The drought for a triangle title continues, according to Holliday on

The drought for a triangle title continues, according to Holliday on

Written by Bob Holliday, a contributor for WRAL Sports.

In September, there was great anticipation for a unique football season in the Triangle area. Duke achieved a victory against Clemson and began with a record of 4-0. UNC also had a successful start, winning their first six games. NC State also had a win against Virginia, giving them a 3-1 record. However, all three schools have since been eliminated from the possibility of competing in the 2023 ACC Football Championship.

Duke, UNC, and NC State have all been waiting for a collective 121 years for an ACC title. The most recent win was in 1989 for Duke, 1980 for UNC, and 1979 for NC State. Instead of facing Florida State, Louisville will now have the opportunity to play against them.

NC State 34, UNC 30

Before Saturday, both Duke and NC State were eliminated from the possibility of winning the title due to their defeats against Louisville. However, North Carolina had a slight chance at securing a spot in Charlotte. The Tar Heels required Miami to defeat Louisville, and the Hurricanes came very close to achieving this.

Unfortunately, during the last moments of the fourth quarter with the score tied at 31-31, two Miami defenders bumped into each other and fell to the ground, allowing Jack Plummer to easily throw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Coleman for an easy score. This was simply a stroke of bad luck.

During the early stages of the game between North Carolina and Clemson, the Tar Heels experienced a setback. Their star running back, Omarion Hampton, who had previously not fumbled in any of Carolina’s first 10 games, lost possession of the ball just seven yards away from the end zone. Clemson was able to recover the ball. On UNC’s fourth possession, with the Tar Heels in the lead at 7-0, Hampton made a promising 64-yard run that appeared to be a sure touchdown. However, upon review, it was discovered that Clemson’s Nate Wiggins had knocked the ball out of Hampton’s hands just before he crossed the goal line. The ball then rolled out of bounds in the end zone, resulting in a touchback instead of a touchdown. This was yet another stroke of bad luck for the Tar Heels.

At this point, UNC should have been leading 21-0. However, the turnover gave Clemson’s offense a boost and they were able to take a 14-7 lead at halftime. In reality, Clemson should have only scored seven points in the first half. Gio Biggers’ interception was negated due to a penalty for roughing the passer. Cecil Gray attempted to block Cade Klubnik’s pass, but ended up making contact with the quarterback after the ball had been released. The referees called a penalty. Klubnik was then able to score a touchdown right before halftime, with the officials ruling that he had just barely crossed the goal line with the tip of the football. These were two very close calls for UNC.

Carolina struggled in the second half against Clemson, particularly when playing from a deficit at Death Valley. The Tar Heels took a risk on 4th and 6 from the Clemson 46, a decision they likely would not have made if they were leading 21-7. Unfortunately, Maye was tackled on the play and Clemson took advantage of the favorable field position to extend their lead to 21-7. Despite Hampton scoring two touchdowns, UNC was never able to narrow the gap to less than seven points for the remainder of the game.

North Carolina ran for 248 yards during the game, which is impressive considering their opponent, Clemson. However, Clemson matched that number and had possession of the ball for over 38 minutes.

Clemson’s secondary really blanketed UNC’s receivers. The quarterback missed on 21 of his 37 passes and barely extended his long streak of games with at least 200 yards passing.

North Carolina defeated Duke 47-45 in a wild rivalry game on senior night at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The upcoming game with Drake Maye leading the team is essentially a single-game season, unless the highly sought after NFL prospect decides to participate in the bowl game. A team with a record of 9-3 has a better chance of going to a bowl game compared to a team with an 8-4 record. However, NC State also has the same motivation for postseason play. Additionally, UNC will be playing against an NC State defense that is performing at a higher level than Clemson’s, in a potentially hostile environment.

On Saturday, it was evident that the Wolfpack’s offense is performing well. Additionally, State has emerged victorious in the previous two encounters and five out of the last seven.

The potential of NC State’s offense is finally being realized.

