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Saturday, September 8, 2012

It's road-trip time for area teams, but UNC and NCCU won't go far

Posted by on Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 2:42 AM

It’s Week 2 of the college football season, and unfortunately for Triangle-area fans all the local Division I teams are on the road today.

Fortunately for road-trippers, a couple of them are not too far away.

UNCs Erik Highsmith fights for yardage in the Elon game.

UNC (1-0), fresh off a 62-0 season-opening win over Elon, will visit Wake Forest (1-0) at 3 p.m. in the ACC opener for both. That game will be shown on Fox Sports Carolinas.

Then at 7 p.m. N.C. Central (1-0), which drubbed former CIAA foe Fayetteville State 54-31 in its opener, will be at Elon in the only non-conference FCS game for both teams.

The other games are on the road.

N.C. State (0-1) will try to bounce back from its 35-21 season-opening loss to Tennessee when the Wolfpack visits Connecticut (1-0) at noon.

And Duke (1-0), which got a surprisingly easy 44-14 win over Florida International in the Blue Devils’ opener, will travel to No. 25 Stanford (1-0) for a 10:30 p.m. contest.

UNC is the biggest local favorite of the day, nine points over the Deacons, and State is a three-point pick at UConn. Duke is a 15½-point underdog to Stanford. And the Dunkel Index says NCCU is a 26-point underdog at Elon.

The UNC-Wake rivalry is one of the oldest in the nation, with the Tar Heels leading it 68-34-2. It is no longer contested annually because of ACC expansion, but they did meet last year with the Tar Heels prevailing 49-24 in Chapel Hill.

Bryn Renner completed 14 of 21 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns against Elon, while Gio Bernard scored touchdowns from scrimmage, on a reception and on a punt return.

Wake’s Tanner Price completed 16 of 28 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown with one interception in a 20-17 season-opening win over Liberty.

“There's so many different places in the game where we’ve got to get better,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “We have to get better with our tempo on offense. We still turned the ball over twice. We had three penalties as a team.

“Defensively we still gave up a few third-and-longs that we didn’t like to give up. We had a penalty on special teams. Our kickoff return team was not very good at all. Our kickoff coverage team was not very good. So we’ve got a lot to work on.”

NCCU trails Elon 8-3 in the all-time series, including a 23-22 heartbreaker at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium last year.

Matt Goggans was solid in his NCCU debut at quarterback, completing 15 of 26 for 223 yards and a touchdown without an interception. Geo Irvine caught Goggans’ 20-yard TD pass and scored on a 31-yard punt return.

Elon quarterback Thomas Wilson completed 13 of 27 for 99 yards and was intercepted twice against the Tar Heels.

“I thought we played extremely hard (against FSU),” NCCU coach Henry Frazier said. “They didn’t quit, but gave maximum effort on every play. We started off slow, but we settled down at halftime.

“(Against Elon) we’ve got to force the tempo from a defensive standpoint. They’re going to throw the ball 30 or 40 times, so we have to put pressure on Wilson or he’ll pick us apart.”

State and Connecticut have played only once, with the Wolfpack winning 31-24 in 2003.

Mike Glennon completed 27 of 48 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted four times against Tennessee. Tony Creecy carried 10 times for 47 yards and a touchdown for the Wolfpack.

UConn’s Chandler Whitmer completed 15 of 25 passes for 219 yards and was intercepted twice in a 37-0 rout of outmanned old rival Massachusetts.

“Our team is certainly excited to get back on the football field,” State coach Tom O’Brien said. “We have Connecticut, a team that two years ago played in the Fiesta Bowl. It's a very senior team on defense. They’re starting seven seniors, and four or five of them are redshirt seniors.

“I think last week they only gave up 53 yards offense, and didn't allow UMass to cross the 50-yard line. So they’re playing great defense right now. Offensively they have a lot of experience up front on their offensive line, playing two different quarterbacks and two different styles of offense.

Stanford has won two of three previous meetings with the Blue Devils, including 44-14 last season in Durham.

Sean Renfree completed 21 of 30 passes for 290 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Duke’s opener, while Conner Vernon caught 10 passes for 180 yards and a score.

Junior Josh Nunes, who replaced Andrew Luck as Stanford quarterback, completed 16 of 25 for 125 and a TD without an interception in a 20-17 season-opening win over San Jose State.

“If anybody gets complacent, they are going to fail in life,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know anybody who is complacent. The thing I liked the most about our team Saturday is that there really wasn’t a lull.

“I have felt often in ballgames since I’ve been here that we have had lulls that have just critically hurt us. Even though we weren’t perfect, there was never a failure to have an edge. Our team played 60 minutes of intense football (against FIU), and that is hard to do.”

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