2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 9 - Wake Forest at UNC
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Oct. 29 at North Carolina 49 … Wake Forest 24
CFN Analysis: After losing two in a row and being less-than-scintillating in wins over East Carolina and Louisville, North Carolina needed strong performance. Giovani Bernard set the tone with 154 yards and two scores on the ground, but it was the passing of Bryn Renner and the big plays from the defense that made it a blowout. Renner hit on every key pass to keep things moving and balance out the attack. The defense came up with five takeaways to offset the 331 yards allowed. The Tar Heels are bowl eligible, and it’s time to move up in the pecking order with a win over NC State. If they can stay on the right side of the turnover margin – not a given so far this year – they can win at least two of the final three games.
The offense moved the ball a bit, but the turnovers wouldn’t stop flowing. Meanwhile, the defense couldn’t have picked a worse time to struggle so mightily against the run. It was a rough loss, getting dominated way too much for an ACC title contender, but all is not lost. As bad as this was, and as poor as the team looked a few weeks ago against Virginia Tech, if the Demon Deacons can shock Clemson in two weeks, after facing Notre Dame, then they’ll win the Atlantic if they can get finish the drill against Maryland. To pull out the wins, Tanner Price has to be more secure with the ball, and the offense has to do a far better job of grinding out long drives. Holding the ball for 23:24 isn’t going to get it done against the Tigers.
(AP) CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard scored three touchdowns and had his sixth 100-yard rushing performance to help North Carolina beat Wake Forest 49-24 on Saturday, making the Tar Heels bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.
Bernard ran for a pair of touchdowns and had a 7-yard scoring catch in the first quarter, while North Carolina (6-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) took advantage of an uncharacteristic line of mistakes from the normally sure-handed Demon Deacons (5-3, 4-2). Wake Forest had five turnovers -- three on interceptions thrown by Tanner Price -- after committing just five all season coming into Saturday, and the Tar Heels converted four of those into touchdowns.
It all led to a huge day for the UNC offense, which had a season-high 562 total yards and its best scoring output in seven years. It was also North Carolina's most points in an ACC game in a decade.
Bernard ran for 154 yards on 27 carries, while his short TD catch in the opening quarter was his first career scoring reception. He reached the 100-yard mark on a 4-yard carry early in the fourth, then broke off a 54-yard run late to finish 1 yard shy of matching his season-high. He also moved within 35 yards of becoming the first Tar Heel to run for 1,000 yards in a season since Jonathan Linton did it in Mack Brown's final season in 1997.
Bryn Renner completed 21 of 28 passes for a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns, while top receiver Dwight Jones had six catches for 138 yards. Fellow wideout Erik Highsmith added his first two-TD performance, scoring on a 4-yard catch in the opening quarter and on a diving 38-yard grab early in the fourth that blew the game open.
UNC forced turnovers on Wake Forest's first two possessions and jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Tar Heels led 21-17 late in the third before turning it into a rout, getting a short touchdown run from Ryan Houston and Bernard's second 4-yard scoring run to push the lead to 35-17 less than a minute into the fourth.
It was definitely a good way for the Tar Heels to erase the memories from an ugly 59-38 loss at Clemson last weekend, which included the Tar Heels committing six turnovers and giving up 35 points in the third quarter. The 49 points against the Demon Deacons were the most by the Tar Heels since scoring 49 against William & Mary to open the 2004 season and the most by UNC in an ACC game since scoring 52 against Duke in 2001.
As for Wake Forest, Price threw for 146 yards before being pulled early in the fourth quarter. Chris Givens, ranked fourth nationally with 127 yards receiving per game, finished with six catches for 42 yards.
Brandon Pendergrass ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries to lead Wake Forest.
Wake Forest (5-2) at North Carolina (5-3) Oct. 29, 3:30, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal … While it doesn’t quite rise to the level of Clemson at Georgia Tech in primetime, this week’s game at Kenan Stadium will nonetheless be a rather intriguing undercard. Both programs are after the sixth win needed for bowl-eligibility, but the objectives do not stop there. Wake Forest is actually the biggest remaining threat to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic, sitting a game behind the Tigers with a head-to-head matchup still to come in two weeks. The Demon Deacons barely survived the challenge of Duke a week ago, holding on for a critical 24-23 victory in Durham.
After starting the season 5-1, North Carolina has fallen on hard times with consecutive losses to Miami and Clemson. Neither game was all that competitive, especially last Saturday’s 59-38 Tigers victory in Death Valley. A lot of the attention around Chapel Hill is now falling on head coach Everett Withers, who’s beginning to lose the public relations battle to have the interim portion of his title stripped at the end of the regular season.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: What has happened to that vaunted Carolina defense? Sure, Clemson has become a beast, and not all of the scores came from the offense, but the Tar Heels still allowed five touchdown passes. And have given up eight in the last two games. The Demon Deacons will go after that unit with QB Tanner Price and the nation’s 24th-ranked passing game.
Price has been a consistent distributor all season, spreading the ball around to WR Chris Givens and an underrated collection of pass-catchers. Wake Forest is just playing a steadier brand of football than Carolina these days. The Deacons have committed the fewest turnovers in the ACC, while the Heels have coughed it up the most.
Why North Carolina Might Win: Both teams have an eye on achieving offensive balance. The Heels have a far better chance of actually pulling it off. Although the team hasn’t scored as consistently as the staff would like, it has moved the ball with regularity. Carolina boasts the trio of QB Bryn Renner, RB Giovani Bernard and WR Dwight Jones, who all rank among the top four in the league in passing efficiency, rushing and receiving, respectively.
This attack is capable of keeping Wake Forest guessing. The Deacons, on the other hand, are missing top back Josh Harris, and will have a tough time solving a Heels run defense that yields three yards a carry, and is anchored by DT Tydreke Powell, DE Quinton Coples and linebackers Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick.
What To Watch Out For: Renner must contend with one of the league’s more active defensive backfields, an athletic group that’ll bat away passes, and step up to defend the run. S Cyhl Quarles and CB Merrill Noel, in particular, have exhibited tremendous range and playmaking ability throughout the year.
Quarles is the senior leader and top tackler, a linebacker-sized stopper who’ll be watching Bernard all afternoon. Noel has been a revelation as a redshirt freshman, leading the nation with 16 passes defended. He’ll battle Jones even though he gives away a lot of size and strength.
What Will Happen: While North Carolina appears to be fading, Wake Forest has some of the mojo that fueled the program from 2006-08. No, the Demon Deacons don’t have as much man-for-man talent as the Tar Heels, but they’re executing better, and limiting their mistakes. Price will be the central figure in the mild upset, directing pivotal scoring drives in the latter stages of a competitive game. The Deacs will also capitalize on turnovers, a familiar development for both schools this fall.
CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 26 … North Carolina 24
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Line: North Carolina -7 O/U: 54
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