Hood hop­ing to fin­ish strong ver­sus Duke

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Aron Beard

DURHAM, N.C. >> Eli­jah Hood is fo­cused on fin­ish­ing strong for No. 15 North Carolina.

The ju­nior has two straight 100-yard rush­ing per­for­mances en­ter­ing Thurs­day night’s ri­valry game at Duke, a sign he is healthy af­ter miss­ing a game due to an ap­par­ent con­cus­sion that had fol­lowed a slower-than-ex­pected start to the sea­son.

“It’s good to see him run­ning like the (No.) 34 we know,” quar­ter­back Mitch Tru­bisky said.

Hood was the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence’s No. 3 rusher last year with 1,463 yards and 17 touch­downs for the Tar Heels (7-2, 5-1 ACC), av­er­ag­ing 104.5 yards per game. He is a phys­i­cal run­ner un­afraid of con­tact. But he got off to a slow start by av­er­ag­ing 61.5 yards through his first six ap­pear­ances, and also sat out UNC’s 34-3 loss to Vir­ginia Tech played in the driv­ing rain of Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

Af­ter a quiet re­turn against Mi­ami, Hood broke out for 107 yards and a score at Vir­ginia, then ran for a sea­son-high 168 yards and three touch­downs last week against Ge­or­gia Tech.

“I feel more ex­plo­sive I think, just quicker, so that def­i­nitely helps when you try to run the ball,” Hood said. “I felt like I hit the holes a lot quicker this week. When­ever I try to get my mo­men­tum mov­ing that much faster, I’m able to get more yards just per carry.”

The Tar Heels are try­ing to stay with the Hok­ies atop the league’s Coastal Di­vi­sion, though they need Vir­ginia Tech to lose once to be back in con­trol of their own des­tiny.

The Blue Dev­ils (3-6, 0-5) are flirt­ing with their first win­less sea­son in ACC play since 2007 af­ter win­ning at least six games in four straight bowl sea­sons. The past two losses have both come by three points, in­clud­ing last week­end’s 24-21 loss to the Hok­ies that in­cluded hav­ing a blocked field goal re­turned for a touch­down.

“We are 3-6 for a rea­son, you have to look at why,” Duke coach David Cut­cliffe said. “But you don’t whine or you don’t com­plain. You just pick the things to work on. You pick the things you be­lieve are go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.”

Vic­tory Bell

The win­ner gets the Vic­tory Bell, though there was nearly a break with the tra­di­tion of the win­ner spray­paint­ing its shade of blue on the bell’s cart. UNC ath­letic di­rec­tor Bubba Cun­ning­ham said ear­lier this week he con­ferred with Duke AD Kevin White be­fore putting a per­ma­nent de­sign that split the cart with both team’s col­ors and lo­gos. But Cun­ning­ham re­versed him­self af­ter fan out­cry, say­ing in a state­ment from the school Wed­nes­day that paint­ing would go on as usual for the win­ning team. Af­ter the last game in Durham in 2014, UNC had to pay for about $27,000 in paint-re­lated dam­ages to the vis­it­ing locker room and prac­tice field from its cel­e­bra­tion.

Wil­son’s Sta­tus

Shaun Wil­son, Duke’s No. 2 rusher, is prob­a­ble with what the school called an up­per-body in­jury. He took a hel­met-to-hel­met hit against Vir­ginia Tech that led to a tar­get­ing call against a de­fender, though Cut­cliffe said after­ward he had no con­cus­sion­re­lated symp­toms. Wil­son has run for 449 yards and three touch­downs.

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