Elijah Hood

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Duke withstands early North Carolina charge to keep things even at halftime

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The college basketball season starts on Friday but before hearts and minds across the state turn to the hard court, Duke and North Carolina renewed their Tobacco Road rivalry on the gridiron Thursday night.

There were times early on where it looked like the Tar Heels were going to jump out to a big lead, but the Blue Devils responded with several impressive drives in the second quarter to knot things up at halftime 21-all.

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones was effective on short and intermediate throws to rack up 146 yards through the air while adding another 25 yards rushing. He spread the ball around quite a bit, hitting seven different receivers over the first two quarters and leading three scoring drives over 65 yards.

His counterpart Mitch Trubisky looked like the signal-caller many believe can be an NFL first-rounder, throwing for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the half. While he wasn’t normally a rushing threat on designed keepers (three carries, seven yards) as much as previous games, a lot of that had to do with feeding tailback Elijah Hood (6.2 yards a carry) against a defense that is much better than the stats would indicate.

It should make for a fun second half from Durham, as Duke is trying to keep their slim hopes at making a bowl game alive on Senior Day from Wallace Wade Stadium. UNC is in the thick of the ACC Coastal race and will need to capture a win if they want to remain neck-and-neck with Virginia Tech atop the standings with just a few games left on the schedule.

No. 21 UNC scores 21 unanswered points to pull away from Georgia Tech for big ACC Coastal win

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No. 21 North Carolina (7-2, 5-1 ACC) started on the right foot and found a way to close things out in the second half against Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4 ACC). Elijah Hood scored three touchdowns and rushed for 168 yards for the Tar Heels in  48-20 victory to keep UNC in strong contention for the ACC Coastal Division coming down the final stretch.

After Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker kicked a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut UNC’s lead to seven, the Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points, including one short touchdown run by Hood (who had two in the first half). T.J. Logan added a 20-yard touchdown scamper and Mitch Trubisky took off running 18 yards for a score inside the red zone in the fourth quarter. Trubisky also passed for 329 yards and a score. UNC’s offense piled up 636 yards of offense against Georgia Tech, who also managed to pick up 518 yards of offense against the Tar Heels.

Dedrick Mills led Georgia Tech with 132 rushing yards. Quarterback Justin Thomas passed for 184 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 82 yards. Both teams converted eight third downs on 14 (Georgia Tech) and 13 (UNC) opportunities. Georgia Tech, however, was the only team to turn the football over (twice), which led to 14 UNC points in the second half.

For now, UNC leads the ACC Coastal Division with a 5-1 ACC record. They entered the day tied with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies own a head-to-head tiebreaker with the defending division champions. One Virginia Tech loss would give UNC the inside track once again. With Pitt losing at Miami, the division is a two-team race the next few weeks between UNC and Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech is still within reach of a postseason bowl game, but must pick up one win in the final three weeks, with road trips to Virginia Tech (next Saturday) and Georgia in the regular season finale and a home game with Virginia in between.

Big plays make for entertaining first half between UNC and Georgia Tech

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Mitch Trubisky completed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard two plays after Georgia Tech closed to within three points of the Tar Heels late in the first half. North Carolina, which led Georgia Tech 17-7 after one quarter, now holds a 10-point edge in a 27-17 game at halftime in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina’s game-opening touchdown drive was keyed by a 45-yard run bu Elijah Hood, who later capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 UNC lead. Nick Weiler tacked on a 37-yard field goal on UNC’s next offensive possession following a Georgia Tech three-and-out.

Georgia Tech’s first touchdown came on a big play as well, with an 83-yard pass from Justin Thomas to Clinton Lynch. The Tar Heels would answer on the ensuing possession with Hood ripping off a 36-yard touchdown run on a 4th and one play.

Defense has been lacking, with each team already over 300 yards of offense, and each over 140 yards on the ground. We could have a bit of a wild finish here in this key ACC Coastal battle. A win for North Carolina keeps them tied for first place in the division, although they lose on a head-to-head tiebreaker with Virginia Tech.

North Carolina holds on late to send Miami to second straight home loss

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Better against a Hurricane than in one, North Carolina dispatched Miami 20-13 on Saturday to make things interesting in the ACC Coastal race once again.

While the skies did open up and start raining heavily in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium, the Tar Heels were able to hold on thanks to a key defensive stop and a handful of big plays on offense.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky returned to his early season form for UNC after a bad outing against Virginia Tech in stormy weather, bouncing back to throw for 299 yards and two scores while adding another 47 on the ground. He did most of the damage in the first two quarters as Miami turned up the pressure after halftime and the Tar Heels offensive line started to falter as the result of a few key injuries.

Running back Elijah Hood returned to limited action in the backfield but averaged just 2.4 yards a carry. T.J. Logan did most of the work on his way to an 84 yard effort.

North Carolina’s defense was particularly impressive, limiting QB Brad Kaaya to just 16-of-31 passing (224 yards) and holding the Canes under four yards a carry. They also stepped up big as Miami threatened to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, with Malik Carney forcing a sack/fumble that Jeremiah Clarke recovered to seal the win in the closing minutes.

The victory, when combined with Virginia Tech’s loss to Syracuse, keeps Larry Fedora’s squad atop the ACC Coastal standings in surprising fashion. Miami’s second straight home loss will cause many to question just how good the young team is but they are not out of the running in the division at all and fall to just 4-2 on the year.

Virginia Tech rolls over North Carolina to make noise in the ACC Coastal race

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North Carolina came into Saturday’s ACC Coastal clash with Virginia Tech averaging over 500 yards of offense a game but could barely move the ball a fifth of a yard amid some nasty conditions caused by Hurricane Matthew and a feisty Hokies defense that limited them at every turn in a 34-3 win for the visitors.

Quarterback Jerod Evans made the most of several short fields as the result of turnovers. Despite ugly numbers like 7-of-17 passing for 75 yards, the junior college transfer upstaged the trendy Heisman candidate on the opposite sideline by rushing for 49 yards and a score as Virginia Tech averaged just 3.3 yards a play but amazingly found the end zone four times.

Andrew Motuapuaka came up particularly big for the Hokies defense, racking up 12 tackles, a half sack, and an interception. He was a big reason why the Tar Heels couldn’t get anything going and turned the ball over four times.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky looked lost in the rainy and windy conditions in Chapel Hill, completing just 13 passes for 58 yards. T.J. Logan filled in for the injured Elijah Hood with 4.8 yards a carry but it wasn’t enough in the sloppy conditions.

The win keeps Virginia Tech perfect in the ACC standings and gives them a leg up on all but Miami, which plays on Saturday night against rival Florida State. It also should propel the Hokies further up the polls come next week and make the hire of head coach Justin Fuente look very, very good for yet another week.