If the Duke Blue Devils are trying to earn an Orange Bowl berth, the team has a funny way of showing it.
During a sloppy first half of play, the North Carolina Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels built an impressive 28-7 lead, which appears to be an insurmountable lead due to the mistakes Duke committed.
Overall, the two teams combined to turn the ball over five times. North Carolina actually fumbled the ball three times, but Duke wasn’t able to take advantage. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, scored after both of Duke’s fumbles.
As soon as North Carolina built a lead, questions regarding the ACC Coastal standings started to surface.
A loss by Duke will hand the No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an ACC Coastal crown and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.
Duke still has the second half to redeem itself.
The Blue Devils have to start by stopping the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina amassed 391 yards of total offense through two quarters of play. If not for three fumbles by quarterback Marquise Williams, the score could be worse than it already is.
Sophomore Ryan Switzer proved to be North Carolina’s biggest threat on offense after catching two passes for 107 yards. Whereas Williams, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris combined to run for 203 yards.
Duke needs to get a strong second-half performance from senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who is 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards. If Boone and Duke’s talented corps of wide receivers can’t get the passing game going, the Blue Devils don’t have a chance in the second half and will concede the ACC Coastal to Georgia Tech.
The 2014 season for North Carolina has not been a kind one on the field, and plenty of drama off the field has not been pleasant either. Over the weekend running back Romar Morris got into some legal trouble as the season continues to disappoint in Chapel Hill. Morris was arrested and charged for driving while impaired, putting his status on the team into some question.
According to a report by The Charlotte Observer, Morris was arrested at 4:12 a.m. Sunday at his home. He was released by police after making a deal to attend a court hearing next week. That is scheduled for November 13, two days before UNC’s next football game.
North Carolina is expected to release a statement regarding Morris this afternoon. The Tar Heels are off this week. The next game on the schedule will be played November 15 at home against Pittsburgh.
Morris is fourth on the team in rushing with 162 yards and second in rushing touchdowns with four.
UPDATE (4:32 p.m.): UNC has suspended Morris for the Pittsburgh game.
North Carolina looks about as comfortable as a team could be, and why not? The Tar Heels are suited up in their home uniforms and playing in Charlotte, North Carolina. After one half of play, only a key injury on the offensive line has taken away from the performance put together against Cincinnati. North Carolina leads Cincinnati 23-3.
North Carolina senior left tackle James Hurst was taken out of the game in the first quarter with what appeared to be a serious left leg injury. The video replay of the injury was not shown on the broadcast, which suggests the injury was significant. He was helped off the field by medical staff without planting any weight on his left leg on the way to the sideline and he was later carted off the field.
In similar fashion to last year’s Belk Bowl, Cincinnati dug a hole early. Last year the Bearcats managed to dig out of the early deficit to beat Duke, so time will tell if the same winning formula can be found. It does not look good though as things got away from them early in this one. North Carolina struck first with a short touchdown run by Romar Morris. The teams then traded punts, with North Carolina pinning Cincinnati against their own goal line. The defense took advantage with a push up the middle to bring down Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay for a safety. Kareem Martin and Brandon Ellerbe each got credit for the two-point sack. To capitalize on the sequence, T.J. Logan returned the free kick 78 yards for a touchdown and a 16-0 lead.
It’s a soggy afternoon down in Atlanta for ACC football between Georgia Tech and North Carolina, but that has not been enough to slow the Tar Heels down in the first half. North Carolina has built a 20-14 lead.
Bryn Renner has thrown for 178 yards and two touchdowns and his receivers have dropped a handful of passes as well. Perhaps the weather conditions are playing a factor in to the production. Romar Morris has rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown to lead North Carolina’s offense and the Tar Heel defense has done well to not allow Georgia Tech to find a rhythm.
North Carolina wasted little tim in opening the scoring with a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. Morris capped a quick six-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run to the left side of the field, but North Carolina failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt. The lead was expanded to 13-0 following a Renner touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
Georgia Tech finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when David Sims barely cross the goal line before losing grip on the football. Sims had just crossed the goal line as the ball popped loose and was scooped up by North Carolina. The initial ruling was touchdown and a video review determined there was conclusive enough evidence to overturn the call. Ultimately it appears the right call was made but it was very close to being a punch-to-the-gut moment for the Yellow Jackets. If the ball had been ruled a fumble, the turnover likely would have upheld because the replay was so close either way. Down 13-0 at the time, not punching one in from the goal line would have left a very empty feeling for the home team.
Renner scrambled to keep a play alive inside the red zone on the ensuing possession and found Sean Tapley for another touchdown. Georgia Tech picked up a critical touchdown late in the half to cut in to the lead and maybe even flip the momentum in their favor. The Tar Heels could not get off the field on a third and long around midfield and Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee connected with Darren Waller for a 21-yard touchdown over the middle of the field. Lee has only attempted nine passes, which is typical of a Paul Johnson offense, but he has completed five of them for 82 yards and a touchdown.
The game doesn’t feel as though it should be as close as it is at the half, but credit to Georgia Tech for not going away at the end of the half. If North Carolina can pull this one out they will make a huge statement in the ACC Coastal Division, but right now Georgia Tech is in solid position to come back as well.