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UNC’s Walker earns national defensive back of the week

UNC's Walker.

UNC’s Walker.

After notching two interceptions in North Carolina’s 31-27 win over San Diego State, sophomore cornerback Brian Walker (Charlotte, NC) has been named the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week.

Walker’s performance helped lead North Carolina to their first 2-0 start since the 2011 season.

In the opening quarter, Walker returned his first interception of the game 100 yards for a touchdown to give North Carolina an early 7-0 lead. His second interception was in the fourth quarter that set up a field goal to put the Tar Heels up by four.

The Jim Thorpe Award is one of the most coveted awards in college football. The award was established in 1986 and is named after history’s greatest all-around athlete, Jim Thorpe. Thorpe excelled as a running back, passer and kicker on the offensive side of the ball, but also stood out as a defensive back. In addition to his legendary performance on the football field, Thorpe played professional baseball and won Olympic gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon.

The Jim Thorpe Award watch list is chosen by a screening committee who compile a list of 30-50 players. The list is not final, and players who have outstanding seasons are added as the season progresses. The Thorpe Award Winner is selected from three finalists and will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday, December 11, 2014 on ESPN.

The Jim Thorpe Award Banquet will be held on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 in Oklahoma City, OK.

The Jim Thorpe Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. The 21 awards boast 699 years of tradition-selection excellence. Visit www.NCFAA.org to learn more about our story.

The members of the NCFAA are unveiling their preseason watch lists over a 12-day period this month. Fifteen of the association’s 21 awards select a preseason watch list and the NCFAA has spearheaded a coordinated effort to promote each award’s preseason candidates. Following is the complete 2014 preseason watch list calendar.

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Bulls come back to even series with 11th inning run

Mike Fontenot.

Mike Fontenot.

The Durham Bulls tied the game in the top of the ninth inning and went on to score the winning run in the 11th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox in Game Two of the Governors’ Cup Final Wednesday night at McCoy Stadium, tying the Best-of-Five series at one game apiece.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth, Bulls first baseman Vince Belnome blasted a 2-2 breaking ball over the fence in right-center field for a solo home run, tying the game at 3-3. Then in the 11th Belnome worked a leadoff walk and advanced to second base on a walk to Ali Solis. Designated hitter Mike Fontenot followed with an RBI single to right field to score Belnome and put the defending champions on top 4-3.

In the bottom of the 11th southpaw Adam Liberatore (1-0) worked around a two-out walk for a scoreless inning, aided by a sliding catch in right field by Jeremy Moore to lead off the frame. The left-hander earned the victory by tossing 1 2/3 shutout frames, while working out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 10th.

The home side jumped on the board in the first frame when Ryan Lavarnway grounded out with the bases loaded, scoring Rusney Castillo from third base. In the second the Red Sox struck again, this time when Corey Brown launched a two-run homer over the right field wall for a 3-0 lead.

Durham bounced back in the top of the third though. Justin Christian singled with one out, and later in the frame Mikie Mahtook crushed a two-run dinger to left-center field to cut the deficit to one.

After Bulls starter Alex Colome lasted just 1 1/3 innings, the Durham bullpen took over. Jake Thompson (2.2), Merrill Kelly (2.0), C.J. Riefenhauser (1.1), Josh Lueke (2.0) and Liberatore (1.2) combined to post 9 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just six hits and striking out eight. After five shutout innings in Game One, the Durham bullpen has now posted 14 2/3 shutout innings in the Governors’ Cup Final, and has allowed just one run over its last 25 2/3 frames in the 2014 postseason.

John Ely (0-1) suffered the loss for Pawtucket, allowing one on three walks in 1 1/3 frames.

The series shifts to Durham Bulls Athletic Park Thursday, as the Bulls send RHP Matt Andriese (11-8, 3.77; 1-0, 3.60) to the mound opposite LHP Henry Owens (3-1, 4.03; 0-0, 11.25) for the PawSox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

- News release

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Pawtucket nips Durham Bulls in Game One of championship series

bullsbaseballThe Pawtucket Red Sox scored three runs over the contest’s first three frames to defeat the Durham Bulls 3-2 in Game One of the best-of-Five Governors’ Cup Final Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium.

The 2014 Wild Card winners plated the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning, as Travis Shaw delivered a two-out single to center field to score Ivan De Jesus. In the second the home side doubled its lead when Deven Marrero singled to right field, scoring Blake Swihart for a 2-0 advantage.

