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College football previews: Deacs head to Raleigh to take on Wolfpack

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2022

By Aaron Beard

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH — Sam Hartman entered the season as Wake Forest’s veteran star, the quarterback powering a prolific offense that carried the Demon Deacons to an 11-win season. MJ Morris was a third-string rookie buried on North Carolina State’s depth chart behind the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.

By Saturday, they will each be the focus on the 20th-ranked Demon Deacons’ visit to the 21st-ranked Wolfpack. For Wake Forest, the question is whether Hartman can shake off an awful performance in last week’s loss at Louisville. And Morris is now a rising prospect set to start after leading N.C. State’s second-half comeback over Virginia Tech.

“(Life) has changed a little bit,” Morris said. “Of course, I’m getting a lot more notice now. A few more people know me around campus, but I try not to let it get to my head. … I’m still out there doing my job for the team so that we can execute at our best level.”

N.C. State (6-2, 2-2 ACC) lost starter Devin Leary to a season-ending injury in October, lost at No. 22 Syracuse and then found itself down big in the third quarter to the Hokies last week. Morris took over for Jack Chambers after halftime and threw three touchdown passes, showing growing confidence in pushing the ball downfield as the Wolfpack loosened up a conservative game plan.

Now he’s the starter against the Demon Deacons (6-2, 2-2), a long way from the days of getting few preseason reps behind Leary and Chambers.

“To MJ’s credit, he would stand behind our offense and he was very diligent in mental reps and going through the the play on air,” coach Dave Doeren said. “And now he’s getting physical reps, so that’s only going to accelerate his ability to function and do more within the system.”

Hartman, meanwhile, comes in hoping to distance himself from last weekend’s performance. He threw three interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — and lost three fumbles, all in the third quarter as Louisville blew the game open.

It was reminiscent of Hartman’s turnover-filled performances in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl loss to Wisconsin to end the 2020 season or the loss to Pittsburgh in last year’s ACC title game. But coach Dave Clawson defended his quarterback.

“We made a lot of mistakes that we can’t afford to make,” Clawson said. “Clearly the eight turnovers, you’re never going to win a football game doing that. And we had other execution issues.

“This whole narrative of Sam having another one of those meltdown games, that’s not accurate at all with this game. You go back and watch the film, and he’s probably responsible for maybe one, one and a half of those turnovers.”

Before the Louisville loss, the Demon Deacons had scored at least 31 points in every game while generally avoiding self-inflicted mistakes. Still, they’re ranked 13th in the Bowl Subdivision in averaging 38.9 points. And Hartman is tied for sixth in FBS by throwing 22 touchdown passes with a trio of matchup-winning targets in wideouts Donavon Greene, Jahmal Banks and A.T. Perry.

The Wolfpack’s veteran defense allows 308.6 yards (18th in FBS) and 17.4 points (tied for 12th).

The past two meetings of the every-year series have curiously ended with identical scores. The Wolfpack won at home 45-42 early in 2020, while the Demon Deacons won at home last year by the same score in a game that largely determined the ACC Atlantic Division title.

No. 20 Wake Forest (6-2, 2-2 ACC) at No. 21 North Carolina State (6-2, 2-2), Saturday, 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

Line: Wake Forest by 41/2 , according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: N.C. State leads 67-42-6.

Duke a win away from bowl eligibility as Blue Devils visit BC

First-year coach Mike Elko has Duke on the verge of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2018 as it prepares to visit Boston College.

It’s been a huge turnaround for the Blue Devils, who notched just three victories last season. The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and are in danger of their first season with nine losses since 2015.

The Eagles played with their eighth different offensive line combination this season last week and are likely headed for more shakeups after freshman tackle Jude Bowry left the UConn loss with an injury after just nine plays.

The Blue Devils have been turnover machines this season and are coming off registering a program-high eight turnovers (three interceptions and five fumbles) in their 45-21 win over Miami on Oct. 22

Duke QB Riley Leonard, a sophomore, is 143 of 223 passing for 1,693 yards with 10 touchdowns and he is tied for third in the ACC in pass completion percentage (64%). He is coming off rushing for three touchdowns against the Hurricanes.

After finishing the 2021 season last in the ACC and tied for 108th nationally in turnover margin, the Blue Devils are first in the league and second nationally this season with a plus-1.75 turnovers per game, trailing only USC (plus-2).

Duke (5-3, 2-2 ACC) at Boston College (2-6, 1-4), Friday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Line: Duke by 91/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Boston College leads 5-3.

UNC heads to Virginia

UNC quarterback Drake Maye is tied with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud for the FBS lead with 29 touchdown passes as the Tar Heels travel to Virginia this weekend for the 127th meeting in the series.

Maye has thrown three interceptions on 275 attempts. a rate of 1.1%.

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