Tar Heels, Terps to Conclude Season
By Stuart Barefoot
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Although UNC is ineligible for postseason play, the Tar Heels can still finish with a respectable 8-4 record.
The Tar Heels will end their season against Maryland on Saturday, probably on a winning note. The teams will face off in Chapel Hill, where Carolina is 5-1 this season, although they were obliviated by Georgia Tech in that one loss. The Terps are down to their fifth-string quarterback after a series of escalating injuries to their other four, and have lost their last five games.
UNC took care of business against UVA after an embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Regardless of how things go Saturday, this is the end of the line for the Heels, who are banned from bowl games this year.
Due to injuries, Maryland has been forced to use converted linebacker and true freshman Shawn Petty at quarterback. C.J. Brown tore his ACL back in August, setting off a series of events no one saw coming. Now, four quarterbacks, a broken foot and three torn ACL’s later, Maryland is in a difficult spot, using a freshman linebacker under center. It’s an unenviable situation, no doubt, but the Terps have made due. Petty has amassed 292 yards and five touchdowns in three games. Not great numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but for someone who isn’t supposed to be playing quarterback, it’s pretty respectable. It's also worth noting that he has not made any excuse for himself or otherwise complained.
Maryland was 4-4 before Petty took over for fourth-string QB David Burns, but has dropped its last three and has lost five in a row. Compounding the quarterback problem is injuries to other key players. WR Stefon Diggs leads the team with 766 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He is probable for Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Another problem the Terps face using a converted QB is their lack of a run game. Wes Brown leads the team in rushing with 396 yards and is second in scoring with two touchdowns; Justus Picket has three.
The Terps got off to a nice start in the ACC by beating Wake and Virginia, but have lost their last five conference games. With ten of their original starters out, winning football games has been difficult. Combine that with the fact that they had to play Clemson, Florida State and now UNC in consecutive weeks, and you get a miserable way to end the season.
For their part, the Tar Heels can finish 2012 on a nice note, provided their defense shows up. After holding Virginia to just 13 points, they are riding a wave of confidence into this one. UNC is prone to giving up points early in the game, evidenced by close losses like Louisville. Teams average almost 25 points per game against them, and that’s figuring in shutouts against weak opponents like Elon and Idaho.
They also need to get Gio Bernard going again. He ran for just 57 yards last week and 78 in the disastrous Georgia Tech game. There was a lot of Heisman candidacy talk surrounding him at one point this season, but that has tapered off as a result of two quiet games. The rest of the UNC offense has been just fine, with Bryn Renner leading the charge. He’s passed for over 300 yards in his last three games, and competed 80 percent of his passes last week. If Renner, Bernard and the rest of UNC’s powerful offense even slightly resemble themselves, they will beat Maryland and finish 8-4 this season.