Durham struck back in the top of the third though, as Ray Olmedo and Justin Christian notched back-to-back one-out singles. After a groundout advanced each runner, Bulls 2014 MVP Mikie Mahtook drilled a single to center field, scoring a pair and tying the contest.

The tie proved to be short-lived however, as Garin Cecchini’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third gave put the PawSox back on top by a 3-2 score.

The Bulls threatened in both the eighth and the ninth innings, putting two runners aboard in the eighth and loading the bases with just one out in the ninth. The defending champions failed to convert either opportunity though, stranding nine men on base in the contest.

Left-hander Edwin Escobar (1-0) earned the win, allowing two runs on six hits over seven frames, while righty Heath Hembree picked up a four-out save, his second save of the postseason. Southpaw Enny Romero (0-1) absorbed the loss, surrendering three runs on six hits in three innings while throwing 77 pitches. Durham’s bullpen blanked the Red Sox the rest of the way, as right-hander Doug Mathis turned in three scoreless frames while Cory Burns tossed a scoreless seventh and eighth, combining to allow just one hit.

Game Two takes place Wednesday night in Pawtucket as RHP Alex Colome (7-6, 3.77; 0-1, 7.20) takes the mound for Durham against Pawtucket LHP Brian Johnson (NR; 10-2, 1.75 in Double-A), who will be making his Triple-A debut. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. from McCoy Stadium.

- News release

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UNC’s Craddock named ACC field hockey player of the week

Charlotte Craddock.

Charlotte Craddock.

North Carolina forward Charlotte Craddock has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Field Hockey Player of the Week after leading the Tar Heels to two road victories over ranked opponents.

A senior from Wolverhampton, England, Craddock scored the game-winner in both North Carolina victories over the weekend. At No. 1 Maryland on Friday, her penalty corner goal in the fifth minute of play put the Tar Heels up for good en route to a 3-1 win.

On Sunday at Delaware, she scored the Tar Heels’ first goal in the 15th minute on a solo shot from about 10 yards out. She also scored in the 42nd minute to put UNC up 3-0 en route to a 5-1 victory.

Craddock leads the Tar Heels (4-0) in goals this season with four.

- ACC News Release

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Heels’ Elby named ACC soccer player of the week

Brooke Elby.

Brooke Elby.

North Carolina senior midfielder Brooke Elby has been named the ACC Women’s Soccer Player of the week, as announced Tuesday by the league office. It is the first player of the week honor of her career.

Elby was named the defensive Most Valuable Player of the Duke Nike Classic as the Tar Heels defeated a pair of Top 20 foes, No. 7 Penn State and No. 18 Arkansas. Elby played all 102 minutes of the 1-0 double overtime shutout against the previously unbeaten Nittany Lions, who entered the match scoring nearly three goals per game. Two days later, Elby played all but four minutes against the Razorbacks, while helping to hold them to just four shots en route to the 2-1 victory. The Arcadia, California native also assisted Summer Green’s goal in the 17th minute that gave the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead.

North Carolina, which is ranked No. 9 in the latest Soccer America Top 25 released Tuesday, is one of six ACC teams ranked in the poll and one of four in the Top 10 (No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Virginia Tech, No. 6 Florida State, No. 9 North Carolina, No. 13 Notre Dame and No. 19 Clemson).

- ACC News Release

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UNC’s McAdoo named volleyball player of the week

Laureen McAdoo.

Lauren McAdoo.

North Carolina senior outside hitter Lauren Adkins McAdoo and Florida State freshman outside hitter Milica Kubura have earned this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference volleyball honors, as McAdoo was named Player of the Week and Kubura was tabbed Freshman of the Week.

McAdoo, wife of former UNC basketball player James Michael McAdoo, led the Tar Heels to a 2-0 record over the course of the weekend, winning the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the second straight year. North Carolina benefited from McAdoo’s all-around play and consistent excellence at the net in victories over Michigan and No. 14 Michigan State. An offensive force, McAdoo averaged 4.67 kills per set on a .328 hitting percentage and doubled her career average of kills.

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Monday morning quarterback: Heels, Pack, Redskins, Panthers

mondaymorningqbSo what did the Tar Heels, Wolfpack, Redskins and Panthers do right and wrong this past weekend?

