Late Hits: Big win for the Pirates, motivation issues for the Tar Heels

jgiglio@newsobserver.comSeptember 29, 2013 

• One of the best parts of Larry Fedora’s coaching job last season was how motivated North Carolina remained throughout the season, despite being ineligible for a bowl or the ACC title game.

That’s what makes the past six quarters – a flat second half against Georgia Tech and Saturday’s debacle against East Carolina – problematic for Fedora.

The Tar Heels can’t win on talent alone anymore. They will need to have their head on a swivel for Virginia Tech on Saturday because there’s a good chance the Hokies remember the pasting the Heels put on them last year in Chapel Hill.

• If you can’t make heads or tails of Pittsburgh’s defense, you’re not alone. Pitt gave up 96 points in its first two ACC games (41 to Florida State, 55 to Duke) but on Saturday held Virginia to three.

The answer could be Virginia’s offense is bad, but the Panthers will need their defense to get through the next stretch on their schedule which includes three road games in four weeks and then a shot at redemption against Notre Dame on Nov. 9.

• Dave Doeren left Northern Illinois knowing quarterback Jordan Lynch and the Huskies were in for another big season. He was right. Northern Illinois improved to 4-0 with a 55-24 win Saturday at Purdue. The Huskies are 2-0 against the Big Ten this season and have the potential to move into contention for a second straight at-large Bowl Championship Series bowl bid.

Meanwhile, it looks like Fedora had perfect timing in his exit from Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are 0-4 after a 60-7 loss Saturday to Boise State, and have lost 16 straight since Fedora led them to a 12-2 record in 2011.

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East Carolina: The Pirates missed an opportunity to beat Virginia Tech in Greenville two weeks ago. They didn’t miss anything Saturday at North Carolina in a 55-31 rout of the Tar Heels.

ECU was more motivated and just better than UNC. The Pirates also beat the Tar Heels at their own fast-paced style of game.

Virginia Tech: Just when you think they’re out, the Hokies always pull you right back in. Thursday’s 17-10 win at Georgia Tech put the Frank Beamer’s program in a familiar position of control in the Coastal Division.

Miami has looked better, no doubt, but the Hurricanes have to crossover with Florida State. Virginia Tech avoids both Florida State and Clemson and should be 8-1 by the time it goes to Miami on Nov. 9.

Duke: It was only Troy, but it was a win the Blue Devils badly needed. If the defense can just be functional, it looks like junior do-it-all quarterback Brandon Connette and receiver Jamison Crowder will make enough plays on offense to prove last week’s doomsday prediction wrong.

Southern California: Hey, Pat Haden, what did you think was going to happen when you hired Lane Kiffin in 2010?

Kiffin went 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders, before he was fired four games into his second season. He went 7-6 in his lone, NCAA-infraction-filled season at Tennessee.

Southern Cal went 32-7 in the three seasons before Kiffin got there. Since Kiffin was hired, it is 28-15, including Saturday’s 62-41 loss at Arizona State, which probmpted Haden to fire Kiffin at the airport – while the rest of the team waited on the bus, according to one report.

Kiffin has been handed every opportunity in his incredibly undistinguished professional life, but what’s Haden’s excuse? Do you have any confidence that Haden will make the right choice in finding Kiffin’s replacement? You probably shouldn’t.

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