What a difference a year and one quarter of football make.
A year ago in the season finale, NC State came to Chapel Hill and laid the wood to an uninspired Carolina team in a 35-7 drubbing that gave StateFan water cooler ammunition all year long. At the end of the first quarter in Raleigh on Saturday the score was again 35-7, this time in favor of the Tar Heels.
Thank goodness it was a four-score lead because UNC once again took their foot off the gas and went brain dead on offense much like last week at Virginia Tech to turn a blowout into a nail-biter for a 45-34 margin. A lot of credit goes to the Wolfpack for not rolling over and just taking the whipping, but as they have for the past two weeks, UNC came up with enough key plays on both sides of the ball to notch their school-record 11th win in a row and keep their very narrow dream of making the College Football Playoff alive.
With that in mind, here is the State Champions edition of the GBU Report:
Elijah Hood: UNC committed to run the ball against the Wolfpack and the sophomore delivered. Hood rushed for 220 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns for a 10.5 yards per carry average, a number brought down by the fact both of his TD runs were one yard. Hood now has the 3rd best rushing season in school history with 1,280 yards, and with at least two games remaining will likely surpass Mike Voight's 1,407. He is also 3rd on UNC's single-season rushing touchdown list with 16, and Don McCauley's school record of 19 is in sight.
T.J. Logan: Logan chipped in 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, the 3rd time this season UNC has had two 100-yard rushers. Logan averaged a phenomenal 16.7 yards per carry.
Nick Weiler: Given that UNC couldn't buy a decent place kick for the past two years, Weiler has quietly put together one of the best seasons a UNC kicker has ever had. He is now 3rd on the all-time season scoring list with 112 points and with two games left will almost certainly pass Gio Bernard's 114 for second place. He has also set a school record with 58 consecutive extra points.
Mitch Trubisky: Like a Kirk Gibson pinch-hit home run in the World Series, Trubisky came into the game when Marquise Williams' helmet came off and tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis. No sweat. This is the second time in Trubisky's career he has thrown a pinch-hit TD pass. The future looks bright with him under center.
Andre Smith: The freshman linebacker's impressive debut continues, with nine tackles and a huge interception.
Marquise Williams: Yet another sub-par game for the 5th year senior who had two potentially crippling turnovers (after three last week) and generally was not sharp in the passing game. Williams was 19-30 for 174 yards, a TD and and interception, and rushed for 53 more. With the 227 yards, Williams surpassed Darian Durant as UNC's all-time total yardage leader. There is no doubt Williams is a special player and will leave Chapel Hill with his name all over the record books but he is simply not playing his best football right now and the Heels sure need him to be.
Third-down conversions: A frequent resident of the bad and ugly sections, NCSU converted 12 of 21 3rd downs, and 2 of 3 4th downs, for an effective rate of 14-21, meaning a whopping 67% of the time when the Carolina defense got the Pack to 3rd down, they couldn't get off the field. Brutal.
The last three quarters: In the first quarter UNC piled up 323 yards and 35 points on offense. In the last 3 quarters, State outscored Carolina 27-10 and out-gained the Heels 309-230 and turned three UNC turnovers into 13 points. UNC just has to be glad they put the game away in the 1st quarter as UNC fans were sweating it out down the stretch.
Survive and advance is the name of the game at this point and it's on to Charlotte to face Clemson. The post-game talk has been on CFP possibilities but none of that matters without a win over the Tigers. The dream season for Carolina continues and while Clemson is favored they haven't exactly torn it up the last two weeks either. Should be a fun week and UNC fans should enjoy the ride.