Observations From the Game: Shrine Bowl

Pack Pride recaps North Carolina's 26-19 win over South Carolina in the 75th annual Shrine Bowl. Wolfpack commitments K'Hadree Hooker, James Summers, and M.J. Salahuddin participated for North Carolina.

North Carolina erased a 13-6 halftime deficit with a 20-0 run and beat South Carolina 26-19 in the 75th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. Pack Pride was on hand for the game and breaks down the highs and lows from the Tar Heels big win.

In A Nutshell

All-Star games almost always boil down to which team makes the fewest mistakes but Saturday was a little different. South Carolina did throw an interception and failed on a crucial fake punt but for the most part, it was the Sandlapper's inability to stop the run that helped North Carolina to an impressive come from behind win. The Tar Heels used ball control and a stingy second half defense to take over the game and rebound from last year's loss to South Carolina.

Something that worked

Todd Gurley...It took awhile for the North Carolina coaches but they finally figured out their best offensive option was simply to line Gurley up in the wildcat and turn him loose. He certainly didn't disappoint, either. While he may not have the look of a prototypical running back, Gurley is deceptively strong, has very good balance and the speed to run away from the defense. He finished the day with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. However, it was in the second half where he did his best work. He gained 98 yards in the second half and with North Carolina holding onto a 26-19 lead, carried the ball six straight times to run out the clock and secure the win.

Something that didn't

QB rotation...it seems to be an annual event at the Shrine Bowl where one of the coaching staffs tries to be inventive. Most years the ingenuity ends up not working. That was the case with the Tar Heels decision to rotate quarterbacks on nearly every play. The NC squad alternated between James Summers, Michael Helms, Kwashaun Quick at QB and mixed that in with the wildcat. As a result, none of the QB's ever got into a rhythm and it wasn't until the second half when the Tar Heels went almost exclusively to the wildcat that they found consistent success on offense.

Turning point in the game

With the score knotted 13-13, South Carolina had moved to midfield. Facing a fourth and three, the South Carolina coaches decided to attempt a fake punt. The Tar Heels were not fooled however and NC State commit M.J. Salahuddin made a huge tackle that stopped the play for an eight yard loss. NC would respond with a touchdown and never looked back.

Player of the game

Todd Gurley...Some may have questioned the talent level Gurley faced playing for 2A Tarboro but those doubts were put to rest on Saturday. Gurley is big time and proved he could be successful against big time division one players. He may not be the smoothest running back around but his physical gifts are as good as anyone's in the state.

Biggest surprise of the game

Jela Duncan...Duncan certainly wasn't an unknown. We talked about how much he impressed us last spring at a Shrine Bowl combine. On Saturday he absolutely convinced us that he belongs on the division one level. There's no doubt that if he had received the same number of carries as Todd Gurley, he very well would have put up bigger numbers. As it was, Duncan totaled 112 yards on just seven carries including the day's best run of 76 yards that gave the Tar Heels their final score of the day. Duncan may not have great size but pound for pound, was the toughest guy on the field. He has an impressive burst, plays extremely physical and is going to be a steal for some college program.

Five players that impressed

Here's five players (not already mentioned) that impressed us

Shaq Roland- proved why he was deserving of being named Mr Football in South Carolina. Roland is a big time athlete and finished up with eight catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

Bradley Pinion- we admit that he struggled with place kicking but that's irrelevant since he'll only be punting when he gets to Clemson. Pinion was a huge weapon for Nouth Carolina all day- averaging 38.5 yards per punt with a long of 45 while putting three of his kicks inside the 20.

Kwinton Smith- this is a guy State tried to land and we now know why. Like Roland he is a nice sized target that showed very good concentration and ball skills. He finished up with eight catches for 67 yards.

Carlos Watkins- size-wise he's likely to be a defensive tackle once he gets to Clemson but he tore it up at defensive end on Saturday. He manhandled the Sandlapper offensive line and tallied six tackles and four tackles for loss.

Caleb Rowe- Rowe was a sleeper on the recruiting trail and wasted no time committing to Maryland after landing a summer-time offer from the Terps. He proved his worth on Saturday by completing 16 of 26 passes for 120 yards and rushed five times for an additional 21 yards. He doesn't have a huge arm but it's adequate and we like his mobility. Rowe won't be an instant star when he gets to Maryland but will be one to watch down the road.

NC State's commitments

Here's a breakdown of NC State's commitments and how they fared in the game

James Summers- we saw all we needed to see in the state championship game to know Summers is a major D-1 talent. On Saturday he struggled with North Carolina's decision to juggle the QB's. His best pass was probably his first throw which was a rope on an out pattern. He also had a very nice 13 yard run down to the SC one yard line that set up the Tar Heels' second touchdown. You really couldn't take away much from this game because Summers wasn't utilized enough to draw much of a conclusion either way.

M.J. Salahuddin- Salahuddin was a late addition to NC's roster and he told us afterwards that he felt he had something to prove. He responded nicely, tying for second on the team in tackles with six, including an eight yard tackle for loss on a fake punt and a big stop on a two point conversion attempt. Salahuddin is undersized currently and got pushed around a bit. He was playing a position that was unfamiliar to him and it showed at times as he would tend to run himself out of plays. However, Salahuddin has a ton of upside, very good quickness and the frame to easily add 20 pounds. He knows how to make plays and with time, will prove to be a nice pickup for the Pack.

K'Hadree Hooker- The stats may not back it up but Hooker was the guy I came away most impressed with. He's clearly in the mold of current Wolfpack players T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal. The difference is that he will bring a little more quickness to the position. Hooker has incredibly quick feet for a player at 285 pounds. He did his job and occupied the interior of the SC offensive line all day which freed up Jonathan Bullard and Carlos Watkins to tally two sacks and six tackles for loss. We wouldn't be surprised at all if Hooker ends up on the field very early in his career at NC State.

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