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Adam Gold

Sports interest falls along with leaves

Posted October 14, 2013

Duke fans are anticipating a second straight bowl bid byt eh Blue Devils. Photo by CHRIS BAIRD

It's October in the Triangle. The leaves are changing colors – unless you live amidst only the tall Carolina pines, then you have those annoying needles everywhere screwing up your yard. The mornings have a crisp, chilly feel to them that actually makes you wish you had a dog to walk. Or, as a wise old sage once opined, "hot chocolaty mornings and toasting marshmallow evenings, and best of all…leaping into leaves!"

Winnie the Pooh was a lot more right than wrong in that 1997 classic. And, what's more is that those words are appropriate for Triangle sports fans because – at least until they start playing college basketball for real in about four weeks – any real excitement has been doused with the scent of a skunk.

The three local ACC football teams are just hoping – if not praying – to reach bowl-eligibility. Each still has a chance, and each actually has a schedule that would, in most cases, favor them to get there. However, this doesn't seem to be a season in which "in most cases" turns out to be a positive outcome.

Meanwhile, our unifying force, our outlet from the Triangle rivalry wars, the Carolina Hurricanes have developed an acute allergy to the third period to go along with the fact that overtimes and shootouts cause severe swelling of the esophageal region.

And, before ECU fans start screaming "What about us?" I hear you. You've got a nice team, and while you have many fans in the Triangle and you just might sweep the state's ACC foes, that loss to Tulane really tempered my excitement heading into the second half of the season.  It's pretty hard to get all stoked about a potential meeting with Toledo in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl a couple of days before Santa Claus squeezes down the chimney of my gas fireplace.

So, once again, here we are, a few weeks before Halloween, and those of us who love Triangle sports are finding ourselves masquerading as interested parties in the local teams. Consider…

The Duke Blue Devils just might be the best of the three in the 919 area code. With a 4-2 record after a convincing win over Navy – and a hearty thank you to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for allowing the game to proceed – they are heading into the second half of the season that should provide enough winnable games to give the Devils a chance at a second straight trip to the postseason – something that has never been done in the storied history of Duke football. Of course, even though the schedule provides opportunities, so too does the Duke defense. This is the same team who scored 55 points at home – and LOST.

On the bright side, the Blue Devils will face just two teams who currently sport winning records the rest of the season. On the dark side, four of their remaining six games are on the road.

N.C. State allowed nearly a quarter of a mile of rushing yards to Syracuse on Saturday. That went a long way to securing 'Cuse's first ever win in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Granted, the Orange do run the ball extremely well, and the Wolfpack were thin on defense due to some key injuries, but you're going to have to explain to me how you can run 34 more plays than Syracuse, win the turnover battle and commit half as many penalties and still get beat at home by two touchdowns! If that isn't some NC State "shtuff" I'd like to know what is.

Reason it away as you wish, but the Pack have been outscored 52-23 in the last two weeks by Wake Forest and Syracuse. Glass half full: after a likely beating of epic proportions in Tallahassee, there's no reason State couldn't win their other five games and cruise into a bowl game in Dave Doeren's inaugural season. But, as the glass is only half full, it means that there is plenty of room for more "shtuff" and winning in Durham or Chestnut Hill will not be easy tasks.

North Carolina is getting ready for their Zero Dark Thursday, nationally televised clash with 10th ranked Miami after a weekend of quiet reflection. The Tar Heels are 94th in the country in total defense, 95th in scoring defense, 103rd in rushing defense, 101st in pass efficiency defense, 110th in 3rd down conversion defense and 102nd in turnover margin.

AND THOSE ARE THE GOOD NUMBERS!  

We knew the defense was going to struggle, in spite of what the Mel Kipers of the world said about some in the UNC secondary and along the defensive front. But, we didn't know that the Tar Heels would be 76th in total offense, 93rd in scoring offense, 104th in first downs and 110th in time of possession – all while committing more penalties than all but 16 teams in the FBS.

Again, we knew it wasn't going to be as good as it was a year ago, but things didn't figure to be this dire.

I love Bryn Renner, but Larry Fedora has to consider a heavy dose of Marquise Williams at quarterback. At least, when the offensive line fails to protect the passer (and they will fail to protect the passer) said passer might have a chance to escape and make a play.

In UNC's favor, five of the last seven games are at home. Of course, the flip side is that five of the last seven games are at home.

That brings us to the team that is supposed to our safe haven, the franchise that is everyone's home team no matter which school's colors are flying outside your front door.

The Carolina Hurricanes are 2-2-2 through six games this year, and honestly, when you consider the difficulty of the schedule, that's a pretty acceptable start to the season. In fact, if they're able to scare up a point against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Black Hawks Tuesday night at PNC Arena, it would be a very palatable 7 points in 7 games start to the year.

However, when you realize that the two wins have come against teams with a combined two wins, and you throw in the fact that the Canes have been outscored 8-3 in the third period over the first two weeks of the season, you now get the picture that nothing has changed with the franchise, even though so many of the names appear to be new.

