North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 16
Basically … North Carolina jumped out early and never let the game get close, up 16-0 going into the second quarter with Romar Morris running for a two-yard score and T.J. Logan returning a kick for a score following a safety on a Kareem martin sack. The Tar Heel special teams also came through in the third quarter on a 86-yard punt return for a score from Ryan Switzer for a 29-3 lead before Cincinnati finally got into the end zone on a 15-yard Ralph Abernathy IV score. The two teams traded rushing scores with Morris giving UNC a 36-10 lead on a one-yard run and the Bearcats scoring on a Shaq Washington ten-yard run, but the outcome had been decided.
- North Carolina QB Marquise Williams completed 19-of-33 passes for 171 yards and a score and ran nine times for 46 yards.
- North Carolina RB T.J. Logan ran 15 times for 77 yards, caught a pass for four yards, and returned three kickoffs for 120 yards with a score.
- North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer caught three passes for 22 yards, ran once for eight yards and returned three punts for 83 yards and a touchdown.
- North Carolina DE/LB Norkeithus Otis made seven tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.
- Cincinnati DB Darren Doston made ten tackles with three broken up passes.
CFN PREVIEW br />
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6) Dec. 28, 3:20, ESPN
Here's The Deal … Carolina is just happy to be here.
The Belk Bowl might as well be a BCS bowl as far as the Tar Heels are concerned. They remember being ineligible a year ago, despite going 8-4 during the regular season. And they certainly can't forget beginning the current season 1-5 before turning things around. Fitted for a toe-tag after a close loss to Miami on Oct. 17, Carolina rallied for five straight wins to become bowl-eligible. Don't underestimate the importance of this game, especially for Larry Fedora. The second-year head coach desperately needed another 15 practices with his younger kids along with an opportunity to finish this schizophrenic year with a winning mark.
Is there a more quietly consistent program in the FBS than Cincinnati? Though absolutely no one is aware of it, the Bearcats are a Belk Bowl victory away from winning 10 games for the sixth time in the last seven years. The coaching staff turnstile has revolved, but the results have largely been the same. Tommy Tuberville succeeded Butch Jones this fall, rebounding from a couple of ugly early losses to Illinois and South Florida to win six in a row. Before losing to Louisville on the final Thursday of the regular season, Cincy was still in the hunt for a share of the American title.
Players to Watch: Both teams will be using quarterbacks who started the season on the bench. Cincinnati veteran Brendon Kay took over once Munchie Legaux suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. Carolina sophomore Marquise Williams filled the same role after Bryn Renner hurt his shoulder. Both one-time backups have done a nice job of carrying the torch on their respective campuses. And both can make something out of nothing once the pocket collapses. Williams is an especially dangerous runner, leading the Heels with 490 yards and six scores.
Williams will have access to the two best receivers in the stadium, TE Eric Ebron and WR Quinshad Davis, as he continues his maturation as a passer. However, the quarterback will need to solve an underrated defense and a feisty front seven. Cincinnati is No. 9 nationally in total defense, giving up little room against the run or the pass. The Bearcats are especially tough at the point of attack, moving the line with help from DE Silverberry Mouhon, DT Jordan Stepp and linebackers Greg Blair and Nick Temple. Few teams have run on Cincy this season, which will force Williams to earn his dual-threat label.
NFL scouts attending the game at Bank of America Stadium will be paying attention to one of the more anonymous positions on the field, left tackle. Both programs have produced a first team all-star this season, Carolina's James Hurst in the ACC and Cincinnati's Eric Lefeld in the American. The Bearcats have yielded just a dozen sacks in a dozen games, but that level of protection will be tested. Tar Heel DE Kareem Martin and Bandit Norkeithus Otis have been effective all year long at impacting the integrity of the pocket. Martin, in particular, has enjoyed a salary run second half, collecting 15.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks over the final seven games.
It's often the little things that separate two evenly-matched teams. Carolina punt returner Ryan Switzer, for instance. The diminutive true freshman wide receiver from Charleston, W.V. has been a revelation for the Tar Heel special teams in 2013. Instinctive and so slippery in space, he's paid homage to former alum Gio Bernard by already taking four punts back for touchdowns. Switzer has also caught three touchdown passes and thrown another. Cincinnati has been soft in punt coverage this year, which must be addressed before kickoff.
Cincinnati will win if … it exploits the soft spots in the Tar Heel run defense.
Carolina currently ranks last in the ACC in run defense, allowing 183 yards per game. It'll be up to the Bearcats to keep the Heels reeling on the defensive side of the ball. They'll continue to rely on a committee that includes backs Ralph David Abernathy, Tion Green and Hosey Williams and Kay. Wildcat Jordan Luallen will also enter the equation if his separated shoulder allows it. Cincinnati needs to leverage its veteran O-line by wearing down the Heels in the second half.
North Carolina will win if … the defense plays the way it did in November.
There was no secret to the Heels' success during the season-turning five-game winning streak—the defense was making the stops that eluded it a month earlier. And when that same unit showed cracks in the finale with Duke, it was no surprise that the team lost. Carolina has to contain Kay, who has accounted for 28 touchdowns in 10 starts. Martin and Otis will crucial to the bottom line, but so will S Tre Boston and LB Jeff Schoettmer. If the veterans in the secondary can keep receivers Anthony McClung and Mekale McKay in front of them, it'll narrow the entire field on the Bearcats.
What Will Happen: There isn't much separating Carolina and Cincinnati, so bank on a tight game that requires all 60 minutes to determine a winner.
Neither team has a signature win this year, though a bowl victory on Saturday will come close to meeting the requirement. Both programs' lines will play well, and the defenses will ensure that every possession matters. Williams and Kay will make plays with their arms and their feet, but Switzer will end up providing the difference, putting the Heels in position for a game-winning field goal with a burst through the Bearcat punt coverage team.
Prediction: North Carolina 27 … Cincinnati 24
Line: North Carolina -2.5 o/u: 56.5
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2013 Belk Bowl - UNC 39, Cincinnati 16
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