly cupped her ear toward them.

Hurricanes win in OT in final home warm-up in front of 16,000

Behind two goals from new alternate captain Brandon Sutter, the Carolina Hurricanes topped the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 in overtime in front of 16,000 at the RBC Center.

It's the last time the Hurricanes will play in Raleigh until late October as the team opens the regular season in Helsinki, Finland against the Wild.

Sutter said he was impressed with the crowd which provided regular-season excitement to the game. Fans were allowed in free to the 1:30 p.m. game.

The Hurricanes are younger, smaller and faster than last year's team. Coach Paul Maurice said he is happy with his players but is still looking for chemistry.

The defense held the Thrashers in check until the last minute of the game when they tied it up. Just a minute into overtime, on a fast-break rush, Carolina's Erik Cole found Sutter on the opposite side of the goal for the game winner.

Cam Ward had 30 saves, including a couple of spectacular ones, for the Hurricanes, who now head out to St. Petersburg, Russia for their final preseason game Monday.

Before the game, outside the RBC Center, young fans got to play roller hockey, jump on inflatibles and shoot pucks.

Duke needs a win at Maryland to salvage season

With losses at Wake Forest and at home against a poor Army team, and the way the defense is playing, it will be tough for Duke to win another game this season. Maryland, this week's foe, is an opponent we picked at the first of the year that we thought Duke could beat.

It would have been a slight upset but now it would be a big upset as Duke QB Sean Renfree has not excelled. In fact, he's already thrown seven interceptions for the 1-3 Blue Devils.

Plus, the matchup seems right for Maryland. "We have to limit the big play," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "It's killed us. We've played good five to six snaps and then we give up a monster. And Maryland specializes in the monster."

The Washington Post says this is one of the easiest games to pick all season. "Maryland in a runaway," they say. In a Post online poll, 90 percent chose the Terrapins to win.

With Miami, Virginia Tech and Navy on the horizon, Duke better put up a strong effort in this game to attempt to salvage the season. I have a feeling that Duke will play its best game of the year. We'll see if that's enough. Otherwise, unless the Devils can beat Virginia, it looks as if this could turn into a 1-11 season.

Consider attending one of these 10 area football games tonight

It's going to be wet and muddy but it appears games will go forward tonight. Here are 10 football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area. In bold is the predicted winner. Most games are at 7:30 p.m. You might want to check with local officials as some games start at 7.
My record last week was 9-1 for a season total of 45-15.

Apex at Fuquay-Varina

Durham Jordan at Northern Durham

Durham Riverside at E. Chapel Hill

Garner at Knightdale

Green Hope at Cary

Holly Springs at Panther Creek

Harnett Central at Clayton

Harrells Christian at Wake Christian

Person at Southern Durham

South Granville at Orange

A couple of area games were played Thursday night. Leesville Road defeated Broughton 36-28. Wake Forest Rolesville defeated Enloe 42-0. Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Austin Rivers cancels visit to Carolina, signs with Duke

In another blow to UNC athletics, No. 1 rated high school basketball star Austin Rivers not only canceled a planned official to UNC for this weekend but has committed to Duke.

"He picked Duke because of [Mike Krzyzewski] and his staff," his high school coach David Bailey said today. "There is a ton of tradition at Duke, and it was the best place for him from a basketball and academic standpoint."

I guess Carolina and Roy Williams are chopped liver and not even deserving of a visit. Take that Tar Heels.

Rivers' father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, said that Austin's commitment to Duke has not been finalized but is likely.

New revelations make UNC's Davis sound like he's defending his job

North Carolina football coach Butch Davis is increasingly sounding like a coach defending his job, and he very well may be.

On Wednesday, UNC athletics director Dick Baddour again defended Davis when he spoke to the Raleigh Sports Club, telling the audience of several hundred Davis had his support.

But yet another revelation came out Thursday, with Yahoo! Sports detailing the financial ties between former UNC assistant John Blake and California agent Gary Wichard. Davis was on Taylor Zarzour’s “Sports Drive” show later Thursday, and Zarzour, to his credit, pushed the coach on the issue of whether he should have known about Blake’s ties to Wichard and whether he should have known players like Marvin Austin were visiting agents.

