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Carolina FBS College Football Recaps

Wrapping Up Every NC/SC FBS CFB Season

Jason Huber
January 09, 2019 - 11:40 am

Another year of college football has gone by in the Carolinas. This year, Clemson took home their second title in three years, continuing to put NC and SC on the CFB map.

Out of all seven FBS North Carolina football programs and the two Power Five FBS teams in South Carolina, five bowl games were won (including the National Title) and six bowl games were played. App State, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson and South Carolina all received Bowl-bids after 6+ win seasons.

Similar to our season preview a few months ago, we wrap up the 2018-19 CFB season with a recap of each NC FBS team and SC Power Five school's season.

Note: NC A&T and Western Carolina are FCS schools. Not FBS. Coastal Carolina is a Group of Five team in South Carolina. Not a Power Five team. Therefore, they are not listed.

Appalachian State (11-2, Sun Belt Champions, New Orleans Bowl Champions): Beginning the season with a double-overtime loss to #10 Penn State, the App State Mountaineers received their first ever AP Top 25 ranking following a 5-1 start to the season. But a concussion that forced quarterback Zac Thomas out of the game and their linebacker Jordan Fehr getting ejected against Georgia Southern led to App's second and final loss of the season. The Mountaineers went on to win out, host and defeat Louisiana in the first-ever Sun Belt Championship game in Boone.

Putting together the best record they've had since joining the FBS, sophomore Thomas had a breakout season in his first year as the starting QB and was named the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.  Defensively, the Mountaineers set a school record with 20 defensive touchdowns, tied for first in the FBS with only eight passing touchdowns allowed and gave up just 15.5 points per game. Running back Jalin Moore was lost for the season with a broken leg just a few games in, but Darrynton Evans stepped up and rushed for over 1,000 yards.

Evans was one of six All-Sun Belt First Team selections and App became the first team ever to win each of their first four bowl games. Having such a successful year, head coach Scott Satterfield accepted the same position at Louisville to end a successful five-year tenure as the Mountaineers head coach.

Next year will look a lot different for the Mountaineers with former NC State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz coming in as the new head coach and plenty of new assistant coaches. They finished the season as the first team out of the AP Top 25 with 94 votes to rank 26th. 

Charlotte (5-7, 4-4 C-USA): Despite a four-game improvement from 2017, the Charlotte 49ers were one-game short of being eligible for their first ever bowl game appearance and fired their only coach in school history, Brad Lambert.

Starting the season with a 4-4 record including an upset of Southern Miss, the 49ers lost three of their final four games that included a tough fight against SEC opponent Tennesee.

Running back Benny LeMay led the team's offense with 11 rushing touchdowns an 1,228 yards, but Charlotte failed to find a steady passing game with three quarterbacks seeing meaningful playing time that accounted for only 10 passing touchdowns, 2,154 yards and eight interceptions.

Freshman Chris Reynolds entered the season as the starter and filled in nicely with six touchdowns and two interceptions, but an ankle injury hampered him after six games causing the 49ers quarterback group to be up in the air. After Lambert won his final game with Charlotte to end the season, reports came out that Charlotte would be hiring JMU's head coach Mike Houston to replace Lambert.

However, East Carolina fired their coach and Houston had Charlotte withdraw their offer to accept that job. The 49ers hired Austin Peay's Will Healy as the second head coach in school history and look to have their first winning season in school history. 

East Carolina (3-9, 1-7 American): In a make it or break it year for head coach Scottie Montgomery, the Pirates suffered another brutal season, ending Montogomery's three-year tenure.

Things got off to a rocky start with a loss to FCS opponent and in-state rival NC A&T. From there, ECU managed to pick up wins only against UNC, Old Dominion and UConn the rest of the way. Their big matchup against Virginia Tech was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, but many said it could have been played. Now reports say the Hokies are pulling out of their future matchups against ECU.

Sophomore quarterback Reid Herring suffered an injury midseason which gave way to freshman Holton Ahlers starting the final four games. Both QBs struggled throughout the year as Herring completed just 53 percent of his passes and Ahers, 48 percent. Ahlers also led the team in rushing with 592 yards and six touchdowns.

Wide receiver Devon Brown was the only consistent offensive weapon with 1,123 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

Defensively, ECU was led by Nate Harvey's 14.5 sacks, earning him AAC Defensive Player of the Year. However, the Pirates still managed to give up 37.3 points per game and average just 22.8. Mike Houston comes in as the new head coach out of James Madison and will have a lot of work to do to bring the Pirates back to a prominent football team. 

UNC-Chapel Hill (2-9, 1-7 ACC): It was another brutal year in Chapel Hill for Tar Heels football. Beginning with player suspensions for selling shoes to head coach Larry Fedora making controversial statements about CTE, the Tar Heels had their worst season since 2003 and had only one conference win over Pitt.

With losses to in-state rivals East Carolina, Duke and a blown overtime loss to NC State to end the season, Fedora was handed the pink-slip unsurprisingly at season's end. Junior Nathan Elliott started at QB the majority of the year and actually had a pretty solid season throwing for over 2,000 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 61 percent completion rating.

Elliott began to rotate with QB Chazz Surratt though against Miami before Surratt injured his hand and was declared out for the season. Elliott was later replaced by freshman Jace Ruder against Georgia Tech but left with a shoulder injury.

Five different quarterbacks played for the Tar Heels this season. Offensively, UNC averaged 27.4 points per game, but they struggled defensively, giving up 34.5 points per game. In the ACC, 34.5 points per game are bound for plenty of losses.

