Thursday, September 30, 2010

UNC safety Searcy cleared to play

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina senior safety Da'Norris Searcy, one of 12 Tar Heels football players held out of the previous three games, has been cleared to play, the university announced this afternoon.

Searcy was among 13 players held out as the university and the NCAA determined their eligibility status in the midst of an investigation into potential cases of academic misconduct and reports of improper contact with sports agents. One of those thirteen, tailback Shaun Draughn, was cleared to play in time for UNC's second game, against Georgia Tech. The other 11 players remain sidelined as the investigations continue.

Searcy will make his 2010 season debut Saturday against East Carolina.

-- Lorenzo Perez

NCAA joins UNC academic probe

CHAPEL HILL -- The NCAA has officially joined the academic portion of UNC's investigation into possible misconduct.

UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner said an NCAA enforcement representative has been on campus condiucting interviews on the academic matters with UNC for the last two days.

Originally, UNC was conducting the academic portion of the investigation as part of the joint review with the NCAA, but athletics director Dick Baddour had said the NCAA might be brought in more formally at a later date.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Butch Davis will not resign as UNC coach

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina football coach Butch Davis said he expects "to be the head football coach here currently, and in the future."

Asked Thursday if it was in the best interest of the school for him to resign, he said, "no."

Former UNC associate head coach John Blake received multiple payments, a personal loan of $45,000 and a credit card issued by agent Gary Wichard's company, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. Blake resigned from his position at UNC on Sept. 5.

Davis said he did not know that Blake was reportedly taking money from Wichard.
"I mean clearly, as the head football coach, you'd like to think you would know. But the answer to your question is, I did not know."

Asked what he'd like to say to people who think he should resign, he said: "I'd like for them to understand that we're doing everything we can to [be]a class program, to win football games the right way, to graduate players, and that we're going to do better. Anything that I can do, I'm absolutely willing to take a look at our program … and anything we need to do, whether it be from an academic standpoint, looking into the backgrounds of coaches, we're going to do that.

"In retrospect of that, looking back on, because people have drawn the assumption that because Coach Blake worked outside of college football, clearly that's something in the future we definitely wouldn't go down that alley again."

-- Robbi Pickeral

UNC learned Aug. 31 of Blake-Wichard transactions

The University of North Carolina became aware of some of the financial ties between then-associate head football coach John Blake and agent Gary Wichard when Blake was interviewed Aug. 31 as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the school’s football program, according to the school.

UNC athletic director Dick Baddour released a statement this afternoon saying that the financial transactions in and of themselves didn’t establish a violation. Baddour said that at that time the school didn’t have enough information to dismiss Blake with cause and avoid paying Blake the remainder of the salary he was due on his $240,000-a-year contract.

“Nevertheless, we weren’t comfortable with what we learned,” Baddour said in the statement. “That, combined with the distraction that Coach Blake was becoming to the football program, led us to the conclusion that it was not in our best interest for him to continue to be part of our program. He offered to resign, and we agreed to terms on Sept. 5.”

Blake resigned Sept. 5, saying he had become a “distraction” to the program. The school paid him $74,500, approximately the salary he would have earned if he would have stayed with the team through the end of the season.

A Yahoo! Sports report published Wednesday night, detailed a string of financial transactions dating back to May 2007 between former UNC associate head coach John Blake and NFL agent Gary Wichard.

According to the report, UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin also made at least five trips that have come under the NCAA's scrutiny, including a pair of trips to train at a California facility less than two miles from Wichard’s agency, Pro Tect Management.

A hotel receipt from one of those trips, cited in the Yahoo! report, lists Austin’s name above Pro Tect Management. The receipt also includes an address and Marriott Rewards number belonging to an NFL marketing agent who represents two current Pro Tect clients.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Q&A with Tom O'Brien

N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien is confident in his team's maturity, pleased with the development of his linebackers and unconcerned about place-kicker Josh Czajkowski's struggles at Georgia Tech.

Here are excerpts from O'Brien's news conference Monday as the Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC) prepares for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game with Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0) at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Q: I guess the next step is handling the success. How do you help your team in doing that and staying focused and do you sense this is a mature enough group to be able to do that?

A: I think that they, it’s all part of them understanding where they are and how they got to this point and how they have to continue doing what they’ve done for the past month. If they don’t, they’re not going to be able to continue winning football games. Certainly the opposition steps up this weekend when Virginia Tech comes to town. But I think we’ve gotten really great leadership out of the captains thus far and we’ll find out if they’re mature enough to handle it or not.

Q: What impact has [offensive tackle] R.J. Mattes’ return had on your offense?

A: I think [Mikel] Overgaard was doing a good job when he went down [with an elbow injury against Central Florida]. It cost us a little bit of depth because we’re still short a guy because he’s still fighting to get back. R.J., he’s getting back [from knee surgery]. He sat out a whole year and is coming back in. If he was healthy in August he would have, along with Jake, been the best returning guy we had because of all the snaps he played. He’s continuing to get better. I think his confidence grows each and every week. He played a lot of plays Saturday and got banged around and knocked down. So I think he feels confident that his knee is sound and he can continue to get better from here.

Q: Both Nate Irving and Audie Cole have been awarded ACC player of the week through four games. How do you feel like bringing in Jon Tenuta has helped get the linebacking corps together?

A: Jon’s a good coach. I don’t think anybody is going to dispute that. His ability to coach the linebackers, and he came into a pretty good situation, too, because Nate’s back healthy and a heck of a player and has shown it, and knock on wood he stays healthy and keeps playing for us. And Audie has really matured a lot and grew up a lot in the last year. Same with Terrell Manning. So those three kids, in the way we play defense, are given the opportunities to make plays. And they’ve made them. And that’s good for us. They have to make them, or we wouldn’t be having the success we’ve been having on defense.

Q: Russell Wilson had what you identified as a rusty stage there the first few games. When did he kind of make that [improvement]?

A: I think in the Cincinnati game. Certainly he made a couple early throws and made some pretty good decisions. And then he had some guys make some pretty good catches for him, too, early. And that helped. Then he got on a little bit of a roll and a little confidence, and he’s been pretty good the last two weeks.

Q: It turned out not to be a big thing, but Josh Czajkowski got off to a shaky start [missing two of three field goal attempts at Georgia Tech]. Is there anything you can talk to him about, or do you just stay away from kickers?

A: That’s Jerry Petercuskie’s specialty. He’s the special teams coach. He talks with them. They have their own meetings. They have their own séances. He can talk to them and figure it out. I would probably exacerbate the problem if I got anywhere near him.

Q: Are you worried about it?

A: No. He’s been so good for us. Looking at it, in talking with Jerry as we do, and we grade out and everything, he was fast. And I guess Josh said to him after the first one, “I was fast.” He kicked it too fast. Kickers are like anything else. You’ve got to get it back into the rhythm and back into the groove. Because he’s certainly got enough leg and he’s shown that 31-yard field goals should be chip shots for him.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, September 27, 2010

Notre Dame to meet Wake Forest in football

Wake Forest has agreed to play home and away in football with Notre Dame, according to a Wake Forest news release.

Notre Dame will visit Wake Forest on Nov. 5, 2011. Wake Forest will travel to Notre Dame on Nov. 7, 2015.

The teams previously had agreed to a game at Notre Dame on Nov. 17, 2012. The new, two-game agreement is separate from that previous agreement.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our football program to compete against one of the most-storied football programs in the nation,” Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman said in a statement released by the school. “Notre Dame has long been recognized for its excellence both academically and athletically and we expect that our fans will thoroughly enjoy having the Fighting Irish come to BB&T Field.”

