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A flock of flunking grades for Triangle college coaches in Week 1

September 4, 2017 GMT

The season’s first round of football coaching grades for area schools North Carolina, NC State, Duke and East Carolina are in and the good news is there’s room for a world of improvement for almost everyone in the room. Ron Rivera of the NFL Carolina Panthers will join the roll-call next week.

Dave Doeren, NCSU, F: If not for the very first play of the season, this would have been a “D” or maybe even a “C” for the Wolfpack coach. But when South Carolina ignited its 35-28 win in Charlotte with a virtually uncontested 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Deebo Samuel, the game tone was set for entire afternoon.

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State quarterback Ryan Finley took a physical pounding but threw for 415 yards. It should be easier for the offensive line to protect the pocket in upcoming games against Marshall and Furman, but Finley can’t become target practice fodder.

Larry Fedora, UNC, F: It was an ugly, dreadful opener for the Tar Heel defense, which got completely picked apart by Ross Bowers in a 35-30 California win at Chapel Hill.

But worse, the turning point was a senseless late hit to Bowers’ helmet by defensive tackle Jalen Dalton with Carolina up 17-7 in the second half. Dalton got ejected. Bowers and his offense came to life, and Fedora’s sixth season opened with a stinging home loss to an 11-point underdog.

If nothing else, Fedora and his staff should have no problem instilling more incentive and focus for this week’s arrival of Louisville and Lamar Jackson.

Scottie Montgomery, ECU, F: It’s a 4-alarm dumpster fire in Greenville. The Pirate offense was awful and the defense even worse in a 34-14 loss to FCS visitor James Madison.

JMU running back Cardon Johnson rushed for 265 yards compared to 70 yards for the game by ECU runners. Meanwhile, Pirate quarterbacks Thomas Sirk and Gardner Minshew combined to throw three interceptions. At this rate, it may be only a matter of days before ECU fans reflect on last season’s 3-9 record as the good ol’ days.

David Cutcliffe, Duke, A: The 60-7 win over North Carolina Central was basically a warm-up game for this week’s game in Wallace Wade Stadium against Northwestern.

Quarterback Daniel Jones was sharp, and the ground game plenty productive behind Brittain Brown and Shaun Wilson. The defense will get a much tougher test from Northwestern, which opened with a 31-20 win over Nevada.

Cheers: James Madison wasn’t the only FCS team to make some opening week noise. Howard won at Nevada-Las Vegas and Liberty downed Baylor, both with offensive explosions …

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Missouri State, another FCS member, didn’t upset Missouri but fans got their money’s worth in a 72-43 win by the Tigers that featured almost 900 yards of combined passing …

Arkansas State scared Nebraska in a 43-36 loss, but it was still a winning day for Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson, formerly offensive chief at UNC. Anderson spent much of game week in a hospital with his wife, Wendy, who underwent successful cancer surgery on Tuesday.

Jeers: There will be no honeymoon for Tom Herman in his first season at Texas. Maryland’s 51-41 win put a quick end to that possibility. It was the most impressive opener for the Terps since they left the ACC for the Big Ten in 2009 …

The ACC took on a new twist when Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 24-7 loss to Alabama in Atlanta. Freshman James Blackman is expected to take over this week against Louisiana-Monroe. But without Francois, the probable league favorite and Atlantic Division favorite becomes Clemson. Almost as disappointing for Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was his offense’s inability to establish a ground game against the Tide defense.

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