Rivera, Fedora, McNeill ride the A Train
Posted November 11, 2013
Larry Fedora, UNC, A: Virginia is perfectly awful on all fronts, but Carolina’s 45-14 win Saturday was impressive in that the offense was effective without Bryn Renner.
North Carolina rolls past Virginia 45-14
Now 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC, the Heels need to either win this week at Pitt (5-4, 2-3) at 12:30 this Saturday (WRAL TV) or against Duke (7-2, 3-2) on Nov. 30 – coupled with a win over sneaky fast Old Dominion (7-3) on Nov. 23 – to land a bowl.
Fedora’s team badly underachieved earlier but give the coaches and players a lot of credit for holding ranks.
Previous grades: Two As, one B, one C, four Ds.
David Cutcliffe, Duke, B: The last thing you expect from the Blue Devils are passing game malfunctions, but that’s suddenly occurred.
Fortunately, the defense and special teams have made amazing progress since the two mid-season games against Pitt and Troy. The 38-20 win over N.C. State Saturday in Durham was maybe the most intriguing Duke performance since a 1976 game at Clemson, when Vince Fusco kicked six field goals in an 18-18 tie. DeVon Edwards’ three touchdowns against State were even more noteworthy than Fusco’s kicking that afternoon.
Blue Devils beat Wolfpack 38-20 for 7th win
But in order for Duke to make the most of this rare opportunity, Anthony Boone and/or Brandon Connette need to start hitting targets again.
All three remaining foes – Miami this week (3:30), then at Wake Forest and at UNC – are beatable if Duke’s offense clicks. But Miami still has a sizeable talent advantage, Wake Forest gets this week off to prepare and Carolina has finally gained some confidence.
Previous grades: Four As, two Bs, one C, one D.
Dave Doeren, State, D: As bad as the passing game has been, the overtaxed Wolfpack defense continues to play reasonably well. Unfortunately, the special teams went the way of the offense at Duke.
In retrospect, it’s difficult to believe inherited Tom O’Brien/Dana Bible quarterback recruit Manny Stocker could not have helped. With only three games left _ at Boston College (12:30) this week, then back home for ECU and Maryland _ the timing’s probably all wrong to pull Stocker out of a red-shirt season.
But looking ahead, what if transfer Jacoby Brissett, the presumed starter next season, turns out to struggle ala transfers Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas? Or what if Brissett gets injured early, as did Mitchell in the opening game this season?
Assuming Stocker returns, he could suddenly be in an important role.
For now, everything’s just a struggle. The offense present and future looks murky but maybe Brissett will light things up from the start.
Previous grades: Three Bs, one C, four Ds.
Ruffin McNeill, ECU, A: The 58-24 win over Tulsa was a lot like the Pirates’ previous six victories _ awesome air game, average running attack and another very representative defensive show.
Along with Shane Carden’s near-incredible accuracy (73 percent completion rate, 24 TDs against five picks and 2,973 yards through nine games) and Justin Hardy’s snags (82 receptions, 1,000 yards), the defensive improvement under coordinator Rick Smith has been a sustained highlight.
East Carolina beats Tulsa 58-24
Win No. 8 should come this week over Alabama-Birmingham (2 pm, Dowdy-Ficklen) but ensuing trips to State (Nov. 23, time to be determined) and Marshall (Nov. 29, noon) will be infinitely more difficult.
Previous grades: Three As, three Bs, one C, one D.
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers, A: Seven games remain, but the 6-3 Panthers right now have the best defense in the NFL.
Sunday’s 10-9 win at San Francisco was probably Rivera’s most impressive win yet but could quickly be replaced if the Panthers can put away New England (7-2) in the Monday Night Nov. 18 game in Charlotte.
Panthers win 5th straight, beat 49ers 10-9
Defenders Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson have all emerged as viable all-NFL first team contenders.
Previous grades: Five As, one C, one D, one F.