Ken Tysiac

Pack trying to keep success in perspective

N.C. State defensive tackles Natanu Mageo and J.R. Sweezy were walking on campus this morning when a fellow student shouted a short congratulations.

"Four and oh," the student yelled.

The Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC), picked to finish fourth in the ACC Atlantic Division in the conference's preseason poll, is the only undefeated team left in the ACC heading into Saturday's 3:30 p.m. home game with Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0).

N.C. State also is ranked No. 23 in The Associated Press' top 25 for the first time since 2003. While the players are enjoying the positive vibes after the quick start, they also seem determined to continue the hard work that has led to their early success.

"There's still room for improvement," Mageo said, "and we need to not let the spotlight take away from our approach to the game."

Offensive tackle R.J. Mattes said offensive coordinator Dana Bible is saying, "don't drink the Kool-Aid" to players, trying to keep them from drinking in too much of the excitement surrounding them.

"We're not a bad team," Mattes said, "but we're not as good as people are telling us we are."

Coach Tom O'Brien said players need to understand how they got to 4-0 and continue doing the things they have been doing for the past month. So far he is pleased with the team's maturity.

"They don't get too high and they don't get too low," O'Brien said. "That's what's good about them right now."

O'Brien made some other points this afternoon during his weekly news conference:

- Andy Leffler remains the starting punter after averaging 37.3 yards on three kicks in his first career start last week at Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech is known for blocking kicks with its outstanding special teams under Frank Beamer, but O'Brien said one of Leffler's strengths is releasing his punts quickly.

O'Brien said he doesn't want his players overreacting out of concern over the Hokies' special teams.

"You've got to stay in what you do and play the game," O'Brien said.

- Russell Wilson should be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, according to O'Brien.

"But he's still got to continue to prove himself," O'Brien said. "The best thing we can do is keep winning, and he can keep completing passes."

Wilson has been named the ACC offensive back of the week in each of the last two weeks and passed for a career-high 368 yards at Georgia Tech.

- Virginia Tech is by far the most talented team N.C. State will have faced yet this season, O'Brien said.

He speculated that a heartbreaking, narrow loss to Boise State in the season opener and a five-day turnaround afterward might have hurt the Hokies in their shocking loss to James Madison on Sept. 11.

"They're about five plays from being a top-five team in the country," O'Brien said. "Maybe one loss cost them two, but they're still a very good football team."

Ken Tysiac

Noon kickoff for BC at N.C. State

N.C. State's home football game against Boston College will begin at noon on Oct. 9 and will be televised by the ACC Network, the ACC announced this morning.

Also on Oct. 9, North Carolina's home game against Clemson will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be carried by ABC regionally and ESPN nationally.

Wake Forest's home game against Navy will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, September 25, 2010

N.C. State buses in minor crash

ATLANTA - Two buses carrying N.C. State football players were involved in a minor crash late Friday afternoon after the team landed at the airport in preparation for today's game at Georgia Tech.

The second bus in a four-bus convoy was forced to slam on its brakes to avoid a car and was hit from behind by the third bus, N.C. State sports information director Annabelle Myers said. Nobody was injured, Myers said, but the buses were damaged.

As far as the team was concerned, the only inconvenience was that the players and coaches arrived later than expected at the team hotel.

"The most dramatic thing was, dinner was a little later," Myers said.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kuhn out for N.C. State

Reserve defensive tackle Markus Kuhn is among the players N.C. State is listing as out for Saturday's noon game at Georgia Tech.

Kuhn has played 28 snaps and made three tackles over the last two games.

Mikel Overgaard, who started N.C. State's first two games at offensive tackle, is out for the second straight game with an elbow injury. And running back James Washington, who has yet to play this season but was listed as a second-teamer on the team's preseason organizational chart, is out again with an injured hamstring.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Burney's father: Trip with Hawkins sidelined UNC CB

Tyrone Burney said former UNC player Chris Hawkins is the reason his son got suspended for six games by the NCAA.

Burney said his son took trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas with Hawkins, who the NCAA defined as a sports agent after he purchased Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green’s Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. Green is serving a four-game NCAA suspension.

Burney, a starting cornerback, met Hawkins through Willie Parker, about five years ago, Tyrone Burney said.

"I didn't know the NCAA considered Hawk an agent-slash-runner," Tyrone Burney said Wednesday night. "If I did, I would have put my foot down with Kendric before any of this happened."

Hawkins said tonight that he is not an agent and did not pay Burney's expenses on the trips. He called the suspension "totally wrong."

"There’s no proof or anything that I paid for them because I didn’t pay for any of their stuff," Hawkins said. "I don’t understand why they would hit the kid so hard for taking a trip to Atlanta and Vegas."

Burney said he paid for the airfare for his son's trip to Las Vegas and other traveling expenses for the trips to Vegas and Atlanta. The amount the NCAA said Kendric Burney has to pay back, his father said, was for a hotel room in Vegas, a hotel room in Atlanta and for gas expenses to Atlanta.

"Money wasn't the issue," Tyrone Burney said. "It seems they're holding him accountable for the friendship with Hawk."

Tyrone Burney said his son told him the trips were to have fun, not to meet with potential agents. He said his son knew about the Memorial Day trip to Miami which cost Alabama's Marcel Dareus two games, and was attended by UNC's Marvin Austin and Greg Little, but knew there would be agents there.

"That's exactly the type of thing he was trying to avoid," Burney said. "That's the reason he did not go on the Miami trip because he heard what was going on there."

While Tyrone Burney said he thought the six-game suspension was too long, he said he was relieved that his son had heard from the NCAA.

"I think half the season is too much but now I can sleep a little at least knowing what's what," Burney said.

UNC has said it will appeal the suspensions.

Hawkins, who played for UNC from 2001 to 2003, has said he has met current Tar Heels players while working out in the school’s weight room. He was charged with felony cocaine trafficking and misdemeanor marijuana possession on April 23, 2009, according to a Georgia State Patrol incident report.

According to a news release Wednesday, Burney and safety Deunta Williams (who was suspended for four games) were declared ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules.

According to the facts of the case submitted by the university, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams. The majority of the benefits Burney received were from an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent. According to NCAA rules, an agent is any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete. The majority of Williams’ benefits were preferential treatment violations associated with visiting a former North Carolina football student-athlete.

Athletics director Dick Baddour said Wednesday both players traveled to California to visit a former UNC defensive back. They paid for their travel, Baddour said. But the NCAA ruled that there were expenses they were still responsible for.

J.P. Giglio, Robbi Pickeral and Ken Tysiac

Heels' Burney, Williams get NCAA suspensions

University of North Carolina defensive backs Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams will have to sit out six and four games respectively and repay benefits received in order to become eligible to play again, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff.

UNC announced the decision in a news release. Burney received $1,333 in benefits and must pay $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must pay $450.67 to a charity of his choice.

Both players already have sat out two games.

"We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions," said North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour. "While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases."

University of North Carolina football student-athletes Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams must miss competition and repay benefits as a condition of becoming eligible to play again, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff.

Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, must miss six games and make repayment of $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must miss four games and make repayment of $450.67 to a charity of his choice. Both student-athletes already have sat out two games.

UNC declared both players ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules. According to information submitted by the university, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams.

The majority of of the benefits Burney received were from an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent. According to NCAA rules, an agent is any individual who markets or promotes an athlete.

Williams' benefits consisted mostly of preferential treatment associated with visiting a former UNC football player.

The university can appeal the decision to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, an independent panel comprised of representatives from NCAA member colleges, universities and athletic conferences. When a case is appealed, the athlete remains ineligible until the conclusion of the appeals process.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Duke's Cutcliffe encouraged, despite loss to Tide

DURHAM - After watching, and re-watching, film of his team's 62-13 loss to top-ranked Alabama, Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Tuesday he's actually more encouraged than discouraged about his team's future.

