Special teams were the key to North Carolina’s 39-17 victory over Cincinnati in the 2013 Belk Bowl on Saturday.
Ryan Switzer — the game’s MVP — returned his NCAA-record-tying fifth punt return for a touchdown and T.J. Logan took back a kickoff 78 yards for a score as the Tar Heels surged to a 29-3 lead then survived a special teams mistake of their own to notch their first bowl win since 2010.
UNC finishes the season at 7-6, while Cincinnati closes out at 9-4.
The game turned in favor of the Tar Heels during a key first quarter sequence. With UNC up, 7-0, punter Tommy Hibbard nailed a 59-yard punt that pinned the Bearcats at their own six. Three plays later, Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay was sacked by Brandon Ellerbee and Kareem Martin for a safety to make the score, 9-0. The Bearcats free-kicked back to the Tar Heels and that’s when Logan weaved his way to a 78-yard kickoff return. Suddenly, it was 16-0 and the Bearcats were stunned.
UNC opened its lead to 36-10 before Cincinnati regained its composure. Receiver Shaq Washington moved over to quarterback and promptly ripped off a 52-yard run. Two plays later, he was in the end zone after a nifty 10-yard scamper and the score was 36-17 with the fourth quarter barely underway.
Things got more interesting when Leviticus Payne recovered a fumble by T.J. Thorpe on the ensuing kickoff. The Bearcats had a first and goal at the UNC five yard line with plenty of time left. Would UNC choke this one away?
Not this time. The Tar Heels held when Kay’s fourth-down pass fell off the hands of Washington in the corner of the end zone.
It was a flat performance by the Bearcats, who came into the game as winners of six of their last seven. UC will try to regroup next year, most likely with touted Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel taking over at quarterback.
North Carolina finished up the season on a hot note, winning six of its last seven games (the one loss was by two points to Duke). A 1-5 start prevented this talented team from reaching its potential, but Larry Fedora has to be happy with how things worked out in the end, winning his first bowl game as the Tar Heels head coach.
If there was one player Rutgers may not have been able to afford to lose this season, it was Janarion Grant. Unfortunately for Rutgers, Grant has indeed ben lost for the season due to an ankle injury suffered Saturday in a home loss against Iowa.
Grant injured his right ankle on Saturday and returned to the Rutgers sideline on crutches later in the game. That was an ominous sign itself, but Rutgers head coach Chris Ash confirmed the unfortunate news on Monday when addressing the media. Ash did not reveal the specific details of Grant’s injury, but confirming he will miss the rest of the season is a pretty tough pill to swallow for the entire Rutgers program.
Rutgers will look to petition for an extra year of eligibility for Grant.
But wait, there’s more injury news for Rutgers. Ash also announced defensive end Quanzell Lambert will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.
Texas has suspended senior offensive guard Kent Perkins for one game after he was arrested for a DWI charge last week.
The suspension will be served during Texas’ next game this weekend against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have lost two out of the last three games, including last weekend’s game at Baylor to drop to 0-1 in Big 12 play to start the season.
The loss of Perkins for one game is a blow to the Texas offensive line, as he is one of the most experienced players in the trenches for the Longhorns. He has started 26 games, with all 26 coming on the right side of the offensive line.
Alex Anderson and Jake McMillon are expected to fill the vacancy at right guard this weekend and Perkins is expected to return to the field next week.
One of the great traditions college football has to offer is when an Ohio State senior sousaphone player parades out to “dot the ‘i'” in The Best Damn Band In The Land’s signature pregame show. On a rare occasion, the honor of completing the script goes to a very special guest. On Saturday, that honor will be given to former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce.
“I was floored… I couldn’t believe it,” Bruce said to WTVN in response to the news of the special invite. “I always like to talk about the band. The band is so great.”
A total of 13 people have had the privilege of being the special guest to perform the final piece of Ohio State’s patented pregame routine. He will be the second former Ohio State coach to do so, joining Woody Hayes. Other notable people to have the honor include John Glenn, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Hope. Perhaps one day Jim Tressel will join the list of special guests.
Bruce was a big influence for current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was a graduate assistant under Bruce from 1986 through 1987.
Helmet sticker to Eleven Warriors.
LSU opened up a high-profile head coaching vacancy on Sunday by removing head coach Les Miles as the head of the football program. As Miles was shown the door, the list of possible candidates started popping up just about everywhere you might look. Names like Houston’s Tom Herman and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher have been popular and trendy, but not so much for Stanford head coach David Shaw.
Asked about the new opening in Baton Rouge, Shaw was rather definitive in his stance.
“Are you serious? The answer is no,” Shaw said, seemingly without hesitation according to ESPN reporter David Lombardi.
It should be mentioned that it is incredibly rare for a head coach in a current position with one program would even drop a hint of interest in another position elsewhere, so keep that in mind as coaches like Herman and Fisher deny having any contact with LSU and so on during the annual coaching carousel. That said, Shaw leaving Stanford would be a pretty good shock, so we can probably take Shaw at his word here.