REYNOLDS COLISEUM/RALEIGH N.C. State continues its early-season run of home games against Division I opponents from outside the “power conferences” as first-year mentor Wes Moore starts his tenure at the helm.
Tonight’s foe is Morgan State of the MEAC, which lost its opener at home to Lincoln (Pa.) of the CIAA.
The Wolfpack is 3-0, with easy wins over St. Bonaventure, Towson and Presbyterian under its belt.
This one is as easy as expected, as the Wolfpack rolls 94-52.
That would have to start today, when NCCU (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) hosts Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3) in the home finale on a warm, sunny Senior Day. Win today and then upset uber arch-rival North Carolina on the road next week, and it’s a pretty good finish for interim coach Dwayne Foster.
NCCU gets it done on a day when its special teams have a field day, winning at home against a Division I team for the first time all season in a 24-13 decision.
Over the past generation it has been common to see UNC and N.C. State zeroing in on bowl eligibility early and N.C. Central chasing a conference title and playoff berths while Duke is locking up yet another losing season.
Not this time.
Duke is the only team of the four that has assured itself of even a decent season, and is guaranteed its best finish since at least 1994 with a bowl bid already banked.
And today Duke will play its biggest game in a very, very long time.
The Blue Devils (7-2, 3-2 ACC) will take on No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2) today at 3:30 (ESPNU) at Wallace Wade Stadium, and would get the inside track toward winning the ACC’s Coastal Division title — and a likely spot in the Orange Bowl — with a win.
Everybody else needs to play desperate football. The only other home game has N.C. Central (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) hosting Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in a game the Eagles have to win to have a chance for a .500 season.
UNC (4-5, 3-3) will try to keep its hopes for a winning season alive when the Tar Heels visit ACC newcomer Pittsburgh (5-4, 2-3) at 12:30 p.m. (WRAL), while N.C. State (3-6, 0-6) will visit Boston College (5-4, 2-3) at the same time (Fox Sports Carolinas) needing to win out for a .500 record and possible bowl spot.
When the contract for Tennessee to play last season and this one UNC was originally signed, the matchup was supposed to be between Hall of Fame coaches Pat Summitt and Sylvia Hatchell, who many long years ago was one of Summitt’s assistants with the Lady Vols.
But a year and a half ago Summitt became the Vols’ head coach emeritus, as she resigned because of her Alzheimer’s disease. And then last month, Hatchell was diagnosed with leukemia.
So acting coach and long-time Hatchell assistant directs the No. 12 Tar Heels (1-0), while second-year mentor Holly Warlick heads up the No. 4 Lady Vols (1-0) in front of the national audience on ESPN2. UNC’s No. 1 recruiting class in the country will get its first big collegiate test tonight.
On this night the more experienced Lady Vols are just a little better, holding off the Tar Heels down the stretch to win 81-65.
But with the expansion of the ACC to now 14 football teams, meetings between the Durham and Raleigh schools have become few and far between.
The series will resume after a three-year hiatus on a cool, cloudy day in front of a mostly full house, and the two teams have been headed in opposite directions.
Today, Duke breaks open a close game with three TDs in the final 3:31, two of them on interception returns from freshman DeVon Edwards in a 38-20 win.
That silliness ends today.
Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC) which still has a shot at its best season since the ACC was formed, will host N.C. State (3-5, 0-5) today at 4 at Wallace Wade Stadium in a game to be shown on ESPNU.
The matchup is one of two ACC games to be played in the Triangle today, as UNC (2-3, 3-5) will host reeling Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at 12:30 at Kenan Stadium in a game to be shown on WRAL.
N.C. Central (4-5, 2-3 MEAC) will travel to MEAC rival Hampton (3-6, 3-2) at 1 p.m.