Pirates earn a Ruff A; Fedora gets a D
Posted September 30, 2013
Ruffin McNeill, ECU, A: The 55-31 win at UNC Saturday came with few warts.
The offense was spectacular throughout, and although the defense gave up more than 450 yards, much of that was due to the fact Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner is a prolific passer working with a group of gifted receivers.
Star running back Vintavious Cooper got banged up in the second half but returned fairly fast after some medical attention on the sidelines.
There was a lot of pressure on McNeill to deliver a lasting memory to the anxious Pirate fan base. He did just that.
In fact, the Pirates very well could be 2-0 vs. the ACC Coastal. Had sophomore linebacker Montese Overton been able to hang on to an errant Logan Thomas pass against Virginia Tech, the Pirates likely would have won 17-13 rather than losing 13-10.
But now comes the tricky next step – a trip to Middle Tennessee this week. The Blue Raiders (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) lost 40-20 at UNC on Sept. 7.
It should have “letdown situation” written next to the 3:30 p.m. starting time on the schedule.
Previous McNeill grades: Two Bs, one C.
Larry Fedora, UNC, D: The good news for the Tar Heel coach is that other than against Duke and Miami, his defenders shouldn’t be subjected to the sort of unrelenting blitzkrieg they confronted against ECU’s Shane Carden.
At Virginia Tech this Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL TV), the problem will be dealing with the Hokies’ press-man pass defensive pass coverage and QB Logan Thomas’ running/scrambling ability.
It’ll be a much simpler afternoon for the Carolina linebackers and secondary.
But Fedora clearly is facing challenges on both the personnel and morale fronts.
Other than Renner, the receivers and running back A.J. Blue, confidence is down across the board and the defense just simply no longer has the pro-like talent to overcome its inexperience and complex opposing offenses.
Previous Fedora grades: One B, one C, one D.
Dave Doeren, NCSU, B: Other than the loss to Clemson, the Wolfpack’s schedule has been easy and may stay easy for a while.
At Wake Forest this Saturday (3:30 p.m.) and against Syracuse on Oct. 12 in Raleigh, the obviously improved Wolfpack defense should be able to provide still-learning quarterback Pete Thomas with much of the same pressure cushion as was the case in Saturday’s 48-14 win over Central Michigan.
But even though the schedule has been mostly light and entirely home-based, Doeren’s first team has been consistently impressive.
Previous Doeren grades: Two Bs, one C.
David Cutcliffe, Duke, B: Although quarterback Brandon Connette got dinged up some in the 38-31 win over Troy Saturday in Durham, the 3-2 Blue Devils aren’t yet in a dire situation.
With an open date to prepare for the Navy option (Oct. 12 in Durham), Cutcliffe now can rest Connette for a few days and check up on Anthony Boone’s rehab progress from his shoulder injury.
Three other potential positives popped up Saturday: Carolina’s defensive problems against ECU, Virginia’s offensive problems in a 14-3 loss at Pitt and Wake Forest’s quick surrender against Clemson in Winston-Salem.
For the Devils, it’s all about counting to six wins. They’re halfway there, and the remaining schedule is looking less formidable as season progresses.
Previous Cutcliffe grades: One A, one B, one C, one D.