"In the past we haven't monitored where they've gone,” Davis said. “Kids have said 'I'm hanging around here, or I'm going with a particular player to his house,' so no one monitors," Davis told Sports Drive. "But we have already implemented as measures to try to improve some of the things so that we do know."

By Thursday afternoon, News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor had seen enough. Posting to the paper’s website, Tudor wrote, “Butch Davis should resign as North Carolina’s football coach.”

All that led to a wild scene in Chapel Hill Thursday when Davis addressed the media, surrounded by reporters and photographers. Davis said he would not resign and again said he couldn't know all that his coaches and players were doing. He told reporters he plans "to be the head football coach here currently, and in the future," according to The News & Observer.

All this couldn’t come at a worse time for UNC, which is building an “academic excellence” center in a Kenan Stadium endzone and trying to raise funds from alumni. The endless process involving the student honor council, the Secretary of State’s office and the NCAA has only eroded fan patience with the program.

About the only good news for UNC was that safety Da'Norris Searcy was cleared to play Thursday and will compete for the first time Saturday at home against East Carolina.

Other than that, the news for Carolina is grim – and Davis’ status increasingly tenuous.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UNC braces for a heated in-state rivalry game with ECU

UNC football coach Butch Davis, like many Carolina fans, doesn't seem too keen about having this Saturday's opponent East Carolina on the schedule.

"When I took the job, they were on the schedule for multiple years in the future," Davis said at the weekly ACC press conference. "It's a heated, big rivalry, like all in-state rivalries are. We've gone there once and they've come here one time since I've been here. I know they're still on the schedule in future years. We're going to continue to play them when it is scheduled."

Some Carolina fans say that there is nothing to gain by playing East Carolina. But there are bragging rights.

Davis said the players and fans know each other well. "A lot of these kids played against each other in high school, they know each other. Some of them played on the same teams with each other," Davis said. "Anytime the fans are in such close proximity in the state of North Carolina, where there's so many schools, it obviously adds added excitement and hype."

Davis praised ECU as "extraordinarily explosive" and said that the players have quickly bought into the new coaches' schemes and philosophy.

Davis pointed to the team speed and Dwayne Harris in particular. "East Carolina has an awful lot of speed on their football team. Probably none of it is more evident than Dwayne Harris. Dwayne, not knowing him as a young man, but just watching him over his career, he's one of the real gifted athletes that we'll play against in the last couple years.

"He can score on punt returns, kickoff returns. He's an excellent receiver. He does a lot of stuff for their football team. He's definitely somebody that's playing extremely well."

Saturday afternoon's game in Chapel Hill will be broadcast online on ESPN3.com and locally on Time Warner Digital Cable.

Baddour sees light at the end of the tunnel

University Of North Carolina Athletic Director Dick Baddour addressed a capacity crowd and several media representatives at the Raleigh Sports Club (RSC) today. In his comments, Baddour stated he could “see the light at the end of the tunnel” and did not anticipate the NCAA investigation into the Tar Heel football program dragging out another “three to six months.”

Baddour stated that he never imagined it would drag out this long but it is the NCAA, which is in charge of the investigation and ultimately, determines the timeline and results of the investigation. The NCAA investigation includes looking into academic fraud and athlete-agent relationships.

Baddour indicated that the university had fallen short on academic compliance as it relates to the athletic department. He noted that the success of how the university handles the investigation will not be completely “understood for quite sometime.”

Baddour praised Chancellor Holden Thorp and head football Coach Butch Davis on how they have handled the NCAA investigation.

The two most common questions Baddour stated he gets are why the “secrecy” surrounding the investigations and why it is taking so long. He noted that the NCAA in the beginning has requested that university officials working with the NCAA be careful in what they share with those that do not need to know. He also referred to student privacy as a reason for being careful in what is released by the university.

“We are committed to do this the right way, to restore integrity,” Baddour said.

The Raleigh Sports Club can be found on the web at www.raleighsportsclub.org. Meetings are held at Highland United Methodist Church. The church is located on the corner of Ridge Rd. and Lake Boone Trail at 1901 Ridge Rd. Meetings are held on most Wednesdays from Noon until 1 p.m.; however, the southern buffet line opens at 11:30 a.m.

Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe is the next speaker at the Raleigh Sports Club on Wednesday, Oct. 6, followed by N.C. State basketball coach Sidney Lowe on Oct. 13.
- by Greg Pierce, correspondent

Beamer says N.C. State is fast and confident

At the weekly ACC football press conference, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says that N.C. State's players not only are fast but they play fast.

"They're just fast," he said. "They're fast on defense; they're fast on offense. (QB) Russell Wilson makes them go and they're really an exceptional football team that's playing with a lot of confidence and playing fast, and we're going to have to have a great week to prepare for them."

On defense, Beamer mentioned State's senior linebacker Nate Irving. "He's a great football player, and he's like the rest of that crowd over there they're flying around and playing good defense and getting after folks," he said. "Not only is he a good player, I would bet he's a great leader for them."

Virginia Tech is 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Coastal division of the conference after beating Boston College last weekend. Surprising N.C. State is 4-0 and 1-0 in the Atlantic division of the conference after beating Georgia Tech.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Former Durham Bull pitches Tampa Bay into AL playoffs

Former Durham Bull pitcher David Price struck out eight and walked none to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles tonight. The win clinches the Rays second playoff berth in three years.

Price (19-6), who played for the Bulls in 2008 and 2009, scattered six hits over eight innings and allowed only one runner past second base. The Rays are a half game ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East. Both teams have clinched a playoff berth - one will be the AL champ and the other the wild card.

Many on the Rays roster came through their Triple-A Durham Bulls team including Evan Longoria, Jeremy Hellickson, Dan Johnson, Jeff Niemann, Reid Brignac, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Capital Sports readers think UNC's Butch Davis won't be back

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp has said that right now the plan is for Carolina coach Butch Davis to be coach next year. With all the players involved in agent and academic scandals, Capital Sports readers aren't buying it.

In an online poll, a whopping 78 percent say that Davis won't or probably won't be back next season as the head coach. Of that, 66 percent say he definitely won't be back while only 9 percent say he definitely will be back. Another 13 percent say he'll probably be back.

Of course, a lot is yet to be determined. Will Carolina have to forfeit any games? Will any other bombshells explode? How long before Holden and Baddour did Davis know about the possible wrongdoing? How many games will the Tar Heels win this year?

If you voted in the poll and want to give your reasoning for your vote, please add a comment to this article.

Hurricanes hold free exhibition game Friday

HURRICANES NEW RELEASE – Jon Chase, Director of Community Relations and Promotions for the Carolina Hurricanes, today updated details regarding the events and admission for the team’s free preseason game against the Atlanta Thrashers, scheduled for Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the RBC Center.

Distribution of free general admission tickets for the game began on July 16, and continued over a period of more than two months at events at the RBC Center and other locations. Fans without tickets to Friday’s game will be permitted to line up outside of the Time Warner Cable Box Office at the RBC Center on Friday morning. Hurricanes/RBC Center officials will assess attendance by 1:15 p.m., and then will make a determination on how many of the fans in line will receive free general admission tickets. Admission for those in line is not guaranteed, is subject to availability and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Schedule for events/admission for Friday, Oct. 1:

11:30 a.m. – Front lawn party begins (inflatables and street hockey)
12 p.m. – RBC Center opens for season-ticket holders only
12:30 p.m. – RBC Center opens for all patrons with a ticket
1 p.m. – Remaining seating in east and west priority lounges opens to non season-ticket holders
1:15 p.m. – Fans in line without tickets admitted based on availability
1:30 p.m. – Hurricanes vs. Thrashers

Friday’s preseason game against Atlanta will serve as the Hurricanes’ “European sendoff,” and is being played at 1:30 p.m., as the team will depart for St. Petersburg, Russia, following the game. Carolina will play an exhibition game on Oct. 4, against SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, before traveling to Helsinki, Finland, for two regular-season games against the Minnesota Wild as a part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere.

Final Amato recruits playing key role in N.C. State's run


So how good was Tom O’Brien’s first recruiting class? In hindsight, pretty strong – especially considering that Chuck Amato’s future was in question much of that 2006 season, and O’Brien came to N.C. State late and had to scramble for players.

What’s interesting, when you look back, is that Amato’s final recruits were critical to State’s current success. So despite what you think of Amato and his ways, he actually found some real talent for the red and white. And O’Brien and his staff also managed to find players who would be essential to this 4-0 start.

