Late Hits: Awards for Duke, advice for UNC

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 

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    Mack Brown Cup Standings

    WinsPoints
    Duke35
    ECU24
    Wake Forest1-1
    UNC1-2
    N.C. State0-6

    Scoring: +2 road win, +1 home win, -1 road loss, -2 home loss Results Sept. 28: ECU 55, UNC 31 Oct. 5: Wake Forest 28, N.C. State 13 Nov. 2: UNC 27, N.C. State 19 Nov. 9: Duke 38, N.C. State 20 Nov. 23: Duke 28, Wake Forest 21; ECU 42, N.C. State 28 Nov. 30: Duke 27, UNC 25

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    Missouri: No one’s talking about little ol’ Mizzou, which is great for the Tigers, who have flown under the radar all the way to the SEC East title.

    The Tigers will get a shot at Auburn – who do ya think might be a wee bit hungover after that Alabama miracle? – in the SEC title game in Atlanta, in just their second season in the SEC. Great work by coach Gary Pinkel, whose team was 2-6 in conference play last year.

    Michigan: Tom Osborne thinks Brady Hoke made the right call to go for two at the end of Michigan’s 42-41 loss to Ohio State, and so does Herm Edwards. You play to win the game; that’s what Hoke did. He gave his team the ball with 3 yards to go and one play to make. It didn’t work out, but that doesn’t diminish Hoke’s courage.

    Alabama: Poor Alabama.It will just have to go home and cry itself to sleep on its three national titles in the past four years. Unless, of course, Florida State, Ohio State and Auburn all lose this week. With Nick Saban’s luck, you never know.

    Clemson: Good job, good effort, Tigers. You had a three-game season and you lost two of them. And now it’s five losses in a row to South Carolina for Dabo Swinney. You have to wonder if Swinney didn’t beat South Carolina with Tajh Boyd, when will he?

Before Michigan went for a two-point conversion with 32 seconds left and the game on the line, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called a timeout.

“We called timeout and let our guys take a deep breath,” Meyer explained after the 42-41 Ohio State win.

That’s excellent advice for UNC coach Larry Fedora. Call a timeout and take a deep breath. For the second time this season, Fedora kept a timeout in his back pocket and left his players to their own devices.

I understand that’s a UNC tradition in men’s basketball, but it makes no sense in football. The result Saturday against Duke was the same as it was for UNC in a similar scenario in the fourth quarter of the Miami game Oct. 17.

Down 27-25 to Duke, and only in need of a field goal to win, the Tar Heels got the ball with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left and two timeouts.

The Heels got a first down, via penalty, and then quarterback Marquise Williams completed two passes for another first down to give UNC the ball at its own 36.

After an incomplete pass and a 5-yard T.J. Logan run, UNC faced third-and-5 from the 41. There were 52 seconds left when Logan was tackled; UNC didn’t snap the ball until 40 seconds left and hurried to do so.

Fedora should have used a timeout there but didn’t. Williams was pressured and avoided a sack on third down. Still, no timeout before fourth down, which could have been used to set up a play to find tight end Eric Ebron.

Williams bailed out Fedora with a 10-yard scramble on fourth down, but after an incomplete pass on first down, UNC only had 20 seconds left. And still two timeouts. Williams threw an interception on second down, all without ever talking with his coach or taking a deep breath

Fedora did a commendable job after a 1-5 start to rally his team to a 6-6 record and to a bowl game, likely in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl on Dec. 28.

But as has been the pattern recently at UNC, the talent on the roster outweighs the number of wins. With just a little smarter game management, against Miami and Duke, UNC easily could have been 8-4 this season.

• Congrats to Duke’s David Cutcliffe for being Late Hits’ choice for ACC Coach of the Year. It wasn’t just winning 10 games or the Coastal Division but for building on last year’s success with so many different parts on offense and defense.

Instead of an ACC Player of the Year vote, I’m going to go with a most valuable player, and Duke takes that one, too, in junior receiver Jamison Crowder. No one, not even Boston College’s Andre Williams or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, has meant as much to his team’s success as Crowder, who finished the regular season with 88 catches and 1,131 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns.

Nationally, while Cutcliffe’s 10 wins at Duke are borderline miraculous, the Blue Devils did go 6-7 last season and made a bowl. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn inherited a team that went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC a year ago. All he has done is lead the Tigers to an 11-1 mark and 7-1 conference record to win the SEC West title.

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch gets my nod for the Heisman Trophy. He has rushed for 1,755 yards and thrown for 2,457. He has two 300-yard rushing games and 42 total touchdowns.

• One more award for Duke: Saturday’s 27-25 win at North Carolina clinched the state title for the Blue Devils, who went 3-0 against in-state opponents.

East Carolina was a close second, coming up a point short in the Mack Brown Cup standings. Who knows, maybe those two schools can settle their differences on the field in the near future.

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