For one thing, he was impressed with his players' ability to run with the Crimson Tide - reinforcing his belief that the young Blue Devils boast more speed and athleticism than years past.

For another, "our effort was still really good with five minutes to go in the game," he said. "And I want you to think about that. There's a lot of folks that would fold the tent in that situation ... but our guys were still playing as hard as they can play. How can you not be encouraged by that?"

As bright a spot as that effort might be, Duke (1-2) still has plenty of work to do as it prepares to play Army (2-1) on Saturday. The Black Knights run an option offense that will challenge a Blue Devils defense that ranks 117th out of 120 FBS teams (allowing 510.67 yards per game) and 118th in scoring defense (allowing 46.67 ppg). Meanwhile, Duke's offense - which sputtered against Bama after a solid start to the season - faces an Army defense that posted a shutout against North Texas last weekend.

Three areas where the Blue Devils must improve, if they want to push their record back to .500:

* Tackling.

Cutcliffe knew his new "multiple" defense might struggle at times, but he didn't expect it to give up 116 points over two games.

"I knew we weren't very big, and I knew we lacked some real experience in certain places," he said. "But through speed and through movement, you thought you could hide it, cover it, and make the plays you need to play. But when you are unsure of yourself, or are playing on your heels, then you absolutely put yourself in harm's way."

The biggest problem has been wrapping up opponents. All too often, Duke's defenders have been either out of position, or simply unable to finish a tackle. Linebacker Abraham Kromah said the defense has been working on being more consistent in practice - something he hopes will carry over Saturday.

"This is a great opportunity for us to show what we can do on defense, what we're capable of, to show what we should be doing," Kromah said.

* Third-quarter scoring.

Why have the Blue Devils scored only 3 points, total, over three games in the third quarter ?

"I'm hunting that one with a big ol' stick," Cutcliffe said.

Duke's third-quarter dropoff is perplexing, considering  it has managed 31 points in the first quarter, 44 in the second and 24 in the fourth.

 "I've looked at different things, and I haven't seen anything unusual," Cutcliffe said. "You've just got to go do it. Schematically ... no one's run something new in the second half that they didn't run in the first half, to this point. Sometimes somebody will come out with a different change, and it will take you a couple series to adjust. Sometimes we do that offensively, too. But [there's] no particular reason other than we're not getting it done."

* Catching the football.

Duke's receivers have dropped at least a half-dozen passes each of the past two games, something it can't afford when the offense might have to make up for the Blue Devils' defensive lapses.

"It's bothering me," Cutcliffe said of the bobbles. "...I'm irritated that we do [have those drops] and we're better than that. ... I think we've got some guys, starting to let it get in their head. That's not the way you go, you don't ever start doubting yourself in sports. The minute you do, you're beat."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reserve LB Beasley off N.C. State team

Reserve linebacker William Beasley no longer is a member of N.C. State's football team, coach Tom O'Brien said today.

Beasley, a sophomore from Milton, Fla., played four snaps against Western Carolina on Sept. 4 in the only appearance of his career with the Wolfpack.

"He didn't uphold his being a champion in the classroom or the community part, so he can't get on the football field," O'Brien said.

Beasley redshirted in 2008 and did not play in 2009.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Clemson falls to Auburn on 2nd kick in OT

AUBURN, Ala. – It was a bitter way for the Clemson Tigers to win.

After squandering a big lead then forcing overtime, the Tigers lost a 27-24 overtime thriller to 16th-ranked Auburn Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium when kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 31-yard field that would have forced a second overtime.

Clemson was inches from winning the game seconds earlier but a Kyle Parker pass slipped off the fingers of Jaron Brown in the end zone for what would have been the winning touchdown.

Catanzaro appeared to kick a tying field goal only to have it waved off due to an illegal snap. Moved back five yards, the Clemson redshirt freshman missed wide to the left.

Auburn (3-0) had opened the overtime with a 39-yard field goal from Wes Byrum, forcing the Tigers (2-1) to score.

Clemson had answered Auburn’s second-half comeback with a critical touchdown drive that culminate with a two-yard Andre Ellington touchdown run with 12:36 remaining, tying the score at 24-24. It was the Tigers’ first substantial offensive production in the second half but it couldn’t have been more timely.

It was enough to force overtime.

It had all changed in the third quarter when Auburn turned the domination tables on Clemson, wiping out a 14-point halftime deficit with two long touchdown drives that energized the home team and the 87,451 fans in attendance.

After seemingly sleepwalking through the first half, Auburn was overpowering after the break. The Tigers chewed up yardage on a 61-yard scoring drive that cut the Clemson lead to 17-10 midway through the third quarter.

Smothering the Clemson offense, Auburn tied the game at 17-17 with a 72-yard march that had an air of inevitability about it. When it appeared Clemson had caught a break after an official ruled Auburn’s Darvin Adams out of bounds on an apparent touchdown call, a video replay reversed the call, giving the Tigers’ an eight-yard score that tied the game.

The Auburn defense, gutted in the first half, shut down Clemson after the break. It closed the big holes that Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper had found running up the middle and pressured quarterback Kyle Stanley with blitzes.

Already wobbled, Clemson was blindsided by a 78-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Terrell Zachary late in the third quarter for a 24-17 Auburn lead. Zachary was wide open behind the Clemson defense and had only to avoid the out of bounds stripe racing toward the score.

After gaining just 116 yards in the first half, Auburn roasted Clemson’s defense for 258 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter.

It was a stunning reversal in the nationally televised game.

Walking into the storm of Auburn’s pre-game enthusiasm, Clemson appeared unimpressed, taking the first possession and marching 76 yards for a touchdown.

Auburn’s defense looked unprepared for the Tigers’ running game, which was responsible for 10 of the 12 plays on the opening drive which culminated in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Parker to Jamie Harper with 8:59 left in the opening quarter.

Andre Ellington set the early tone with a pair of strong runs as Clemson marched crisply downfield for the first score.

Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense couldn’t get started, failing to gain a first down in the Tigers’ first three possessions.

Clemson stretched its lead to 10-0 on a 42-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal midway through the second quarter. The Tigers appeared headed for a second touchdown until an Auburn blitz led to an eight-yard loss, stalling the drive.

Late in the second quarter, Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel made a leaping interception off Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton at the Clemson 39-yard line.

Moments later, running back Jamie Harper laid out in the end zone to make a spectacular 24-yard touchdown reception, giving Clemson a 17-0 with 1;14 remaining in the first half.

In a young season in which the ACC’s image has been battered by losses in high-profile national games – and some not-so-high-profile games – Clemson’s visit to Auburn offered a chance for the league to pick up a valuable victory over the 16th-ranked Tigers.

For Clemson, it was also a chance to erase more than 50 years winless years against Auburn. The Tigers entered the steamy evening having lost 13 in a row to Auburn, their last victory coming in 1951, 18 years before Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was born.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Clemson leads Auburn at half, 17-3

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Clemson Tigers are halfway toward striking a blow for the ACC’s battered football pride, leading 16th-ranked Auburn 17-3 at halftime in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.

Walking into the storm of Auburn’s pre-game enthusiasm, Clemson appeared unimpressed, taking the first possession and marching 76 yards for a touchdown.

Auburn’s defense looked unprepared for the Tigers’ running game, which was responsible for 10 of the 12 plays on the opening drive which culminated in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Parker to Jamie Harper with 8:59 left in the opening quarter.