O’Brien signed 22 players in February of 2007 for his first class. Of those, 12 had committed to Amato’s staff and 10 committed after O’Brien arrived in Raleigh, according to charts on PackPride.com.
Here’s how those two groups have played out:

Amato commitments:

Current starters:  QB Russell Wilson, TE George Bryan, DE J.R. Sweezy, Safety Justin Byers.

Total number remaining in program: Seven of 12

O’Brien commitments:

Current starters: LB Audie Cole, LT Jake Vermiglio, DE Jeff Rieskamp, P Jeff Ruiz.

Total number remaining in program: Seven of 10.

A new coaching staff can often look for a different type of player than the previous staff, so players who committed to one group of coaches don’t always fare well with the new regime. Given that, State has received fare production out of Amato’s final group. Seven of 12 are still in the program, a reasonable number. Bryan is an All-ACC level players, and of course N.C. State wouldn’t be where it is without Wilson.

Add to that the fact that O’Brien’s staff found some quality players as well and what you have is the foundation of this year’s winning team.

By the way, that class had only one four-star recruit, receiver Jay Smith of Norfolk, Va., who committed to Amato. And Smith is not on the two-deep for Saturday’s showdown with Virginia Tech. Bryan was a three-star recruit and Wilson, Cole, Vermiglio, Rieskamp, Sweezy and Byers were all two-star recruits.

Poor defense, brutal losses put Duke in familiar situation


Duke has had five winning seasons since 1974, so it’s not like the current state of the program should come as a shock. But for a program that truly felt it had the chance to win at least six games, and reach a bowl, the current 1-3 record is embarrassing.

Duke has made progress under David Cutcliffe and has improved its speed and athletic ability. But at some point, the Devils have to win, or all the talk of turning this around starts to have a heard-this-before feel. The Blue Devils have lost three straight games, each of which was devastating in its own right.

The 54-48 loss at Wake Forest only continued the chasm between the two programs. The Deacons are established now under Jim Grobe and even have an ACC title; Duke, with all its wealth and prestige, simply can’t beat the black and gold.

The Alabama game was on national TV and a great story line, but Duke didn’t hold up its side of the deal and lost 62-13. More humiliation followed Saturday, with Army roaring out front and winning 35-21 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Now Duke is 1-3 and has to win Saturday at Maryland to have any chance of saving this season.
What has killed Duke is what has always killed Duke – poor defense. The Blue Devils are last in the ACC in scoring defense (44.5 points per game) and last in rushing defense (229.2). You combine all that with a ground game giving you just 144.5 yards per game – 9th in the ACC – and you’re playing pitch and catch and hope for the best.

Cutcliffe is a great guy and solid coach.  But this brutal start for the Blue Devils is a reminder of just how difficult the road ahead is for Duke.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yes, we love pro sports in the Triangle - just different teams

My new preacher just moved to the area. When I told him I was sorry I hadn't met him yet because I'd been at Redskins games the last two Sundays, he said, "Oh really? There aren't many pro fans around here are there?" That's understandable. After all, the Triangle area is a well-known hotbed for college sports. But also, there is little enthusiasm for the Panthers in our area - and it's not only just because Charlotte's team is struggling.

There are so many historic-minded Redskins fans still here plus fans are diluted because so many have moved here from other areas and have remained loyal to their teams. Pro fans are actually pretty rabid here - just not for the Panthers. Even when the Panthers were in the Super Bowl, the fan support was wide but not very deep. It was really just an excuse to party. I remember Panther fans leaving the bars laughing and having a good time. An area Redskins fan or Steelers fan or Packers fan or Cowboys fan or even a Bills fan (they have a big fan club here) would be down or ticked or otherwise unhappy.

I'm not saying that there aren't die-hard Panthers fans but most were fans of other teams before becoming a Panthers fan. So, if the Panthers lose or aren't doing well on the season, they have another team to follow. Plus, there is still that Raleigh vs. Charlotte thing.

The Carolina Hurricanes mesmerized the Triangle area in 2006 when they went on that miraculous Stanley Cup run. People in Charlotte seemed to care very little and only followed it in passing. It was nearly all-encompassing in the Triangle area yet hardly a blip on the radar in Charlotte.

