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A Lot on the Line When UNC Faces Wolfpack

Sharon Thorsland
November 30, 2019 - 2:08 pm

It's rivalry week for North Carolina, and that means a trip to Carter-Finley to take on NC State.

And there's a lot riding on this one – if UNC wins, the Tar Heels (5-6, 3-4 ACC) earn a trip to a bowl game for the first time since 2016.

No such luck for State (4-7, 1-6).

The Wolfpack's on a five-game losing streak and has no shot at a bowl, but would love nothing more than to spoil their rival’s chances at the postseason. Kickoff is set for 7:00 Saturday night on WBT.

It's been an up and down year for the Tar Heels, but all of their losses have been by seven points or less.

Over in Raleigh, the Wolfpack has been hit hard by injuries and has been blown out on a regular basis, although they did rally in a 28-26 loss to Georgia Tech last Thursday night.

The main problem is lack of scoring – State has no problem moving the football but can't punch it in.

Before the Tech game, they'd managed just 16 points or less in four of six games.

Having a young quarterback hasn't helped matters. With Ryan Finley now in Cincinnati as a Bengal, the Wolfpack went through several starters before settling on redshirt freshman Devin Leary, who's thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Star receiver C.J. Riley is out for the season so Finley's favorite target is Emeka Emezie.

The junior leads the team with 54 catches, two of them touchdowns. Tight end Cary Angeline is the main red zone threat, he has five touchdowns.

The Pack has a triple threat at running back.  Freshman Zonovan “Bam” Knight leads the ground attack with 689 yards and five touchdowns and is averaging a whopping 5.6 yards a carry.

Freshman Jordan Howard is a change of pace back, and now Ricky Person is back after missing most of the season with an ankle injury.

While these guys rack up the yards, they've managed just three rushing touchdowns in the last seven games, with two of them coming last week against Tech.

The Wolfpack defense is giving up a lot of yards and a lot of points – in their last five games they've allowed 443 yards and 41 points a game.

They're best against the run, but with key players injured, the passing defense has been awful, allowing 239 yards a game.

Chris Ingram leads the team with two interceptions. Generating turnovers has been a problem as well, they've managed just seven on the season.

No doubt the Pack should have a hard time slowing down UNC's explosive passing offense – quarterback Sam Howell has thrown 32 touchdowns, that’s first in the ACC and fifth in the nation.

This is a big game for plenty of reasons. Becoming bowl eligible would be huge for a UNC program that won just five games total the past two seasons.

And doing it against their rival would be even better. The Wolfpack has won three straight in the series and 4 of the last 5, including a wild one last year in Chapel Hill, when the Heels lost in overtime.

“When you lose to a rival, you lose for the year," said UNC coach Mack Brown this week. "Some of the other games, you go to the next game. Losses to rivals last a whole year."

I say State ends up on the losing side this time. Go Tar Heels!

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