Sam Howell

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Big game by Bryce Perkins puts Virginia in ACC Coastal driver’s seat

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Anything is capable of happening in the ACC Coastal Division, but for at least one week it will be Virginia (6-3, 4-2 ACC) that has the most control of the division. A 38-31 victory at UNC (4-5, 3-3 ACC) lifted Virginia into sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Divison with some key head-to-head tiebreakers in their pocket.

In a game that was highlighted by offense, neither team managed to score any points in the fourth quarter. A turnover on downs by UNC with just over a minute to play gave Virginia the football with nothing standing in the way of a win. A big game by Bryce Perkins certainly helped Virginia’s cause. Perkins completed 30 of 39 pass attempts for 378 yards and three touchdowns. As if that wasn’t enough, Perkins put the offense on his back and rushed for a game-high 12 yards and two more touchdowns to account for nearly all of Virginia’s scoring. He did not throw an interception.

UNC’s freshman quarterback Sam Howell had a big game too with 353 passing yards and four touchdown passes. Despite UNC having more total yards of offense, it was the little things that made the difference in this one. Both teams went 7-for-13 on third down, but Virginia converted its one fourth-down try while UNC was 0-for-3, including one from the Virginia 27-yard line in the second quarter and one more from the Virginia six-yard line in the fourth quarter. Neither team had a turnover but Virginia had just one penalty for five yards while UNC was flagged six times.

Virginia opened the season with a victory at defending Coastal champion Pittsburgh, 30-14. The Panthers are currently tied with Virginia in the loss column but with one fewer win and on the wrong end of the head-to-head result, Pitt cannot pass Virginia unless the Cavaliers have more losses than them. UNC, Miami and Duke are all with three losses. Virginia Tech also has two losses in conference play, but Virginia will face the rival Hokies in the final game of the regular season.

Virginia will be home next week to face Georgia Tech, who was defeated by Pitt earlier in the day to fall to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in ACC play. A win by the Cavaliers will inch Virginia one step closer to its first appearance in the ACC Championship Game.

North Carolina may have not be mathematically eliminated from the race but will need Virginia to lose twice. UNC will get a road game at Pitt in two weeks (Thursday, Nov. 14) for a chance to stay alive if Virginia stumbles next week). The Tar Heels will be off next weekend.

In battle for ACC Coastal control, UNC and Virginia deadlocked at halftime

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In a battle to seize control of the ACC Coastal, Virginia and North Carolina are knotted in a 17-17 tie in Chapel Hill. Virginia drew even with North Carolina with a Bryce Perkins touchdown pass to Hasise Dubois just 13 seconds before halftime.

The Tar Heels and the Cavaliers were tied at 10-10 until Sam Howell completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dyami Brown for a 17-10 lead. Earlier in the second quarter, Howell and Brown connected on a 47-yard score to tie the game at 10-10. The go-ahead touchdown came after the Tar Heel defense forced a three-and-out after the game had been tied.

Virginia has not been able to run the football, with quarterback Bryce Perkins running for 14 yards on 11 carries to lead the team. Perkins picked up the only Virginia touchdown of the half on a short touchdown run from the one-yard line in the first quarter.

The ACC Coastal championship picture may not exactly be cleaned up for good regardless of who wins this game, but the winner will be in the position to have the ultimate hand in determining what happens in the division race that is once again up for grabs.

No. 1 Clemson hangs on against UNC for 20th straight win

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Over the course of a 20-game winning streak, there are bound to be some close calls. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, No. 1 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) had one of the closest calls of their current 20-game winning streak as the Tigers held on to escape an upset bid by North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 21-20. Clemson came up with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game and prevented UNC from coming up with an onside kick to grab the win.

North Carolina did a good job of keeping Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence off his mark for most of the night (Lawrence was 18-of-30 for 206 yards and a touchdown), but he delivered a perfect pass to give Clemson its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter with a pass to Tee Higgins.

UNC had an answer, however. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell led the Tar Heels on a 16-play drive and 75 yards to get on the doorstep of the end zone in the final minutes of the game. Javonte Williams pushed the ball in for a touchdown to cut the Clemson lead to one. Head coach Mack Brown didn’t hesitate and was ready to go for two and the win. But Clemson was ready for the play and was all over Howell on the run.

After the win, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the effort by the Tar Heels and admitted to being out-coached by Brown. Swinney also said his team is not entitled to win and still has to go out and earn their wins just like everybody else.

Clemson now continues to extend its winning streak to 20 games, a school record. After getting next week off, the Tigers will host Florida State. North Carolina will visit Georgia Tech next week. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 24-2 loss at Temple.

UNC coach Mack Brown wins first college football game since Thanksgiving 2013

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It’s been a long time coming for UNC head coach Mack Brown. In his first game on the sidelines since the 2013 season, Brown coached his Tar Heels to rally past South Carolina in the Belk College Football Kickoff Game in Charlotte, 24-20. It is the first time Brown has won a game since a Thanksgiving game between Brown’s Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech in 2013. On top of that, Brown got the win against his former assistant Will Muschamp, who was once named the head coach in waiting at Texas under Brown.

South Carolina had a 13-3 lead in the second quarter and took a 20-9 lead into the fourth quarter. But UNC kept grinding away and the defense rattled Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. Bentley was intercepted twice in the final minutes of the game, both times by Myles Wolfolk, and he fumbled the football on the final play of the game. That ball was returned for a touchdown, but the game was already cemented in the win column for UNC.

For UNC, it was really the defense that led the way. South Carolina had just three third-down conversions in 13 tries and every possession after going up 20-9 ended with a punt or turnover the rest of the game for South Carolina.

Freshman quarterback Sam Howell got the start for UNC and he was solid in his Tar Heel debut. Howell passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Running back Javonte Williams went over the century mark to out-rush his South Carolina counterpart Tavien Feaster.

And here’s a fun little nugget. Brown has now won three consecutive games at UNC. Brown left UNC for Texas after the 1997 season, after UNC had gone 10-1 in the regular season. That season ended on a three-game winning streak with victories for UNC over Clemson, Duke and Virginia Tech (in the Gator Bowl, years before Virginia Tech was an ACC member). However, Brown did not coach the Tar Heels in the Gator Bowl because he left for Texas after accepting an offer from the Longhorns.

Brown will look to score his fourth consecutive win at UNC next week when UNC hosts Miami in an ACC Coastal Division matchup. Miami was off in Week 1 after opening their season against Florida in Week 0 (and losing to the Gators).

South Carolina will hope to get in the win column next week with a home game against Charleston Southern.

Mack Brown down at halftime in his return to UNC sideline

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Mack Brown is back on the college football sidelines, but the scoreboard is not in his favor in his first half back in the game. South Carolina leads Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels 13-6 in the Belk College Football Kickoff Game in Charlotte.

Neither team has displayed stellar offense, as the defenses have been doing a solid job of keeping things from going off the rails. After exchanging field goals on the first two possessions of the game, South Carolina was the first to reach the end zone in the first quarter. Tavien Feaster went free for a 34-yard touchdown run on a drive that was jumpstarted by a personal foul penalty on Raymond Vohasek on the first play of the drive. Both teams later exchanged missed field goals before once again exchanging field goals in the second quarter. North Carolina’s 47-yard attempt was blocked after South Carolina’s Parker White missed a 53-yard attempt.

Jake Bentley of South Carolina has been praised as one of the better passers in the SEC, although he has not been lighting up the box score just yet. Freshman Sam Howell of North Carolina has had a pedestrian debut as well. If the first half was any indication, this game will be dictated more by the defenses in the second half. We may not have a shootout on our hands at all here.