Andre Ellington set the early tone with a pair of strong runs as Clemson marched crisply downfield for the first score.

Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense couldn’t get started, failing to gain a first down in the Tigers’ first three possessions.

Clemson stretched its lead to 10-0 on a 42-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal midway through the second quarter. The Tigers appeared headed for a second touchdown until an Auburn blitz led to an eight-yard loss, stalling the drive.

Late in the second quarter, Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel made a leaping interception off Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton at the Clemson 39-yard line.

Moments later, running back Jamie Harper laid out in the end zone to make a spectacular 24-yard touchdown reception, giving Clemson a 17-0 with 1;14 remaining in the first half.

In a young season in which the ACC’s image has been battered by losses in high-profile national games – and some not-so-high-profile games – Clemson’s visit to Auburn offered a chance for the league to pick up a valuable victory over the 16th-ranked Tigers.

For Clemson, it was also a chance to erase more than 50 years winless years against Auburn. The Tigers entered the steamy evening having lost 13 in a row to Auburn, their last victory coming in 1951, 18 years before Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was born.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Alabama dominates Duke 62-13

DURHAM – Duke opted to keep Saturday’s match-up against top-ranked Alabama at Wallace Wade Stadium -- rather than move it to a lucrative neutral site -- because playing big games here, coach David Cutcliffe said, is another step in rebuilding the program.

The next goal: being competitive in those big games.

The defending national champions completely dismantled the Blue Devils, 62-13, in front of a sellout crowd and nationally-televised audience. Duke’s offense, which had been its strength of the team so far, sputtered. Its defense allowed 626 yards. Its special teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown.

Duke (1-2) barely avoided allowing most points in a game (70 by Florida State in 1995) in the program's history. But it still marks the worst loss of the three-year Cutcliffe era, surpassing a 39-point defeat to Georgia Tech last November.

“When you’re on that [Alabama’s] end of the score, it’s fun to keep playing,’’ said Cutcliffe, adding that this was the best Crimson Tide team he’s ever coached against. “When you’re where we were, it’s a difficult circumstance to be. I’ve been 0-6 at Tennessee in 1988 as an assistant coach, and that was a gut check. Getting beat by that score, so physically, is a gut-check.”

The Blue Devils added eight sections of temporary bleachers, totalling 3,904 extra seats, to accommodate the sellout crowd. The roughly-50-percent who were wearing crimson had plenty to cheer about from the outset.

It took Alabama (3-0) only 79 seconds to score, on a three-play, 60 yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Greg McElroy (15-for-20, 258 yards, three touchdowns) to Darius Hanks. It was a sign of things to come.

Duke’s porous-at-best defense, which had allowed its first two opponents a total of 81 points and 906 offensive yards, was no match for an offense that was averaging 35 points per game – and gained another weapon when reigning Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram (151 yards, two TDs), made his season debut after arthroscopic knee surgery.

“We missed a lot of tackles out there today against some great backs,’’ said Blue Devils safety Matt Daniels. “But we really just have to go back to the fundamentals and understand who we are as a defense and who we are as and offense and who we are as a team.”

What they were Saturday, Cutcliffe said, was “shellshocked.”

Alabama led 28-0 – in the first quarter – before Duke finally got on the scoreboard with a 22-yard field goal by Will Snyderwine. The junior booted another field goal, a 42-yarder, in the second quarter to cut Bama’s advantage to 35-6. But the Tide immediately countered when backup running back Trent Richardson bobbled the kickoff, picked it up, and sped 91 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 42-6 lead.

The Devils didn’t manage their first (and only) touchdown until 29 seconds remained in the second quarter, on an 11-yard pass by Sean Renfree (13-37, 144 yards, one TD) to Austin Kelly. It marked the first touchdown the Crimson Tide has given up this season, although it still led 45-13 at halftime.

Meanwhile, Alabama didn’t punt until late in the third quarter, and frankly, the only reason it didn’t rack up more points was a second quarter interception by Duke junior Lee Butler on Blue Devils’ 6-yard line, and a third-quarter fumble recovery by freshman Kelby Brown on Duke’s 3-yard-line.

“We have to be perfect from here on out, because our level of competition only gets tougher,’’ said Alabama right guard Barrett Jones.

Meanwhile, Cutcliffe said, his team needs to recover from the lopsided loss and learn from its mistakes. It’s the only way they’ll take another step in rebuilding -- and hopefully compete better in high-profile home games in the future.

“I can’t say I’ve been here before, because that’s the worst defeat I’ve ever suffered,’’ Cutcliffe said. “That’s difficult to deal with, but we’ve had our backs to the wall before. We know exactly what our record is, and what our opportunities are. We’re not going to fix it overnight, but we’re going to fix it one game at a time.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

Friday, September 17, 2010

UNC's Austin meets with state investigators

University of North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin met with investigators from the North Carolina Secretary of State's office for several hours today as part of the probe into possible violations of the state's Uniform Athlete Agent Act, Austin's lawyer confirmed.

"He's cooperating in their investigation and will continue to do so," said Christopher G. Lyons, Austin's Miami-based lawyer.

Lyons declined to comment further.

Austin is one of 13 North Carolina players who did not play in the Sept. 4 season opener at LSU as UNC and the NCAA investigate possible impermissible benefits received from sports agents and possible academic misconduct involving a former undergraduate tutor.

One of the 13 players, running back Shaun Draughn, has been cleared to return for Saturday's Tar Heels home opener against Georgia Tech, which kicks off at noon.

George Jeter, the spokesman for Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, said he can't comment on an active, ongoing investigation that isn't public.

Austin has been a focal point of the investigation since it first became public in mid-July and he and wide receiver Greg Little were confirmed to be among a number of players who talked to NCAA investigators in an initial round of interviews.

Ken Tysiac

O'Brien wants fans back in seats after halftime

N.C. State got off to an excellent start to the third quarter in Thursday night's 30-19 win over Cincinnati.

Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien wishes more N.C. State fans were there to see it.

"We come out, there's nobody in the stands in the third quarter," O'Brien said after the game. "We've got to learn to come for the whole game."

O'Brien apparently was concerned that many fans left their seats at halftime and hadn't returned to cheer on the team by the start of the second half.

Cincinnati received the kickoff to start the second half, but N.C. State forced a punt and then drove 71 yards in 14 plays for a 19-yard Josh Czajkowski field goal that increased the Wolfpack's advantage to 23-7.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hawkins' charges adds to scrutiny of Heels

CHAPEL HILL - University of North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said Thursday the school needs to do a better job monitoring which former football players interact with current team members.

Chris Hawkins, who played for UNC from 2001 to 2003 and said he has met current Tar Heels players while working out in the school's weight room, was charged with felony cocaine trafficking and misdemeanor marijuana possession on April 23, 2009, according to a Georgia State Patrol incident report.

Hawkins is involved with the ongoing investigation at UNC, said Baddour, who declined to discuss Hawkins' relationship with current North Carolina football players.

"We want former players to come back and be around, for all of our programs," Baddour said. "Clearly, we're going to have to go deeper and determine the motivation of some former players."

The NCAA defined Hawkins as a sports agent after he purchased Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green's Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. Green is serving a four-game NCAA suspension.

Hawkins said last week that the NCAA interviewed him after learning he was helping UNC players "vet" potential agents. Hawkins said he is not an agent.

North Carolina's football program has been under investigation by the NCAA since mid-July, in part because of possible improprieties involving sports agents.

According to the Georgia State Patrol report, Hawkins was pulled over on I-20 for not wearing his seat belt while driving a U-Haul truck rented by former North Carolina running back Willie Parker. Hawkins has said he manages the business dealings of Parker, who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Police found 96 grams (about two ounces) of crack cocaine wrapped in duct tape, peanut butter and black pepper between two pieces of furniture Hawkins was transporting, according to the report. Six grams of marijuana were found in Hawkins' pocket, the report said.