People in our area take buses to Atlanta to see the Braves or Boston to see the Red Sox or New York to see the Yankees or even Baltimore to see the Orioles. When is the last time you heard of a busload of fans traveling from Charlotte to Raleigh to watch the Hurricanes or fans traveling from Raleigh to Charlotte to watch the Bobcats? I do remember a bus trip of fans traveling to Charlotte to watch the Panthers but a number of the fans going were rooting for the other team.

A friend of mine who went to a Steelers at Panthers game once said that by the fourth quarter, there were more Steelers fans there than Panthers fans. I saw the same thing at a Redskins at Panthers preseason game once.

There are a lot of strong fan clubs in the area who are very active. In fact, I'm a member of one of them - Triangle Red Sox Nation, which raised more money for the Jimmy Fund charity this year than any club outside of the Boston area. Because we aren't all solidified behind one team, it might appear to an newcomer that the Triangle area doesn't care about professional sports. But that's just not true.

First drive of second half plus key pressure on QB leads to UNC win

North Carolina drove 80 yards in 14 plays on its first drive of the second half and the defense came up with five sacks and a pair of interceptions as the Tar Heels won at Rutgers, 17-13.

Down 10-0 early and 10-7 at the half, UNC's T.J. Yates led the Heels on the go-ahead drive, which included four third-down conversions.

On third-and-11 at his own 33, Yates threw a sharp, accurate 28-yard sideline pass to Jheranie Boyd to keep the drive alive. On third-and-5 from the Rutgers 35, Yates took a step back from center and hit a sprinting Dwight Jones on a play that went 18 yards.

On third-and-12 from the 18-yard-line, Carolina took advantage of an obvious pass interference for another first down - this time at the 11.

On third-and-4 from the five, Yates hit Ryan Taylor, who bulled into the end zone after slanting across the middle. (He lost the handle on the ball after crossing the goal.)

The Tar Heels took their first lead at 14-10 after the seven-minute drive and never trailed again as the defense held on.

With Rutgers within a point at 14-13 in the fourth quarter, UNC's Bruce Carter blocked a punt and the Heels ended up at the Rutgers 35. The offense moved it down but settled for a Casey Barth 26-yard field goal to up the lead to 17-13.

UNC's Quinton Coples picked up two of this three quarterback sacks on the ensuing Rutgers drive but the Scarlet Knights still managed to drive to the UNC 19 before Matt Merletti came up with a drive-ending interception.

Rutgers got one more chance with a couple of minutes left but Carolina's defense stopped them on four downs. On third down, UNC's Tydreke Powell came up with the Heels' fifth sack. Carolina ran out the clock.

Random Thoughts: Yates, who went 22 of 30 for 204 yards, has quelled thoughts of Bryn Renner taking over the QB position. He is having an excellent season and would be more highly acclaimed if the Heels had managed to win against LSU or Georgia Tech.

Rutgers is not as good as LSU or Georgia Tech and the Tar Heels should probably have handled them a little easier. They very well might have had Rutgers not owned an 11-minute time of possession advantage. If not for that long Carolina drive at the beginning of the second half, Rutgers would have really had a large possession advantage. Two fumbles and an interception off the hands of a receiver ended drives early for Carolina.

The Tar Heels allowed only 244 yards of total offense, including just 98 yards in the second half.

There's really no excuse that television misses the first half of the opening quarter. With technology, those of us in North Carolina and New Jersey should be able to be switched to the start of the game. The Maryland game, which had a long official review with two minutes left and the Terrapins owning a two-touchdown advantage, was virtually over yet viewers were stuck with that game. ESPN does not allow enough time between games when setting the schedule.

The announcers seemingly couldn't talk enough about UNC linebacker Bruce Carter. They loved calling him "The Freak" over and over. He did have a very good game with a blocked punt and an impressive interception return. He was portrayed almost as a one-man defense yet Coples had three sacks, nine tackles and QB hurry while Quan Sturdivant had a game-high 12 tackles.

And let's stop all the talk about Carter, or anyone else for that matter, playing on Sundays in the NFL. College football fans and fans of Carolina, for the most part, couldn't care less about who plays in the NFL next year or the year after. It's all about this team, this season, this game, this down. That kind of talk minimizes college ball.

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