Middle Tennessee (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000) -- Chapel Hill,
North Carolina. Television: ACC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: MT 1-0, UNC
0-0. Away Record: MT 0-0, UNC 0-1. Neutral Record: MT 0-0, UNC 0-0. Conference
Record: MT 0-0, UNC 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Following a loss to a top-10 SEC team in the season-opener, the
North Carolina Tar Heels return home to battle Middle Tennessee at Kenan
Memorial Stadium in week two.
The Tar Heels did battle with their neighbors from south of the border in a
marquee Thursday night matchup in week one but were dismissed, 27-10, by then
No. 6 South Carolina in the contest. The loss was the first for UNC in an
opener since 2010 when the Tar Heels fell, 30-24 to LSU. The Tar Heels went
8-4 last season for their fourth eight-win season in the last five years.
Middle Tennessee got off to a more auspicious start, albeit against a weaker
opponent. The Blue Raiders hosted FCS foe Western Carolina and posted a 45-24
victory in the opener. The new members of Conference USA were also an 8-4
squad last season, when they were still in the Sun Belt. The Blue Raiders went
2-10 the year before that and have not had back-to-back winning seasons since
becoming a FBS program.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
Balance in yardage was the key for the Blue Raiders on the offensive side of
the ball in the win over Western Carolina. Middle Tennessee picked up 475
yards of total offense, a nice jump from the 392.8 it averaged last season.
The yardage was fairly evenly split with 270 coming on the ground and 205
through the air.
Jordan Parker was the workhorse out of the backfield for the Blue Raiders.
Parker had 22 carries for 156 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run early
on the first play from scrimmage. The 156 yards from Parker were a career-
high. William Pratcher added 71 yards and two scores on 10 carries.
With the running game humming along, quarterback Logan Kilgore didn't need to
do much more than keep the defense honest with his passing. Kilgore completed
12-of-18 pass attempts for 144 yards and a touchdown before giving way to
Austin Grammer after suffering a shoulder injury. Grammer completed 7-of-9
attempts for 61 yards and also scored on a 10-yard touchdown run.
It remains to be seen if Kilgore will be able to start in this contest but if
not Grammer certainly showed he is capable of stepping in.
The workload for the Blue Raiders' receivers was spread evenly with nine
players grabbing at least one catch and four different players totaling at
least 30 yards.
While the offense pounded the ball down the field, the Middle Tennessee
defense was extremely opportunistic. The Blue Raiders collected a pair of
interceptions and made a number of plays in the Western Carolina backfield. In
total the Blue Raiders had nine tackles for loss and three sacks. Middle
Tennessee also surrendered 371 yards of total offense and held the Catamounts
to 4-of-15 on third down conversions.
Going forward Middle Tennessee will need to continue its strong defensive
effort, as the team gave up more than 440 yards of total offense last season.
T.T. Barber was the headliner of the defensive attack as he tied for a game-
high with nine tackles, two for loss. Christian Henry also had nine tackles
along with a sack.
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora knew he had a tough task in getting his
normally potent offense to get off to a fast start against a tough South
Carolina defense led by Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney. The test proved to
be as advertised as the Tar Heels managed just 293 total yards and 3.7 yards
per play. Last season the Tar Heels averaged 291.8 yards per game through the
Bryn Renner, who threw for 3,356 yards last season, complete 26-of-43 pass
attempts for 194 yards and a touchdown, while being sacked three times.
Renner's lack of consistency in completing passes was uncommon considering he
had a career completion percentage of 66.7 entering the year.
Replacing multi-talented running back Giovanni Bernard proved to be a
challenge as well. Bernard, who accounted for over 1,700 yards of total
offense last season is now in the NFL. Romar Morris and A.J. Blue are the two
backs tasked with taking over. Morris had a team-high 69 yards on 15 carries
and Blue added 36 yards on eight touches against the Gamecocks.
Though it took him more passes than Fedora may have wanted, Renner still had
26 completions and spread them to 10 different receivers. Quinshad Davis was
the top target as he tied for a team-high with four receptions for a team-high
39 yards and a score.
No one accused North Carolina of being a stout defensive squad last season as
the Tar Heels posted middle of the road numbers in comparison to the rest of
the ACC. Against South Carolina, even with seven returning starters, North
Carolina still looked average on the defensive side.
In the losing effort the Tar Heels gave up 406 total yards, including 228
yards on the ground. North Carolina was somewhat successful on third down as
the Gamecocks converted on just 5-of-14 attempts.
Leading the Tar Heels on defense was Travis Hughes and Tre Boston. Norkeithus
Otis had the best game in terms of rushing the passer as he recorded a sack
and two quarterback hits to go with five total tackles. Otis' sack was one of
just three tackles for loss by the Tar Heels.
Though both of these teams had very different outcomes in the opening weekend,
each team also faced very different competition. With Kilgore's status still
up in the air, it will be tough for Middle Tennessee to really prove a
challenge to a North Carolina team that should get back on track offensively.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 38, Middle Tennessee 13
09/04 10:44:57 ET
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