Page Pate, Hawkins' Atlanta-based lawyer, said Hawkins was transporting furniture from Miami to North Carolina for Parker. Hawkins has consistently said he didn't know there was cocaine in the truck, Pate said.

Hawkins has an Oct. 18 date in Morgan County Court, according to Pate. Peter Schaffer, a Denver-based agent, has said a North Carolina player asked him to talk to Hawkins, and Schaffer complied with the request.

Archived records of Tar Heels cornerback Kendric Burney's Twitter account show that Burney traveled to Atlanta and Las Vegas with Hawkins, and that fellow cornerback Charles Brown joined them on the Atlanta trip. Hawkins said the players paid for the trips on their own.

UNC coach Butch Davis said Thursday he has no "understanding" of Hawkins' relationship with current players. Davis also said he does not know how much time Hawkins' spends at the team's facility.

"He's no longer in our facility," Davis said.

Hawkins was dismissed from North Carolina's team in April of 2004 for an unspecified violation of team rules. Hawkins has said he has accompanied Parker to the Tar Heels' weight room and has met members of the current team.

Tax records show that Parker owns the house at the Durham address listed for Hawkins on the police report.

Ken Tysiac

ACC, Raycom launch iPhone app

The ACC is diving headfirst into new media with an iPhone application that launched today.

Raycom Sports, the ACC’s Charlotte-based media partner, is helping the ACC produce an application that can be downloaded by searching for “ACC” in the iTunes application store and downloaded for an introductory annual cost of $1.99.

With the application, fans will be able to:

- Watch select live football and basketball syndicated ACC telecasts from Raycom.

- See real-time game tracking with live game statistics, scoring summaries, play by play and other updates.

- Be alerted to breaking team news and game scores.

- Customize the application to represent their favorite conference team.

- View video clips featuring team previews, highlights and archival ACC moments.

“The introduction of the ACC App is exciting and we are pleased to provide this opportunity to our fans,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “Our league is committed to continuing to be in the forefront of new technology and offer more access to our conference than ever before.”

Ken Tysiac

Duke's Bryan Morgan has ties to Alabama

Duke senior Bryan Morgan grew up in Hoover, Ala., and played football for the popular Hoover High School.

When top-ranked Alabama (2-0) arrives in Durham on Saturday to face the Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1 ACC), it may feel like a reunion of sorts for Morgan.

Crimson Tide players Josh Chapman, Michael DeJohn and Will Lowery are all graduates of Hoover High. But more than former teammates, 14 of Morgan's relatives are expected in town.

"Some of these folks I haven't see in almost a year," he said.

Traditionally, many of Morgan's family members root for Auburn. His father, Isom, played football at Alabama A&M and is a member of the school's Hall of Fame.

Since the music major enrolled at Duke, his family has split time rooting for the Blue Devils. They are required to wear something blue on Saturday.

"Of course, they have to wear Duke stuff," he said.

Facing the Tide, the defending national champions, Morgan is not likely to have much time to catch up with friends and family. He is the starting center on an offense that will have its hands full with a defense that has allowed just six points and 458 total offensive yards.

"They are fantastic," Morgan said. "It's going to take a lot of preparation to have any success against them."

Does he give Duke a chance?

"Hey," he said. "That's why we go out there and play the game Saturday."

-- Edward Robinson

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UNC shuffles offensive line for Georgia Tech

Jonathan Cooper's experiment at center for North Carolina lasted one game. Cooper, who struggled in the Tar Heels' opener at center, will move to left guard, he said on Tuesday.

Cam Holland, who replaced Cooper after two errant snaps in the LSU loss cost UNC nine points, will start at center. Holland, a junior, started eight games at center in 2009.

With Cooper moving to left guard, senior Alan Pelc will flip sides and start at right guard, which moves sophomore Travis Bond to the bench.

"I'm happy [at guard] and I'm for any way I can help the team," Cooper said Tuesday.

Cooper said he had "first-game jitters" in UNC's 30-24 loss to LSU on Sept. 4. A poor exchange with quarterback T.J. Yates on UNC's second possession of the game gave LSU the ball at the 34-yard line. LSU turned the mistake into a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Cooper snapped the ball from the 8-yard line over Yates' head and through the back of the end zone for a safety. Holland replaced Cooper on the next series. Cooper did finish the fourth quarter as UNC's center.

"Jonathan got off to a rough start," UNC coach Butch Davis said Monday. "He settled down and gained some confidence as the game went along."

-- J.P. Giglio

Duke must be 'great' to defeat No. 1 Alabama

DURHAM - As a native of Birmingham, Ala., and a 1976 graduate of Alabama, Duke coach David Cutcliffe certainly understands the significance of Saturday's home-game against the Crimson Tide at Wallace Wade Stadium.

He's aware that the Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1 ACC) are facing the defending national champions and No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

Still ...

"If we play really, really well, we have a chance at winning this game," Cutcliffe said at Tuesday's news conference. "We're capable of playing really well."

In their first two games this season - a victory over Elon and a loss to Wake Forest - the Devils have sputtered in the third quarter.

Against Wake, after rallying to tie the game at half-time, the Devils started flat in the third and were never able to revive themselves.

Cutcliffe, in his third year with the program, said at the start of this season that this team was more capable of playing "great" than his two previous teams. He also said he wasn't sure how consistent this team would perform.

Both statements have been true in the start to this season, with the Devils vacillating from tremendous to inept.

Cutcliffe, often blunt and straight-forward about task, said his team will need "great" play to overcome to knock off the reigning national champions as they did in 1937 with a win over Pittsburgh and in 1951 with a win over Tennessee and in 1955 with a win over Ohio State.

"Now it's going to take four quarters of that kind of football to beat a team as outstanding as Alabama," he said. "So the part that's so critical about this game is it's the third game and let's see how much more we can get right in the third game than in the first two. We can't afford to have a doldrum in the third quarter. We better play great four quarters."

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Monday, September 13, 2010

Saban: Duke offense 'very dangerous'

Alabama coach Nick Saban, in his weekly press conference today, did his best to sound a bit wary of Duke and Saturday's game against the Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke's offense, Saban said, is explosive. Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree, he noted, has been very effective.

"They scored 48 points on a team that has been ranked in the top 20 (defensively) the last five years in Wake Forest," Saban said. "They're a very dangerous team because of their ability to throw the ball and score points."

What Saban did not say was that Duke gave up 54 points to Wake in the loss on Saturday. He did not mention the top-ranked Crimson Tide -- who should have Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (knee) back and available at tailback this week -- being made a 23-point favorite by oddsmakers expecting a one-sided game.

"Everybody we play is ready for us," Saban said. "It's our first road game. The challenge for our team is to focus and play the kind of football we want to play, and on a consistent basis, all the time. Everybody needs to elevate their games."

The Tide is coming off a methodical 24-3 win over Penn State at Tuscaloosa. Trent Richardson rushed for 144 yards while the Tide defense forced red-zone turnovers by the Nittany Lions.

"We need more consistency," Saban said. "We have not made special teams an advantage for us. We need to clean up some mental errors on defense. Our offense had some critical penalties."

Ingram missed the first two games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to get limited repetitions in practice this week.

"We'll evaluate how much he plays relative to how much he can practice," Saban said.

-- Chip Alexander

ECU's McNeill expects Va. Tech to rebound from losses

GREENVILLE – East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill has known Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer since 1989.

