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.
Spring practice for a new head coach brings tons of changes for a team as they get used to a new way of doing things. One of the bigger culture changes might be the transition Florida State is undergoing from Jimbo Fisher to Willie Taggart.
While rap music at practice and a quick tempo are noticeable, so too are the numbers players are wearing at practice. It seems there’s a reason behind that change as Taggart is making players earn single-digit numbers instead of being able to carry them over from last season.
“I know when I was growing up the single digits went to the dudes. That’s kind of how we want it,” the new head coach said, according to the Associated Press. “Not everyone can be a single digit. Getting it is being one of the best.”
Taggart, who was No. 1 when he played back in the day at Western Kentucky, is not playing favorites at all when it comes to stripping the single-digits from jerseys. According to the AP report, former five-star and current star running back Cam Akers was wearing No. 23 instead of the No. 4 he wore in 2017.
Credit to the sophomore as he said that he liked the tactic but that kind of thinking might change by the end of spring practice if he doesn’t get his number back.
If you’ve been a part of a football team at any level, chances are high that you are intimately familiar with running a gasser. Depending on how many you were forced to run, you might even have some traumatic memories of running down to the line and back.
New Florida head coach Dan Mullen is trying to instill a new culture in Gainesville with his first spring practice and one of the ways he’s trying to do that is establishing penalties for Gators players missing class. In a unique twist though, the coach isn’t just blowing the whistle and watching guys run up and down the field — he’s joining them.
“Yeah, they weren’t real happy,” Mullen told 247Sports’ GatorBait site. “That was pretty simple, it’s about going to class. I don’t control that, they control that. If you’re late for class, everybody that’s late for class we run a gasser for. So if they don’t want to run gassers, then just show up on time for class and we don’t run gassers. We’ll get extra work in.
“I’m part of the team, so I should run the gassers too… Hey, if we make mistakes, we’re all going to pay the price. Whether it’s discipline issues, academic issues, football issues, training issues, we all pay the price. So I’m going to pay the price just like them.”
Not many head coaches would take the same path as Mullen but kudos to putting his hand in the dirt and running with his team. Something says a few of his players who struggled to get up and down the field were not to thrilled even if they had their head coach running alongside them though.
Wednesday, Tony Sanchez began the day with three holes on his UNLV coaching staff. By the close of business that day, they had all been filled.
UNLV has confirmed that Eric Brown, Steve Irvin and Garin Justice have officially been hired for on-field roles on Sanchez’s staff. Brown will serve as outside linebackers coach, Irvin as cornerbacks coach and Justice offensive line coach.
Justice, who comes to the Mountain West Conference program after spending the past two seasons at Florida Atlantic, will also carry the title of running-game coordinator. That stint at FAU was Justice’s first on-field job at the FBS level.
“We are fortunate to have brought in a very accomplished offensive line coach,” said Sanchez in prepared quotes distributed by the school. “Garin Justice is one of the top up-and-coming assistants in the country right now and did a great job building an elite offensive line at FAU.”
Brown spent the past five seasons in the same role at Idaho, while Irvin was the defensive coordinator at FCS San Diego the past five seasons.
“Steve was one of the up-and-coming young coordinators in the country,” Sanchez said. “He did a phenomenal job at USD, including helping his team get a big win over NAU in the first round of the playoffs last year. He has a lot of experience with cornerbacks, has recruited Texas before and is a UNLV and Eldorado alumnus, which are all plusses. …
“We are excited to bring in Eric Brown as our 10th assistant. He is a coach’s son with a lot of experience and energy that will help us improve on the defensive side of the ball.”
Brown is the son of the late longtime Fresno State assistant and coordinator Dan Brown.
No stranger to transfer, E.J. Price is embarking on a search for a new college home — again. Whether football is involved, however, seemingly remains to be seen.
On his personal Twitter account Thursday morning, Price announced that he is “stepping away” from the Kentucky football program. In the tweet, the offensive lineman stressed, in all-caps, that “I WAS NOT KICKED OFF I AM LEAVING.”
In a subsequent tweet. he stated it was “time for me to overcome football.”
Earlier this month, head coach Mark Stoops mentioned “some inconsistencies with [Price] that he needs to iron out.” In another tweet, the lineman stated the following:
Price was a four-star member of USC’s 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country. He transferred from USC to Kentucky in July of last year.
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Price was forced to sit out the 2017 season.