The Canes are 23rd on the power play, 24th in scoring, and the top line of Eric Staal, Alex Semin and Jiri Tlusty was just publicly chastised by head coach Kirk Muller for being "passengers" in the team's latest loss. While Muller didn't actually say their names, when he said "we had some of our top guys who didn't bring their 'A' game tonight," it was fairly easy to figure out. That trio combined for 54 goals, 135 points and a plus-34 during last year's 48-game schedule. But somehow, even with the benefit of a full training camp, they're languishing with 4 total points in 6 games and are a combined minus-12. Are there injuries? Sure. But, they're playing, and they're leaders, and they are expected to set an example.

Is there still time for the Hurricanes to turn this around? Absolutely. Just as there is still time and the opportunity for all three of our ACC football teams to keep postseason hopes alive. The way I calculate it, from the time I'm writing this, there are exactly 25 days to the start of the basketball season. Better get busy, fellas. We've got yards to aerate, leaves to blow and Duke is playing Davidson just a few days before taking on national championship contender Kansas.

The clock is ticking on our interest.

18 Comments

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  • blynch7 Oct 17, 7:27 p.m.

    AD's & coaches hate hearing this, but very, very difficult to have strong FB in a basketball oriented school. The fact that adding 2 BE schools Pitt+SU actually makes ACC FB stronger tells you all you have to know. Now that VaT is sinking,3 out of 15, Clem/FSU/Miami ain't too good.

  • Hammerhead Oct 15, 12:43 p.m.

    @Hammerhead, leaf blowers are our only hope. Removing debris from lawns allows the lawns to... View More

    — Posted by dmccall

    I prefer to rake. I was making fun of the leaf brigades who raise more dust with those things than they do clean things up. I saw them cover a car with leaves and dust at an intersection about a week ago, but they got the leaves off the grass dammmmit! I've got 5 acres of trees, some of which will be used to build my next house. Raleigh can do what they want with theirs.

  • dmccall Oct 15, 12:16 p.m.

    @Hammerhead, leaf blowers are our only hope. Removing debris from lawns allows the lawns to survive and cuts down on mildew and mold growth. Raleigh would be a lot better place if about half of the trees were cut down. Just keep the nice ones.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Oct 15, 8:45 a.m.

    WHen I first read the headline, my response would have been, "Are you crazy?" My sports interest falls in the Spring when college Bball is over. College Baseball has never been a huge draw. I'm a fan of Pro baseball the least. But I do have the Durham Bulls.

    But NOW? This is the time of year when my sports interest is cranked up bigtime. We've got bigtime College football, Pro Football, and the College Basketball season will start before football is over. But after reading the article, I see you have to ONLY be an ACC fan for sports to s_ck.

  • Hammerhead Oct 15, 8:05 a.m.

    Glass half full Adam? This area has grown to the point of deserving better then this. Stick to... View More

    — Posted by viking416

    Add Ovies to the mix and you get Cynic City. So it goes.

    PS, leaf blowers are the work of the devil.

    — Posted by Hammerhead

    Trees are the work of the devil - sick of dealing with the leaves and pine needles. I have... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    I know, most people don't like yardwork, I spend a great deal of my spare time working outside. Fall and spring are the best. Raking leaves is a rite of fall for me...exercise, biomass for composting, fresh air, a chance to appreciate biodiversity. I live among the trees and wouldn't have it any other way. I think it's amusing how people obsess over leaves.

  • Gunnstigator Oct 15, 7:51 a.m.

    Glass half full Adam? This area has grown to the point of deserving better then this. Stick to... View More

    — Posted by viking416

    Add Ovies to the mix and you get Cynic City. So it goes.

    PS, leaf blowers are the work of the devil.

    — Posted by Hammerhead

    Trees are the work of the devil - sick of dealing with the leaves and pine needles. I have better things to do with my time (well, more fun things) than fight with leaves and pine straw all fall and winter. I'd install astro turf around my house if it were allowed. One guy actually did that several years ago, and the HOA in his subdivision made him take it out.

  • Hammerhead Oct 15, 6:44 a.m.

    Glass half full Adam? This area has grown to the point of deserving better then this. Stick to... View More

    — Posted by viking416

    Add Ovies to the mix and you get Cynic City. So it goes.

    PS, leaf blowers are the work of the devil.

  • 4tarheels Oct 14, 9:40 p.m.

    Cowboys whoop the Redskins, and the Giants are winless. Good year so far.

  • viking416 Oct 14, 9:27 p.m.

    Glass half full Adam? This area has grown to the point of deserving better then this. Stick to the school sports Adam...it's all you know

  • lec02572 Oct 14, 4:25 p.m.

    Adam as usual is just full of good news for area teams. However, Duke is having fun at 5 - 2 and stll get to play NCSU and UNC. Probably, going to get a bowl bid for the second straight year. I am not a Duke fan, but rather a Clemson fan, but I love to see Coach Cut do well. Great guy, a motivator, and wonderful speaker. Maybe, at least they will get a bowl bid.

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