For the second week in a row, North Carolina escaped against an inferior opponent at home. It took three rare plays to beat San Diego State 31-27. A Brian Walker interception at the goal line and subsequent 100-yard return for a touchdown and a Marquise Williams to Mack Hollins 91-yard pass play for a TD the two scores that saved them, along with an interception in the end zone with 14 seconds left.

The interception return was just the third 100-yard interception return in school history while the 91-yard pass play was the longest by the Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium history and the third longest for the Heels anywhere. That’s what it took to defeat San Diego. Exciting, yes but impressive, no.

The big plays saved Coach Larry Fedora a grilling about throwing a pass inside the five yard line on third down and few inches for a first down. The pass completion lost a yard or two and the Heels had to settle for a field goal.

NC State, for the second week in a row, were not impressive against an inferior opponent at home despite scoring 46 points. The Pack gave up 34 points and 504 yards to Old Dominion.

The defense did not really pressure Old Dominion in the backfield or even at the line, and the tackling was atrocious. On a positive note, the running game looks good as Pack runners rushed for 242 yards and scored five TDs (four of them on the ground). Shadrach Thornton got three of those scores while Matt Dayes had a rushing TD and a receiving TD.

The improvement wasn’t lost on Coach Dave Doeren. “Our run game is averaging six yards per carry, no turnovers and one penalty throughout the game,” he said. “On offense, we averaged 6.6 yards on first down on offense. We were 3-for-3 in short yardage.”

Oh, Washington Redskins, here we go again. Untimely turnovers, poor special teams and a supposedly mobile quarterback who keeps getting sacked before getting rid of the ball.

As for the turnovers, all are untimely, but two unforced fumbles inside the 10-yard line are hard to overcome. That’s a minimum of six points and a maximum of 14 points off the board in a 17-6 loss.

The six points makes one who didn’t watch the game assume the Skins could only muster two field goals. But, no, it was due to a blocked extra point. At a time when the league is considering getting rid of extra points because they are supposedly automatic, the JJ Watt middle-of-the-line block changed the momentum of the game.

Up 6-0, the Redskins fell apart with a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown while Robert Griffin III couldn’t or wouldn’t throw the ball down field. He even held onto the ball so long that he was sacked three times. The guy who is supposed to be so mobile looked anything but. In fact, he intentionally grounded the ball once and rarely looked to throw more than a few yards down the field. When he did throw long, it looked like Hail Mary plays rather than passes that had a good chance of completion.

By the way, did you notice how the in-studio Fox Sports team did everything they could to use the word Washington instead of Redskins. Host Curt Menefee even tossed it to previews of two games by saying “the Bills at the Bears” and “Washington at the Texans.” Not Washington at Houston. He gave three team names and one city name within a minute’s time.

The Carolina Panthers actually looked pretty good in a season opener for a change (they haven’t won one in five years) and they did it with a second-string quarterback. Derek Anderson, though, is a veteran and he threw a pair of touchdown passes to lead the Panthers over Tampa Bay 17-14.

The Panthers did wilt a bit down the stretch and let the Bucs back in the game but it had been a dominating performance for most of the game.

Cam Newton, out with a rib injury, is said to be ready to play next weekend. To get an opening win without Newton in a game in which they were the underdogs, the Panthers did quite well.

Before the game, many thought the offensive line would be a weakness. But coaches trotted out several linemen throughout the game, keeping players fresh, and it worked. You’d think it would disrupt continuity but the line was juggled so much in the preseason, for a number of reasons, maybe they’re used to it.

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Bulls win, Bulls win – go back to finals again

Nathan Karns.

Nathan Karns.

The Durham Bulls advanced to the Governors’ Cup Final for the second straight year with a 4-2 win over the Columbus Clippers Saturday afternoon at the DBAP.

The Bulls recorded their third straight win after dropping the first game of the best-of-Five series against Columbus. The defending International League Champions will now face the Pawtucket Red Sox for the second straight season in the Governors’ Cup Final.

Starter Nathan Karns tied a Bulls Triple-A postseason record by striking out 12 batters over seven innings, matching Jeremy Hellickson’s dozen punchouts against Louisville on September 9, 2009. Karns allowed just three hits and walked one, leaving with a 2-1 lead.

Karns’ performance resulted in a no-decision when reliever Merrill Kelly allowed a leadoff double to Matt Carson in the eighth. Carson advanced on a groundout and scored on Luke Carlin’s sacrifice fly to make it a 2-2 ballgame.

