In my recap from the game against Georgia Tech I said the one thing that UNC Football could not do is dwell on that game and turn one loss into a second one. It seems that the Tar Heels followed that advice as North Carolina (7-4 ~ 4-3 in the ACC) defeated Virginia (4-7 ~ 2-5 in the ACC) by the score of 37 to 13, in what is considered the oldest rivalry in the South. And while the offense was what got Carolina the win, it was a goal line stand by the defense to turn a tight game into a somewhat easy victory.
“Don’t let Georgia Tech best us twice,” defensive lineman Sylvester Williams said he told his defensive teammates, referring to last week’s 68-50 home loss to the Yellow Jackets on homecoming. “We never lost pride because at the end of the day, when you’re a good football team, you’ve got to build off the losses. Sixty-eight points? That was embarrassing, but we built off of it.”
I guess for a team like North Carolina, who can not go to the post season, playing in a rivalry game, becoming spoilers by taking away any chance for Virginia to go to a bowl can be somewhat sweet.
While this season’s theme as been, no pun intended, “UNC will go as far as red shirt sophomore tail back Giovani Bernard will carry them”, in this one the Heels were lead by their quarterbac Bryn Renner, who went 29 of 36 for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even more interesting, having watched all the games in this campaign, this game could have easily have been the best offensive execution for head coach Larry Fedora’s team. And it was done without one of the top performers, as tight end Eric Ebron Ebron (37 catches for a team high 568 yds and 3 TDs) did not make the trip to Charlottesville, Va.
“I guess we answered the question of whether those guys can bounce back or not,” head coach Larry Fedora said.
Freshman Quinshad Davis, who tied an Carolina record with 16 catches for 178 yds (10 receptions for 130 yards in the first half), more than made up for what Ebron could have given to the Heels’ offense, while another three receivers, including Bernard, had another 14 catches for 141 and three scores. On the ground the tail back had a mediocre day, running for 57 yards in all. And the reliable punt returner also fumbled once, which led to a field goal for the Cavaliers.
Without a doubt UVa’s game plan was to storm the line and keep the 1,000 yard rusher from beating them. On the other hand, what they did not plan for, was that Renner could pick them apart through the air, and that they would have no answer for Davis. This was the fifth game this season and third in a row that the gunslinger threw for over 300 yards. Thanks in great part to Renner the Heels were the first team to out gain the Cavs in the last seven games.
On the defensive side there were still the same head scratching plays where either someone is left wide open, tackles that should have been made but aren’t or other miscues that should not be happening on the second to last game of the season. However, a pick six by Tre Boston, the 15th interception this season by the Heels, in the first half to put the Heels up 20 to 10. Then the aforementioned goal line stand kept UVa from tieing the game at 20. From there UNC drove 97 yards and put the game away. To be added, North Carolina also go four sacks and were on both of the opposing quarterbacks on most every play.
I have to say that while without a doubt this was Carolina’s game, and they won it through a lot of good plays, Virginia did not help itself with a several bad plays. Like a kickoff return that would have put the Cavs over midfield was brought back because of a hold, a pass to a wide open wide out that was behind all of UNC’s secondary was dropped and a bad punt to give UNC great field position while already having great momentum. All of these plays were in the first drive by the Cavs after Carolina held on the goal line stand and then drove 97 yards for a touchdown.
Carolina is now 7 and 4 in the first season under the Fedora era. The squad will now get ready for their last game of the year, a home finale against Maryland in two Saturdays. If the Heels are able to get a win in the last game of the 2012 campaign they will finish with a very respectable 8-4 record, making this season more of a positive than a negative and definitely being able to build from it in years to come.
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