During Chuck Amato’s tenure as coach, the last time NC State emerged victorious in Blacksburg. None of the current Wolfpack players have experienced a win at Lane Stadium, including quarterback Brennan Armstrong who has had multiple opportunities due to his four-year stint at the University of Virginia, the arch-rival of Virginia Tech.

NC State has won four straight coming out of its bye week in October. The defense did the heavy lifting in the wins over Clemson and Miami. But since starting quarterback M.J. Morris decided to redshirt and sit out the rest of this season, Armstrong has played like the guy everyone expected when he transferred from UVA. Put simply, Armstrong 2.0 is not forcing passes as he did in September before being replaced by Morris in game six.

Due to Armstrong’s extensive time in Robert Anae’s offense at Charlottesville, there has been a noticeable change in NC State’s possessions compared to just a few weeks ago. The offense, which was highly anticipated in the preseason due to the reunion of Armstrong and Anae, is now performing to its fullest potential.

Brennan Armstrong

In the beginning of the second quarter, NC State gained control over Virginia Tech. Armstrong advanced the Wolfpack 64 yards by throwing and completing five passes. The most significant play was a double reverse pass to Trent Pennix for 21 yards, showcasing Anae’s style. On fourth down at the VT 3, State successfully converted with a pass to K.C. Concepcion, solidifying their lead for the rest of the game.

The Pack advanced 60 yards to score their second point, primarily using a ground attack. Kendrick Raphael had a 20 yard run, while Armstrong gained 22 yards in only four carries and ultimately scored the touchdown.

After scoring, Tech brought the score to 14-7. However, Armstrong quickly regained their lead with a 28-yard pass to Concepcion just before the end of the first half.

In the third quarter, NC State successfully scored two touchdowns after driving down the field. Quarterback Armstrong made a clever screen pass to Delbert Mimms, resulting in a 23-yard gain. He then decided to run the ball himself for the touchdown.

In the following installment, Anae’s sorcery continued to reign. Concepcion successfully completed a touchdown pass to Pennix.

After leading 35-14, the Wolfpack’s offense appeared to ease up on their intensity. Additionally, the defense allowed an unusual 150 yards and 14 points. Virginia Tech ended the game with 28 points, the highest number of points State has given up in ACC play this season. However, these factors did not diminish the excitement of finally winning at Virginia Tech, nor did they raise any concerns about the Wolfpack’s performance on Saturday night against UNC.

Duke once again loses in Charlottesville.

For the sixth consecutive time, Duke was defeated by Virginia at Scott Stadium. The game caused concern for Mike Elko as the Blue Devils struggled in the third quarter. With true freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea leading the way, Virginia scored on a five-play and six-play drive, giving them a significant 27-13 advantage.

Duke coach Mike Elko speaks with reporters on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023.

The Blue Devils have one of the top defenses in the ACC, with an average of only 18 points and 349 yards per game allowed. However, in their game against UVA, they allowed 30 points and 448 yards to be scored.

Duke’s offense kicked into high gear during the fourth quarter, similar to their performance against UNC last week. Jacquez Moore’s 58-yard run brought the score to 27-20 with 10 minutes remaining. Ample time left, correct?

However, the Cavaliers held a 5-minute lead in time of possession and used 5:20 of clock in a lengthy drive that resulted in a field goal.

Duke was able to narrow the score to 30-27, but it took them 14 plays to score the final touchdown, which was made by a pass from Grayson Loftis to Mekhi Wall. There was just over a minute left in the game at that point. Virginia then received the onside kick and used up the remaining time to secure the win.

The Blue Devils will end their regular season by facing Pitt. It is important for the Blue Devils to win in order to achieve a 7-5 record. It is worth noting that Duke faced tough losses against Notre Dame and North Carolina, which could have greatly impacted their chances for postseason play had they won.

Duke, along with its neighboring Triangle universities, was unable to maintain its initial momentum that sparked high expectations for a standout season. While September was exceptional, late November has only been decent.