The Bulls took back the lead in the bottom of the eighth though, as Cole Figueroa led off with a single, stole second, and scored on Jeremy Moore’s double down the right field line. Vince Belnome then plated Moore with a double off the top of the Blue Monster for an insurance run, extending the Durham lead to 4-2.

Durham got their leadoff runner on by walk in both the fifth and sixth innings and managed to bring both around to score. Tim Beckham got a free pass in the fifth and scored on Nick Franklin’s double. An inning later, Figueroa walked, moved to second on Mikie Mahtook’s grounder, and scored on Moore’s single.

Kelly (1-0) finished the game to earn the win, while right-hander J.C. Ramirez (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing two runs to score in the bottom of the eighth.

The Governors’ Cup Final berth marks Durham’s sixth championship appearance since manager Charlie Montoyo took over the squad in 2007. The Bulls seek their third Governors’ Cup crown in that span, and fifth since 2002, after joining the International League in 1998.

The best-of-five Governors’ Cup Championship Round begins in Pawtucket, with Game One on Tuesday night and Game Two following on Wednesday night. The series shifts to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for Game Three on Thursday night, with Games Four and Five (if necessary) on Friday and Saturday.

- News release

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Bulls edge Clippers for 2-1 series lead

durhambullslogoFor the second straight night the Durham Bulls edged the Columbus Clippers by a run, taking Game Three of the best-of-Five set 3-2 Friday night at the DBAP to move to within one game of the Governors’ Cup Finals.

It was the second straight win for the Bulls after dropping the opening game in Columbus Wednesday evening, and the win gives Durham a 2-1 series lead.

The Bulls scored two quick runs in the first inning, as Justin Christian lined a leadoff double into the left field corner. Jeremy Moore singled him home, and later scored on a double off the center field wall by Tim Beckham for a 2-0 lead.

In the second inning second baseman Nick Franklin extended Durham’s lead, hitting the inning’s first pitch into the right field stands for a solo home run and a three-run Bulls advantage.

Bulls’ starter Matt Andriese appeared to have things well in hand, striking out seven and allowing just one run through his first four innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth frame though, as former Bull Elliot Johnson led off with a homer to center, and Ryan Rohlinger followed with a solo blast to right, cutting the Bulls’ lead to one.

Left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser struck out three in two innings of relief, stranding the tying run at third in the seventh inning. Josh Lueke stranded the tying run at second an inning later, and Adam Liberatore earned his second save in as many nights with a scoreless ninth.

Andriese (1-0) earned the victory, allowing just the two solo homers over five innings while striking out eight. Shaun Marcum (0-1) took the loss, surrendering three runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings.

Offensively for the Bulls, Christian finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk, while Beckham contributed a 2-for-4 night with an RBI.

Durham aims to take the series Saturday afternoon when it sends RHP Nathan Karns (9-9, 5.08) to the hill opposite LHP Nick Maronde (0-0, 0.00) for Columbus. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.

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Durham Bulls even playoff series with improbable win

Mike Fontenot.

Mike Fontenot.

The Durham Bulls were routed in the first game of the series at Columbus and trailed the entire time in Game 2 going into the ninth. The Clippers were 65-0 heading to the ninth inning during the regular season. But the defending champion Bulls found a way to scrap a tying run in the ninth and then scored in the 10th to win 4-3 to even the league playoff series 1-1.

The Bulls return home for Game 3 Friday. Game 4 will be at 1:05 Saturday.

With one out in the ninth, trailing 3-2, Durham’s Vince Belnome walked and moved to second on a single by Nick Franklin. Veteran Mike Fontenot singled in the tying run to force extra innings.

Durham’s Cole Figueroa doubled and moved on to third on an outfield error to lead off the 10th. Tim Beckham plated the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

Bulls’ closer Adam Liberatore got the Clippers in order to finish it up.

Right-hander Josh Lueke picked up the victory in relief, tossing two perfect innings while striking out two. Lueke, Liberatore and Merrill Kelly combined for five innings of scoreless baseball out of the bullpen, allowing just one hit and striking out four. Tyler Sturdevant (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing the winning run to score in the 10th inning.

The Bulls send RHP Matt Andriese (11-8, 3.77) to the mound against rehabbing RHP Shaun Marcum (1-0, 2.35) for Columbus. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.