ACC Roundup: Blue Devils, Heels looking to flip the script
By Aaron Beard
AP Sports Writer
The turnovers piled up fast for Duke through the first six weeks. So did the losses. The Blue Devils are hoping that’s behind them now entering Saturday’s game against Charlotte.
Duke (1-5) emerges from an open week with a national-worst 22 turnovers. Finding ways to avoid those miscues sat atop coach David Cutcliffe’s list of things to focus on — along with finishing drives with touchdowns after reaching the opponent’s 20-yard line — in the extra time following an Oct. 17 loss at North Carolina State.
“Those two things, you take possessions away and then you’re not getting the ball in the end zone in red-zone opportunities, your point production is going to be poor,” Cutcliffe said.
To his point, Duke is in the middle third of the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense (401.5 yards) and passing (252.2) but 14th in scoring at 21.3 points. Duke has thrown 12 interceptions and lost 10 fumbles, while scoring touchdowns on just eight of 21 trips into the red zone.
The instate 49ers (2-2) have had their own difficulties through the first month after having two games postponed and another canceled related to coronavirus issues. The 49ers are coming off a Conference USA home win against UTEP last weekend and have only played twice against ACC teams since moving to the Bowl Subdivision ranks in 2015.
“You can help your brand if you go and you put a good product on the field,” Charlotte coach Will Healy said. “But it’s important for us to continue to make waves in the state. Obviously we’re recruiting the Carolinas extremely hard. … So it’ll be important that we do things that will continue to make sure that people take us seriously.”
The Blue Devils need Clemson graduate transfer Chase Brice to clean up the mistakes that have plagued the quarterback’s play so far. He has thrown 11 interceptions and said he spent the open week working on footwork and trying to improve his accuracy.
“I think throughout the game, you can kind of get away from those little things and those little details and they’ll start adding up,” Brice said.
Charlotte’s offense has avoided turnovers for the past two games and put up solid offensive totals each time.
The 49ers finished with 599 yards in a 49-21 win against North Texas on Oct. 10, which included Aaron McAllister amassing 214 yards of total offense with two touchdowns. Charlotte followed with last week’s 38-28 win against UTEP, with McAllister having another two-touchdown performance.
The game is the second of four straight against instate opponents for Duke. After losing to N.C. State in the first meeting between the programs since 2013, the Blue Devils host No. 15 North Carolina on Nov. 7 then host Wake Forest on Nov. 21.
No. 15 North Carolina has lost three straight to Virginia
By Hank Kurz Jr.
AP Sports Writer
The Tar Heels are hoping to turn things around this time in the matchup with Virginia after losing three straight to the Cavaliers. Coach Mack Brown is just 3-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference series with the defending Coastal Division champions.
But the slumping Cavaliers (1-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) are struggling under fifth-year coach Bronco Mendenhall while the Tar Heels are thriving since Brown gave up his spot in a broadcast booth to lead UNC for a second time.
The Tar Heels (4-1, 4-1) have a pick-your-poison offense led by quarterback Sam Howell, who averages 280 passing yards and two touchdown throws per game. Their ground game is powered by the running back tandem of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, who each run for more than 110 yards a contest.
North Carolina is coming off a 48-21 win against then-ranked rival North Carolina State. They have won seven of eight since losing to Virginia and Pittsburgh last November, the only loss was being upset at Florida State on Oct. 17. Before being upended, the Tar Heels had climbed to No. 5 in the Top 25, their highest ranking since 1997 during Brown’s first coaching stint.
“This time last year we were 2-3,” Brown said. “So we’re sitting here at 4-1 and getting better, and that shows progress in our program. And that’s what we want to do.”
The Cavaliers had been making steady progress under Mendenhall until this year. Slow starts have put forced Virginia to have to play from behind. The Cavaliers have been outscored 55-10 in the first quarter and have never scored first.
Mendenhall, though, believes his team’s winning attitude remains strong, even if the outcomes have not been what they’ve been accustomed to during his tenure.
“I’m really, really encouraged and proud of them because this is kind of uncharted territory for a group of guys that’s won a lot in the past three years and had expected to and now it’s, it’s been ‘well, this isn’t what we expected,’ ” Mendenhall said this week.
