Hokies keeping No. 17 UNC offense in check in

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A win away from clinching a spot in their first ACC Championship Game, UNC is not finding the explosive offense it has been accustomed to in recent weeks. Perhaps playing with a bit of extra fire in their new black alternate uniforms and wanting to give Frank Beamer one more win in Lane Stadium,. Virginia Tech is keep the Tar Heels in their sights. UNC leads, however, 7-3 at the half.

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams used some big plays to his advantage on UNC’s first offensive series. A 32-yard pass to Austin Proehl took the ball into Virginia Tech territory, and Williams soon finished the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.

Virginia Tech’s first threat to put points on the board was thwarted by a missed field goal attempt by Joey Slye from 46 yards out. The field goal try came immediately after Hokies quarterback Michael Brewer stuffed for a loss of three yards on a 3rd and 1 from the 26-yard line.

UNC will clinch the ACC Coastal Division with a win or a Pittsburgh loss.

UNC players don’t have to apologize for swagger

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The University of North Carolina is strutting its way to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte against No. 1 Clemson. The Tar Heels have not lost since the season opener against South Carolina, coincidentally played in Charlotte, and have only hit their stride now in epic fashion. The Tar Heels left Pittsburgh with a 26-19 win a few weeks ago and have followed that up with blowout wins over Duke (66-31) and Miami (59-21). A division that typically waits for one team to rise up and take it has officially been taken by North Carolina, and they should not be apologizing for how they are doing it.

During UNC’s victory over Miami, Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer each scored touchdowns and celebrated by throwing up the hand gesture commonly used by Miami players forming a “U,” only to turn it upside down in a show of disrespect. This is certainly nothing that has never been done before by Miami rivals, and a number of players over the years have done something similar to the Texas Longhorns hook’em horns hand signal. Williams and Switzer each apologized for that show of disrespect for Miami after the game.

“We knew [Miami] would come here and talk a lot of junk, but that’s something we shouldn’t have done,” Williams said, according to Joe Ovies of WRAL Sports Fan. “You’re in the heat of the moment and it’s cool to do something, but you’ve got to show class. I told Ryan we can’t do things like that even if it was something you just felt like doing to let them know ‘we’re in this game the whole night.'”

Credit both players for apologizing for the unsportsmanlike gestures, but UNC is now on track to play in its first ACC Championship Game in program history and hopes to spoil the championship plans of Clemson. Should UNC manage to upset Clemson, it could potentially knock the ACC out of the College Football Playoff. A one-loss UNC with an ACC title could make a late push but the sense seems to suggest the Tar Heels may still need some help elsewhere to crack the top four. Is that fair? Who knows. There are too many unknowns right now. But if UNC does knock Clemson, and thus, the ACC out of the playoff, there will be no reason to apologize. They’re just taking care of business.

North Carolina is one win away, or one Pittsburgh loss, from clinching the division. UNC faces Virgina Tech this Saturday.

UNC grabs ACC Coastal by the Blue Devils’ horns

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It is well beyond time to start recognizing the good work being done this season by the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-1, 5-0 ACC). After picking up two pivotal wins against Pittsburgh last week and Duke this week, UNC is now in the pole position in the ACC Coastal with a chance to play in its first ACC Championship Game at the end of the season. That has become the reality of the situation after UNC pounded rival Duke 66-31 today on Chapel Hill.

This was a total beatdown from start to finish by UNC, a week after Duke was snakebitten by Miami (and the ACC officials). The Tar Heels clobbered Duke in the first quarter (21-3), outscored them in the second (17-7) and edged them in the third (21-14). UNC quarterback Marquise Williams completed 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 494 yards and four touchdowns before getting an early rest in the second half. Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer each went for at least 100 yards and four different Tar Heels players caught a touchdown pass. There was simply no slowing down UNC’s offense for Duke’s defense. Duke’s offense did itself no favors either with three turnovers in the game.

UNC has now won eight straight games, with the lone loss coming in the season opener against South Carolina. In that game, Williams was picked off twice in the end zone. Since then, Williams and UNC have been on a roll. UNC has scored at least 40 points in five games in this eight-game winning streak and each win has come by a double-digit margin all but twice. IF UNC manages to get to the ACC Championship Game, they could be talented enough to give Clemson or Florida State a good scare if they keep playing this way down the stretch.

The final games of the season are none to take for granted for UNC of course. Next week Miami comes to town, which is followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech and a regular season finale at home against North cArolina State. There is still work to be done, but right now it is all in front of them, along with some serious momentum.

UNC smoking Duke on Tobacco Road, 38-10 at half

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Maybe Duke is still stunned over the events of last week against Miami. Maybe UNC is just a better team. Whatever the case, the Tar Heels are looking to score a second straight big win in the ACC Coastal and put themselves one giant step closer to playing in its first ACC Championship Game. A 49-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Williams to Bug Howard on the final play of the half gave UNC a 38-10 lead.

UNC jumped all over their rivals in the first quarter with three touchdowns.  Williams connected with Ryan Switzer for a big 89-yard touchdown play on their first possession of the game for the early 7-0 lead. Williams would later run in for a four-yard touchdown on its next drive, and Elijah Hood scored a rushing touchdown at the end of an 11-play drive before the end of the first quarter.

Duke seemed to bounce back in the game early in the second quarter when Jela Duncan ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run, but the Tar Heels continued tacking on with a field goal and a second touchdown pass from Williams, a 74-yard scoring play with Mack Hollins doing the damage.

With UNC’s win over Pittsburgh last week, the Tar Heels are in prime position to take a commanding lead in the ACC Coastal with a win. If the Tar Heels hold on to win this one, they will have a one-game lead in the loss column on Pitt and head-to-head tiebreakers against the Panthers, Blue Devils with Miami coming to town next week.

Larry Fedora sticking with Marquise Williams at QB

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Despite pulling Marquise Williams in search of a spark this past weekend, UNC head coach Larry Fedora is not about to unseat his starting quarterback this week against Georgia Tech.

”I don’t want to start some type of controversy because there’s not one,” Fedora said Monday.

In a 41-14 win against Delaware over the weekend, Williams was pulled in favor of Mitch Trubisky late on the first half, and Trubisky led the offense in the second half while Williams remained on the sideline. Fedora explained he switched quarterbacks simply to ignite a spark on offense. UNC took a narrow 13-7 lead into halftime against the Blue Hens, with the lone UNC touchdown coming on an 18-yard run by Williams. Trubisky ended the game having completed 17 of his 20 attempts for 312 yards and four touchdowns. That would certainly qualify as a spark.

Williams has struggled at times this season, and the Delaware game was not the first time there were concerns about the passing game. Williams was picked off twice in the red zone against South Carolina (and once more just outside of the red zone) in a Week 1 loss in Charlotte. Despite etching his name in the school record books for a number of categories, UNC has little time to waste waiting and hoping they will get the absolute best out of Williams on a consistent basis. The ACC Coastal is still up for grabs for any team in the division, and Georgia Tech returns home looking to bounce back after two straight losses on the road. UNC will have to be ready from the start to perform, otherwise Georgia Tech could potentially grab the game by its horns early on and allow its running game to grind out a win while running as much clock as possible.