Having studied with Beamer's staff as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, McNeill said he's less worried about the Hokies' two-game losing streak to open the season than how his team prepares this week for the game in Blacksburg on Saturday.

No. 13 Virginia Tech (0-2) has dropped games to Boise State and James Madison to start the season, shocking its fan base and drawing more anticipation headed into the game at Lane Stadium with the Pirates (2-0, 2-0 Conference USA).

"They'll do a great job getting their team together," McNeill said. "We have to worry about ourselves again this week, not Virginia Tech. ... We know we're facing a team that may have their back up against the wall. They're at home and we know they will be ready to play."

The Pirates, adapting to first-year coach McNeill and his new spread offense, have posted impressive numbers against two Conference USA teams. The two-time defending champions are looking forward to going on the road to test their system against a team with a defensive reputation.

With a 51-49 victory over Tulsa and last week a 49-27 victory over Memphis, the Pirates have unexpected momentum, considering the fact they lost 29 starters from two back-to-back Conference USA championship teams.

"We feel good where we are," McNeill said. "To be able to win the football game and grow at the same time is definitely a positive. I think momentum is a positive thing. ... The momentum is there."

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Saturday, September 11, 2010

N.C. State takes 21-7 halftime lead over UCF

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Fans who thought N.C. State didn't pressure the quarterback enough last season can rest easy.

The Wolfpack unveiled a new, high-pressure scheme and rolled to a 21-7 lead at halftime tonight at Central Florida.

Coach Tom O’Brien entered the season saying new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta’s ability to devise ways to pressure the quarterback could pay dividends for the Wolfpack.

After using largely vanilla schemes last season, N.C. State attacked Central Florida with a devastating array of blitzes and new looks. The Wolfpack blitzed on all four plays of Central Florida’s second possession, including one snap from a three-man front.

Linebacker Audie Cole sacked Rob Calabrese and teamed with Natanu Mageo for another tackle for loss as UCF couldn't handle N.C. State's pressure.

Dean Haynes's 4-yard run, Russell Wilson's 26-yard pass to Darrell Davis, and Mustafa Greene's 21-yard run lifted N.C. State to a 21-0 lead. Wilson struggled at times, completing 7 of 16 passes for 67 yards. But Greene rushed for 47 yards, Haynes added 47 and Wilson contributed 20 as the running game carried N.C. State.

Central Florida struck back with a 93-yard kickoff return by Quincy McDuffie, but missed on a chance to cut into the score some more when Nick Cottoi was wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt.

Pack linemen to play vs. Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. - Starting offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio and backup defensive tackles J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn will play for N.C. State in today's game at Central Florida, N.C. State sports information director Annabelle Myers said.

Coach Tom O'Brien held all three players out of the Sept. 4 opener against Western Carolina, but did not explain why. They were charged in April with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana, and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

A judge dismissed the charges after ruling that investigators improperly searched the players' apartment.

N.C. State backup quarterback Mike Glennon is warming up with the team after suffering a left knee injury against Western Carolina. Myers said she did not have an update on Glennon's status.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Advance ACC title game ticket sales soaring

Advance ticket sales for December's ACC championship football game in Charlotte are easily outstripping sales for the game during the five years it was held in Florida, a league associate commissioner said Thursday.

The ACC's Michael Kelly said more than 40,000 tickets have already been sold for the Dec. 4 game at Bank of America Stadium. Although Kelly said exact numbers aren't available, he said tickets sales in Jacksonville (2005-'07) and Tampa ('08-'09) never exceeded more than 30,000 by the start of football season.

"We're further along than we've ever been," said Kelly, who was in Charlotte for meetings with Bank of America Stadium officials. He also attended a ticket sales meeting Thursday that featured a pep talk from college football television analyst Bob Griese.

Kelly said the stadium's lower bowl is nearly sold out. Only club level seats remain and they are part of special ticket packages.

Tickets for the Charlotte game have already outsold the 2008 game between Virginia Tech and Boston College that drew an announced crowd 27,360 to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. They're approaching last year's announced attendance of 42,815 in Tampa for the game between Clemson and Georgia Tech.

Attendance in Jacksonville was better, although it declined there steadily after 72,749 watched Florida State play Virginia Tech in the ACC's first championship game in 2005.

Announced attendance for the next two games at Alltel Stadium -- 62,850 in 2006 for Wake Forest-Georgia Tech and 53,212 in '07 for Boston College-Virginia Tech -- appeared to far less than the number of people actually in the stadium.

-- David Scott

N.C. State won't release injury report

N.C. State fans - and Central Florida's coaches - will have to wait until Saturday to find out the status of Wolfpack backup quarterback Mike Glennon.

Coach Tom O'Brien said today that N.C. State will not release an injury report for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game because Central Florida will not. N.C. State sports information director Annabelle Myers said ACC policy doesn't require teams to release injury reports if the opponents don't also release them.

"Why would I give my opponent an advantage?" O'Brien said as he walked off the practice field today.

Glennon suffered what was called a bruised left knee in Saturday's season opener against Western Carolina, but there has been no update on his status since after the game.

If Glennon can't play, Daniel Imhoff will back up starter Russell Wilson.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wake Forest prepares for Duke, seeks improved execution

WINSTON-SALEM - Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe valued the season-opening victory over Presbyterian last Thursday more for what it exposed about his football team than the blowout score it produced.

The Deacons ran off with a 53-13 win, yet at times were sloppy with assignments, whether it was the defense overloading on one side or the offensive line reacting slowly in protection. Jitters and first-game errors are expected, but the Deacons are looking for better execution as they host Duke on Saturday in what will be the first ACC game of the season for both teams.

"We played terrible," Wake defensive end Kyle Wilbur said of the defense's season-opening performance.

Grobe wasn't as blunt.

"Okay," he said. "I hesitate to say we didn't play as well as I wanted to because we had a good solid win. ... We're some where in the neighborhood of 22 freshman and sophomores in the two-deep [roster] and we played that way. We made some mental mistakes."

Mistakes against the Blue Devils may result in a different outcome, especially considering the close-game history between these two league rivals. Wake holds a 10-game winning streak over the Devils, defeating them in five straight at home.

Four of those five games have been decided by two, two, one and three points. The Deacons captured a 45-34 victory over the Devils last season, snapping a five-game losing streak to end their season.

Grobe, in his 10th season at Wake, said the history between these two teams adds higher stakes to the game - one many see as a must-win for the Deacs to have a clear chance at earning a bowl game bid.

Grobe said a few more non-conference games would make a young team more comfortable taking the field against the Devils.

"We always have good games with Duke," he said. "We've been honestly lucky to win some of the games we've had since I've been here. We've always had a battle with those guys and wouldn't expect it to be any different this Saturday."

Fully committed to an option system, the Deacs now feature a different running scheme from the past four seasons, where quarterback Riley Skinner operated a Pro-style set and shredded defenses through the air.

Now it's up to the running back combination of senior Josh Adams, redshirt junior Brandon Pendergrass and redshirt freshman Josh Harris. They combined for 155 yards, while the Deacs rushed 50 times for a total of 415 yards.

"We did okay," Adams said. "Everybody has to play faster. The offensive line can play faster, recognize their guys. Me, [Pendergrass] and Josh Harris can make some faster reads and we can break more runs. I'm excited."

Redshirt quarterback Ted Stachiatas rushed 10 times for 76 yards. He completed 7 of 13 for 84 yards.

Grobe selected Stachiatas after a four-way training camp competition. He holds the position in front of freshman Tanner Price and Brendan Cross and Skylar Jones.

"He was in command," Wake offensive lineman Joe Looney said. "He was calm, collected. He showed that he can be the man."