UNC ranked 20th in the country in sacks but didn't do much else. A day after Fedora was fired, UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham announced that former UNC and Texas head coach Mack Brown would be hired as head coach for a second stint.

Brown is 67 years old, but he won a National Title with Texas and had three 10-win seasons with UNC in the late 90s. 

Duke (8-5, 3-5 ACC, Independence Bowl Champions): The Blue Devils finished the 2018 season with at least eight wins for just the fourth time in 11 years under head coach David Cutcliffe, making it the most successful six-year stretch by the Blue Devils since 1938-43. It's Duke's third bowl win under Cutcliffe.

Quarterback Daniel Jones helped Duke cap off the season with a record-breaking 56-27 victory in the Independence Bowl over Temple where Jones threw for a bowl-record five touchdowns.

Jones was one of the best QBs in the country this year throwing for 2,251 yards and 17 touchdowns for a 124.8 QBR. Jones only threw seven interceptions. TJ Rahming and Jonathan Lloyd led the receiving corps and Deon Jackson rushed for 806 yards and seven touchdowns.

Jones declared for the NFL Draft after the Blue Devils bowl game. On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Joe Giles-Harris led the charge with 81 tackles but missed the last three games of the year.

Duke was blown out by Wake Forest in the final week of the season and lost to Pittsburgh and Virginia earlier in the year, two games they should have won. Arguably, the Blue Devils could have been a 10+ win team. Their bowl win over Temple was a big victory to end a season that had many ups and downs. 

NC State (9-4, 5-3 ACC, Lost Gator Bowl): NC State lost a lot of players on the defensive side of the ball entering the season, but with Ryan Finley still starting at quarterback for his final season, the Wolfpack put together their second-straight nine-win season.

They could have hit double-digit wins, but a blowout loss to Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl ended that hope. The Wolfpack were without their top receiver and linebacker due to NFL Draft training, but it was a disappointing end to a season that proved head coach Dave Doeren has NC State headed in the right direction.

Alongside Finley on offense was running back Reggie Gallapsy Jr. who rushed for over 1,000 yards and broke the Wolfpack record with 19 rushing touchdowns in a season.

Finley's arm contributed to wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon each putting together 1,000 receiving yard seasons. Linebacker Germaine Pratt led the defensive side of the ball with over 100 tackles to help NC State rank 37th in the country in points allowed.

The Wolfpack allowed just 22.7 points per game and scored 33.8. Two winnable games against Wake Forest and Syracuse ultimately hurt NC State's chances of staying in the Top 25 and with Finley headed to the NFL, Doeren is potentially headed for another rebuilding year in Raleigh. 

Wake Forest (7-6, 3-5 ACC, Birmingham Bowl Champions): In a year where their starting quarterback Kendall Hinton was suspended prior to the season, things weren't looking good for the Demon Deacons. True freshman Sam Hartman began the season as starting quarterback and played very well with a 55.3 completion rating.

He threw for 16 touchdowns and almost 2,000 yards but suffered a season-ending injury against Syracuse. Wake Forest was 4-5 at the time and needed two more wins to make a bowl game. Jamie Newman stepped in and led the Deacs to three wins in their final four games with the only loss coming to Pittsburgh.

Newman completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns. Greg Dortch led the receivers with 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

He declared for the NFL draft after the bowl game. Blowout losses to Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida State and even Pittsburgh had many doubting the Deacons against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl.

Memphis led by 18 points in the first half but Newman ran for three touchdowns and threw for a fourth to give Wake Forest the lead with just 34 seconds remaining in the game.

Ranking in the top 60 in total points scored, the Deacons offense was just enough to overshadow their 33 points allowed per game with a winning record. Dave Clawson has Wake Forest on the uprising. 

#1 Clemson (15-0, 8-0 ACC, National Champions): It was a championship or bust season for Clemson coming off a playoff semifinal loss to Alabama, and boy did they make sure it wasn't a bust.

The Tigers became the first team ever in the AP Poll Era to finish the year 15-0 and dominated the almighty Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in the National Championship Game to win their second title in three years under head coach Dabo Swinney.

A dominant regular season with no real close games aside from Texas A&M in Week Two and their yearly scare against Syracuse, the Tigers handed over the starting quarterback job to freshman Trevor Lawrence early in the season and only saw their offense get better the rest of the way.

Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant who ended up transferring and threw for 2,606 yards, 24 touchdowns and 154 QBR with just four interceptions. He took home the National Championship Game MVP after a three-touchdown performance. On the ground, sophomore running back Travis Etienne rushed for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Etienne took home the ACC Championship Game MVP against Pittsburgh. In the air, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rogers led a balanced attack. Ross also put on a show during the championship game. Defensively, the Tigers were even better.

Led by Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence (who missed both playoff games to suspension) and Isaiah Simmons, the Tigers allowed under 20 points per game, ranking second in the country. Overall, things went perfectly for the Clemson Tigers.

They'll lose a few defensive pieces, but Clemson will likely be right back in the Championship Game next year. 

South Carolina (7-6, 4-4 SEC, Lost Belk Bowl): It was a back-and-forth season for head coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. In the end, the Gamecocks were shutout for the first time since 2006 with a 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl.

Quarterback Jake Bentley had a solid season but struggled in the Belk Bowl. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel didn't play due to NFL Draft training but finished the year with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It was supposed to be a year where South Carolina took the next step coming off a 9-4 season, but the Gamecocks only had one two-game winning streak which took place midway through the season and lost to every ranked team they played.

Bentley announced that he will be returning for his senior season so Muschamp should have another year to make some noise in the SEC before fans will begin to question whether he is the right fit at head coach. 

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