This weekend’s games for both UNC and Duke offered results closer in line to what fans and the media expected of both programs entering the season: Carolina defeated Rutgers 17-13 behind a rugged performance from their defense and Duke fell to Army 35-21 as the Devils managed to turn the ball over 5 times. Overall, a return to sanity. Of course, John Shoop was still involved, so there were still some heavy doses of insanity peppered throughout the afternoon, but for the most part it felt a little more normal around here.
UNC 17, Rutgers 13:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at this point, Bruce Carter has done enough that he needs his own nickname (and no, “the Freak” shouldn’t count - too generic and it’s been done before). The guy is an absolute beast who earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors by tallying 7 tackles, a crucial interception that he returned 55 yards, and a blocked punt where he was pretty much in the punter’s lap by the time Rutgers tried to get the kick off. The defense overall should be commended for holding the Scarlet Knights to just 13 points after having to defend a short field much of the time following bad special teams play or a turnover by the offense.
But it wasn’t just the turnovers that hurt the offense. The playcalling seemed truly mystifying (not a huge departure from the rest of this year) in a way that really showcased Carolina’s ability to take above-average offensive talent matched up against a below-average defense and still manage to be inept for the better part of three quarters. Fortunately for UNC, Rutgers’ offense somehow managed to be even more inept, continuing to shuffle quarterbacks well after it had become apparent their attempt to run the Wildcat offense was getting shut down. (Side note: I mentioned this on Twitter, but it also bears repeating: can we please get teams to stop calling their Wildcat offense the Wild[name of school mascot] offense? It’s the freaking Wildcat, not the Wild Knight, or the Wild Horse, or the Wild Boar, or whatever. It’s not like Rutgers is trying to change the name of their shotgun formations to “the crossbow” to make them more team-appropriate. Thank you.) However, it is worth noting that Carolina was getting carved up by the Wildcat in the first half, after surrendering an unholy number of yards to Georgia Tech’s triple option last week. As Doc over at Tar Heel Fan notes, you can bet coaches around the ACC are drawing up their own Wildcat/option formations to use against UNC as we speak.
But besides the overall room for improvement, it was nonetheless a huge win for UNC. An 0-3 start would have been a death knell for the season, and at least now there’s some positive momentum to take into the matchup with ECU, especially for a defense that’s been thrown into the fire with the various suspensions and proved they could come through in the clutch. Here’s hoping Carolina can find it’s way to .500 next week.
Army 35, Duke 21:
This two-touchdown loss wasn’t even as close as the score indicates, as the Blue Devils managed to earn 14 points in garbage time after Army had this game in the bag. As has been their M.O. this year, the defense looked horrific, but it was the offense that couldn’t keep up with its pace from earlier in the year, as their first three possessions went INT-PUNT-INT and Army never looked back from its 14-0 lead.
Nobody expected this squad to work miracles, but David Cutcliffe had certainly been building some goodwill in Durham prior to this weekend. Not sure whether that goodwill is there any more.
And finally, a few things you might have missed:
- Marvin Williams has returned to UNC each of the past six summers to work on getting his Bachelor’s degree, and he’s only a few summer sessions away now. Some props to the rare one-and-done who’s still trying to earn a diploma.
- Tar Heel Fan’s fictional account of calling the NCAA Compliance Hotline is worth a read - we make jokes because all we can do at this point is laugh at how ridiculous the whole situation is.
- Holden Thorp and Dick Baddour talked a little more about the academic investigations last week.
- Austin Rivers shares some of his recent recruiting experiences, which (sigh) still seem to hint that he’s favoring Duke.
- Also, Kyle Singler could be back sooner than expected after having some minor surgery on his knee this summer. Looks like the Devils will be at full strength come Midnight Madness. Yipee.
- CBS’ Gary Parrish thinks John Henson is poised for a breakout. All of Tar Heel Nation hopes and prays that he’s right.