Grobe lauded several individual performances, but said the Deacs must find more cohesion on Saturday, particularly on defense where there were missed assignments and missed opportunities to apply pressure.

He said coaches will monitor whether they are asking too much of some inexperienced players.

"We know we have potential to be a good football team," Grobe said. "As players we have to realize that going out and playing hard just doesn't get it done. You got to make plays, you have to be where you're suppose to be, in the right gaps, play the right coverage, run the right routes. ... We have to take care of Wake Forest."

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Devils need to up physical ante vs. Deacons

Duke coach David Cutcliffe acknowledged Tuesday that for his program to continue to move forward, the Blue Devils are going to have to end their 10-game losing streak against Wake Forest.

And to do that, they're going to have to up the physical ante against the Demon Deacons. Cutcliffe said he was happy with his defense's effort in Saturday's 41-27 win over Elon, but the Blue Devils made too many mistakes. They'll have to fix that and face a far rougher and tougher opponent in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

"If we don't, we're in trouble," Cutcliffe said. "We had a high-contact practice this morning. You can't get ready for (Wake's) running game without doing that in practice. ... There's no hiding behind records and streaks. Ten is a row is a big streak, a pretty serious one."

Cutcliffe also expressed his pleasure in Thad Lewis making the St. Louis Rams' 53-man roster, noting that while he has coached many NFL quarterbacks, the short period of time he had to work with Lewis as well as Lewis' personality and character may have made their experience together the most satisfying of Cutcliffe's career.

Asked if his work molding Lewis into an NFL quarterback in only two years together might help recruiting, Cutcliffe chuckled.

"If you're a quarterback and you're not smart enough to see what we can do with a quarterback, I don't want you," Cutcliffe said. "I'm not being cocky. That's just a fact."

-- Chip Alexander, News & Observer

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Austin, other ineligible Tar Heels watch from the stands

ATLANTA -- North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin was among the Tar Heel football players who sat in the stands in Atlanta for UNC's season opener against LSU - despite being either suspended or with-held from the game.

"I've got nothing to say,'' Austin, wearing a striped red shirt and baseball cap, said when he was asked about his situation. "I'm here to support my teammates ."

Austin, who two sources have confirmed has been subpoenaed in Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's investigation of possible violations of North Carolina law involving sports agents, was suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules on Wednesday. Then on Friday, the star senior was one of seven players who were declared ineligible for the season-opener at the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff for violating NCAA and/or school rules. The others were cornerbacks Kendric Burney and Charles Brown; defensive ends Michael McAdoo and Robert Quinn; wide receiver Greg Little; and safety Deunta Williams.

Six others were held out of the game, as UNC officials need to gather more information to determine whether they should be declared ineligible. They are: tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston; safeties Brian Gupton, Da'Norris Seacy and Jonathan Smith; and defensive end Linwan Euwell.

Quinn said he was not allowed to talk to reporters, but did confirm that "most" of the 13 players - including Burney, Brown, McAdoo and Gupton - were in attendance.

UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school did not bar the ineligible/withheld players from attending the game, but as per NCAA rules, they had to pay for their own travel and expenses.

Three Pack players held out for WCU

N.C. State senior offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio and defensive tackles J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn will not dress for today's 6 p.m. game against Western Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium.

In April, the three players were charged with with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana, and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance. Investigators seized three plastic bags filled with about six grams of marijuana, a "blunt" cigar stuffed with marijuana, two homemade bongs and other paraphernalia from their apartment, according to a search warrant.

The charges later were dismissed after a judge ruled the police search was improper.

Vermiglio is the team's starting left tackle. Sweezy and Kuhn both are backups who are expected to figure prominently in the team's plans on the defensive line.

Tight end George Bryan, who had faced a single charge of maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance, will play against Western Carolina.

Coach Tom O'Brien has declined to discuss how he has disciplined the players who were charged, saying only that he was taking appropriate action.

Ken Tysiac

UNC's Austin subpoenaed

UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been subpoenaed in North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's investigation of possible violations of the state's Uniform Athlete Agent Act, two sources with knowledge of the subpoena told the News & Observer on Friday.

The Associated Press also reported that Austin has been subpoenaed.

Austin is one of 13 players who are being held out of tonight's season opener with LSU in Atlanta as a result of the NCAA's investigation of the UNC program. Part of that investigation includes possible impermissible benefits players may have received from agents.

In the summer of 2009, Austin and then-UNC teammate Cam Thomas traveled to California to train at Proactive Sports Performance. Thomas said another former UNC teammate who was then with the San Francisco 49ers, Kentwan Balmer, paid for the trip.

That payment could be construed by the NCAA as an impermissible benefit that might have made Austin and Thomas ineligible for the 2009 season and could force UNC to vacate its records from that season.

Balmer's agent is Gary Wichard, who once employed current UNC assistant coach John Blake as vice president of his agency, Pro Tect Sports Management. Blake coached Balmer, Thomas and Austin on the UNC defensive line.

North Carolina's Uniform Athlete Agent Act requires agents to register with the state and prevents them from giving or promising anything of value to players the agents are trying to recruit.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, September 3, 2010

UNC's Sturdivant and Carter cleared

UNC linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter have been cleared by the NCAA and will play against LSU in Saturday night's game in Atlanta, team spokesman Kevin Best said tonight.

Tar Heels safety Deunta Williams will not play against LSU. He is one of now seven players who have been found in violation of NCAA and/or school rules and are being held out of the game.

Sturdivant and Carter are on their way to Atlanta tonight to join the team, Best said. In total, 13 players, including nine starters - seven of them on defense - will be held out of the game.

Ken Tysiac

Former UNC president on football: "Great sadness"

In the early 1960s, then-UNC President William Friday had to deal with a point-shaving scandal involving basketball players at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State.

Now long retired, Friday, 90, has been thinking about those bad old days a good bit lately as he follows the scandal enveloping the football program at Carolina.

"For people who care about the university, this is a moment of great sadness," Friday said today. "We've gone 50 years without even the remotest allegation of wrongdoing at Chapel Hill.

Athletic ethics is an issue dear to Friday's heart. For more than 15 years, he co-chaired the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a collection of university leaders that has recommended reforming college sports.

"What we're seeing is a manifestation of what's going on all over college athletics," he said. "It's pretty clear the time has come for the people who care about intercollegiate athletics to put a stop to this."

-- Eric Ferreri (The News & Observer,

Trustees' chair backs Davis, Baddour

UNC Board of Trustees chair Bob Winston said he is "extremely saddened and disappointed" with the school's football scandal today, but said he backs coach Butch Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour as the Tar Heels move forward.

Twelve UNC players are being held out of Saturday's season opener against LSU, and three more have not made the trip to Atlanta for the game but may be cleared in time to play.

"I think we have the right guy as our coach," Winston said. "I feel that Butch Davis is going to take a look at what’s happened and will figure the best way to move forward. And I think he is committed to building this program in a way that will reflect the values of the University of North Carolina."

Winston was one of three Board of Trustees members who joined Baddour and then-chancellor James Moeser in their first meeting with Davis on Oct. 31, 2006, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as the school sought a replacement for John Bunting.

Winston said Baddour and chancellor Holden Thorp have done a "fantastic" job responding to the crisis, working around the clock to do the right thing both by the university and the players.

"We are so disappointed," Winston said. "We’re just tremendously disappointed, but we have to figure out how we move forward. We will move forward. Football will continue to be played at the University of North Carolina, and we’re going to look at what happened and take measures, whatever those are, and move forward."

Ken Tysiac

Bowles says UNC being cautious, thorough

UNC officials have decided to "err on the side of caution," according to an e-mail sent by UNC system president Erskine Bowles, when deciding which football players would not play Friday night against LSU.

