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UNC Looks to End Season on a High Note

Sharon Thorsland
November 23, 2018 - 3:49 pm

It's the final game of the season for North Carolina, as the Tar Heels welcome arch-rival NC State to Kenan Stadium for a little post-Thanksgiving football. Kick-off is set for 12:20 Saturday on WBT. It's the 108th meeting between these teams, who seem to be going in different directions. UNC got a break from its losing streak with a 49-26 victory over Western Carolina last week, but that was just the second win of the season for the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack is 7-3 after a win over Louisville and is headed for the postseason again. But it's still State-Carolina, and that means this should be a good one.

Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley has thrown for nearly 3200 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. An interesting stat, though – Finley has never thrown a touchdown against the Tar Heels. But he has rushed for two scores, both in last season's win in Raleigh. Kelvin Harmon is Finley's go-to receiver. The junior is just the third player in school history to post back to back 1000 yard seasons, he leads the ACC with 107 receiving yards per game and has six touchdowns. Slot receiver Jakobi Meyers is a big play threat, and Emeka Emezie has added five touchdowns. Slowing this group down will be a big challenge for the Tar Heels, who rank 67th in the nation in pass defense.

State has a solid running attack led by senior Reggie Gallaspy, he leads the team with 663 yards and 12 touchdowns. And, as I write every week, the Heels can't defend the run – they're allowing 222 yards per game on the ground that's 117th in the nation!

The Wolfpack has the opposite problem – they can't defend the pass. Unfortunately, the Heels can't throw the ball. It doesn't seem to matter who's under center, throwing the ball has been a problem for UNC all season. Nathan Elliott will likely get the start again Saturday, he had two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in last season's matchup. Keep an eye on Wolfpack linebacker Germaine Pratt. He's seemingly all over the field, with six sacks, two forced fumbles and a pair of pass breakups.

This is a huge game for both teams. The Wolfpack is looking to improve their record and gain some momentum heading into the postseason. For the Tar Heels, there will be no postseason, so this match-up is their version of a bowl game, and a win over their in-state rival would go a long way in making Heels fans feel a little bit better about what's been an awful season. And of course, there's that rivalry factor.

As Gallaspy said, “this is one of the greatest rivalries in the state. They don't like us and we don't like them.” This Tobacco Road fight started back in 1894. State has won three of the last four match-ups, including last season's 12 point win in Raleigh. But UNC coach Larry Fedora summed it up perfectly - “...anything can happen in this game.” Go Heels!   

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