Much of the attention UNC’s offense received entering the season focused on the return of Howell, but it’s been the ground game that has stood out for the Tar Heels. Carter and Williams are the only teammates in the country each averaging 100 yards rushing among teams that have played multiple games, with Carter ranking 11th in the Bowl Subdivision (116.8) and Williams 14th (112.4).
The Tar Heels average 249 rushing yards and are at their best when they’re running the ball well, which only makes things easier on Howell in a prolific passing game.
The crowd at Virginia will again be limited to 1,000 people per team, which means the home field edge will come from piped in music and familial support.
Syracuse hosts Wake Forest, looking to end 3-game skid
By John Kekis
AP Sports Writer
A week after giving top-ranked Clemson fits for nearly three quarters, Syracuse is eager to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
The unbeaten Tigers led by just six points late in the third quarter last Saturday in Death Valley before pulling away for a 47-21 victory. The Orange (1-5, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have lost three straight and hope that effort is a sign of better things ahead.
“Honestly, I feel like the team already knew that we could play like that. It was just a matter of time,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Anthony Queeley said. “It has a lot to do with the seniors and the guys at the top of the pyramid. We just have to bring that same energy with us every week to every team that we play and not just Clemson.”
Up next is Wake Forest (3-2, 2-2) in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. The Demon Deacons, who began the season with a 37-13 loss to Clemson, have won three straight after a bumpy first month that also included a 45-42 setback at North Carolina State. From there, a game against then-No. 3 Notre Dame was postponed because of coronavirus issues for the Fighting Irish, and Wake Forest had to reschedule a nonconference game against Campbell to avoid having consecutive open weeks and won that 66-14.
The Demon Deacons followed with consecutive home wins against Virginia and then-No. 19 Virginia Tech and now have a chance for a fourth straight win.
“I think some of those bye weeks early maybe helped us develop,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “We’ve got a bye week after this and certainly that five-week stretch at the end is going to be challenging. We’ve got to try to get this one and play well and do everything we can against Syracuse, and then we’ll deal with that other problem later.”
Other things to know for Wake Forest-Syracuse. The Orange are 4-1 at home against the Deacons:
Wake Forest leads the country in turnover margin at plus-11, with the Demon Deacons having nine interceptions with three fumble recoveries compared to just one lost fumble and no picks. That includes five interceptions in the past two ACC victories after forcing just two turnovers in the first two league games that resulted in losses. The Orange lead the nation with 17 turnovers gained.
When Syracuse coach Dino Babers was asked about Wake Forest, the first words out of his mouth were, “No. 9 is amazing. He’s so, so good.”
That would be defensive end Carlos Basham Jr., who owns a streak of 23 consecutive games with a tackle for loss, the longest in the nation.
“This guy may be the best defensive player we’ve played all year,” Babers said. “You turn on the tape and he literally stands out.”
True freshman walk-on Nick Andersen has had quite a start for Wake Forest. He’s started the past two games at safety in a banged-up secondary and had three interceptions against Virginia Tech, marking the first three-interception game for a Wake Forest player since 1987. He’s also second on the team with 33 tackles.
“He got ready for the opportunity,” Clawson said. “What he’s doing isn’t an accident. He came here with the mindset Day One that he was a player.”
WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT
Redshirt senior Rex Culpepper is listed first at quarterback on the Syracuse depth chart for the third straight game in place of injured Orange starter Tommy DeVito. Culpepper was 10 for 26 for 175 yards and an 83-yard touchdown to Nykeim Johnson against Clemson, but he threw three interceptions. The backups are freshmen Dillon Markiewicz and JaCobian Morgan, who played briefly against Clemson, his first action in college.
“I just wanted to get him out there … and let him get a taste of it,” Babers said. “We’ll try to move further.”
Wake Forest had big holes to fill at receiver with the loss of Sage Surratt, Scotty Washington and Kendall Hinton from last year. Redshirt junior Jaquarii Roberson is starting to provide some consistent production for that revamped position group. He’s had at least six catches in three of four ACC games, including seven for 126 yards against Virginia, and leads the team in both catches (26) and yardage (360).
“I want to keep being the No. 1 guy or keep being the guy that (quarterback) Sam (Hartman) wants to get the ball out to … so I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing to get the targets,” Roberson said.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed.
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