Twelve Tar Heel players are being withheld from the game, and three others did not make the trip to Atlanta pending further review. In an e-mail to UNC system Board of Governors members today, Bowles explained that a number of players will not play even though they may be subsequently cleared by the school's investigative group or the Honor Council.

Bowles wrote that UNC chancellor Holden Thorp, athletic director Dick Baddour and coach Butch Davis are working with the investigative team to get all the facts.

"I can assure you that Chancellor Thorp is doing everything humanly possible to get to the bottom of this matter," Bowles wrote. "All of us who love Chapel Hill and are proud of the enormous good it does are greatly saddened by what we have discovered."

Bowles wrote that university officials will continue investigating and taking appropriate action until they get to the bottom of the matter and do everything possible to make sure it never happens again.

Chip Alexander and Ken Tysiac

Board of governors member: Scandal "humiliating"

A member of the UNC board of governors said today that he was disappointed and embarrassed by the news that at least 12 North Carolina football players will be withheld from Saturday's season-opener against Louisiana State, calling it a "sad, sad day in the life of a great university."

"It's humiliating by any measure," said Brent Barringer, a Cary attorney and UNC graduate. "It's not what we're about.

"Just six years ago I was at a seminar in Chapel Hill and heard (the late) Myles Brand, then the president of the NCAA, hold up UNC-Chapel Hill as a paragon of the student-athlete model. Here we are, less than seven years later. having to disqualify 20 percent of the team not just because of NCAA agent allegations but more importantly academic allegations.

"It shows how fast things can change. It's very, very disappointing and frankly embarrassing to the point of being humiliating."

Barringer said he had the "utmost confidence" that UNC chancellor Holden Thorp would be thorough in continuing to investigate the allegations and would be strong in handling the situation.

"He's doing everything humanly possible to get to the bottom of the matter," Barringer said. "He will do the right thing for the right reasons.

"It's a huge test of his leadership as chancellor but I think he is up to the challenge. He has a lot of support and will continue to have a lot of support."

Barringer would not comment on athletics director Dick Baddour or football coach Butch Davis. In talking about the withheld players, Barringer said, "I don't think the buck stops with the players."

Barringer said outgoing UNC president Erskine Bowles sent out an email to board members Friday morning said he was "greatly saddened by what we have discovered" and that the unversity was making a cautious decision by withholding the players.

Chip Alexander

Thursday, September 2, 2010

RB Washington heads N.C. State injury list

James Washington, who began the preseason as the No. 2 running back, leads the N.C. State injury report, which was released this morning.

Washington has a hamstring injury and is out for Saturday's 6 p.m. game with Western Carolina. During the preseason, redshirt freshman Dean Haynes and freshman Mustafa Greene moved ahead of Washington and Curtis Underwood (who's now the No. 3 running back) on N.C. State's depth chart.

Here is N.C. State's complete injury list. The players with asterisks next to their names are out for the season:

Brandon Barnes, RB - ankle
Jarvis Byrd, CB - knee
Sylvester Crawford, DE - hip
R.J. Mattes, OG - knee
Quinton Payton, WR - finger
Jay Smith, WR - groin
James Washington, HB - hamstring
*Jesse Riley, DB - knee
*Rashard Smith, DB - knee

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Austin suspended; more news expected Friday

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who has been interviewed as part of the NCAA's investigation into possible improper benefits provided to players by sports agents, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday for violating team rules and neglecting his responsibilities to the team.

That means the star senior will not travel to Atlanta for UNC's season opener against No. 21 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Saturday. And sometime before the 18th-ranked Tar Heels board the team the bus at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the school plans to announce who else won't be making the trip, athletic director Dick Baddour said.

"If we have guys in question, they won't travel," Baddour said in a telephone interview. "And if that question is eliminated, then we would try to get them down there Saturday."

The Tar Heels are mired in two investigations: the one by the NCAA, which began in early July, and the school's own probe, announced last Thursday, into whether a former tutor who was employed by both the school and Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis committed academic misconduct while working with football players.

Davis said in a prepared statement Wednesday that "this decision is not a result of the ongoing NCAA review." Baddour reiterated that sentiment, saying that no one should assume the suspension had anything to do with breaking NCAA or academic rules.

A team spokesman would not say Wednesday what team rules were broken.

A criminal background check on Austin on Wednesday showed no felonies. He is scheduled to be in Orange County District Court on Sept. 15 for the following charges: a Feb. 10 citation for a misdemeanor noise ordinance violation; a May 7 driving without registration citation; a May 7 citation for improper window tinting.

The 6-feet-3, 310-pound starter has not been available to talk to reporters since the NCAA investigation began, but in a message posted Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. on what appears to be his Facebook page, Austin, appeared to break his silence: "I came back to school to have my character questioned..[expletive]..i thought education was key.. I don't really understand...i though it was the right thing to do. maybe i was mistaken," the message said. "...i like to say thanx to all those who stand by me i really appreciate [sic] it. oh yea and to those who wanna see me fall i wont cause i don't great athletes stay on their feet!!!!!"

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Austin as the top defensive tackle and No. 23 overall prospect on his draft board. The player received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board after his junior season but opted to return to college, a decision he announced on his Twitter page in January.

Wide receiver Greg Little's father has also said that his son was interviewed by the NCAA as part of its agent investigation. It's unclear how many athletes were questioned in that probe, or how many have since been questioned as part of UNC's academic investigation.

Baddour said Wednesday "we are definitely making progress," in both investigations, and the school is sharing information from its academic probe with the NCAA as it tries to determine whether any rules were broken. Winston Crisp, UNC's vice chancellor for student affairs, has joined the school's team that is looking into academic misconduct, and Baddour said they are working around the clock to try to find answers.

Baddour would not say whether the tutor in question has been interviewed, citing the ongoing investigation. A source told The News & Observer that the probe centers around whether the tutor, who no longer works for the school or Davis, improperly helped players with papers for classes. Asked if she had worked with other athletes besides football players, Baddour said: "I can't tell you that. That is still part of our own review, and until I'm in a position to have an opportunity to examine that in a thorough way, I think it's best that I not identify any other team."

He said the school has been able to clear some football players of wrong-doing, although he would not say how many, again because the investigation is ongoing. He also said that when the school announces who won't make the Friday trip to Atlanta, it won't mention the names of the players who have been exonerated.

"We would only mention names of people who were not on the roster," Baddour said. "We would not mention names of people who had been in review on one side or the other, or cleared. We would only be talking about people who were not going to participate."

If a player is ineligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, the school cannot pay for any travel expenses. If the player travels on his own dime, the NCAA allows him to be on the sideline at the school's discretion, but not in uniform. (Baddour said he has not yet discussed with Davis whether any Tar Heels will have that option.)

If a player is suspended for breaking a school rule, but remains eligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, he can travel with the team and can be in uniform, if the school permits.

Technically, an athlete involved in an ongoing investigation can play. "However, if it is later determined that the student-athlete was ineligible - and still played - games could potentially be forfeited," Amy Herman, UNC's assistant athletic director for compliance, wrote in an e-mail.

Baddour, without distinguishing between investigations, said he expected that some, but not all, decisions about players would be made before the first game. He cautioned that when the school does announce who is - and is not - traveling to this weekend’s game, people should understand that the list "may be fluid. There may be some alterations after we say that, but we've got to work towards that. We're just hoping that we can hold on and be in a position. We want to be able to give the most up-to-date and accurate information, and it's worth waiting a little longer to do that."

Robbi Pickeral

Staff Writers J.P. Giglio, Ken Tysiac and staff researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.