Saturday, October 2, 2010

UNC's four unanswered second-half touchdowns rip ECU

North Carolina scored four touchdowns in the second half after falling behind 17-14 to defeat East Carolina 42-17.

The Tar Heels struggled in the first half with missed opportunities and penalties. Twice quarterback T.J. Yates overthrew open receivers who had beaten the ECU secondary for what would have been touchdowns. A roughing the kicker call on UNC's Bruce Carter negated excellent field position in ECU territory and restarted a Pirate drive that ended in a touchdown to make it 14-7 ECU.

But the Tar Heels managed to tie the score at 14-14 late in the first half when UNC's Da'Norris Searcy intercepted a pass and went in from 47 yards out. Searcy, who had been scrutinized under the recent investigations, was cleared to play for the first time earlier in the week.

In the second half, the Tar Heels started to wear down the smaller Pirates, especially with rushing yardage. Carolina held the ball for 22 of the 30 second-half minutes and scored on three straight possessions after UNC's Casey Barth missed a 37-yard field goal. The Heels went from being behind 17-14 to going up 35-17.

Shaun Draughn scored his third touchdown of the game on a 13-yard cutback run in the last minute to put the finishing touches on the 42-17 victory.

Draughn ended the game with 137 yards rushing while Johnny White bettered him with 140 yards. It's the first time in six years that two Carolina runningbacks have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game.

East Carolina got up early - on its second drive - as Dominique Davis threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lance Lewis to culminate a long drive where Davis went eight-for-eight.

UNC came right back to tie the score on its next drive when Yates hit Jheranie Boyd with a 25-yard scoring strike on third-and-10.

ECU went up 14-7 on a trick play where receiver Dwayne Harris threw a 40-yard TD to fellow receiver Joe Womack.

Searcy's interception tied it at the half before State took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. Carolina took the lead for the first time at 21-17 when Yates found Dwight Jones running a crossing pattern for 13 yards and a touchdown. The big play in the drive was a 32-yard pass play from Yates to Zach Pianalto.

Three rushing touchdowns later by Draughn, the game was over.

"If you can run the ball," UNC coach Butch Davis said, "it keeps the other team's offense off the field and tires the other team out."

Davis also said it was key that the Tar Heels did not turn the ball over and picked off three passes. In addition to Searcy's key interception, UNC's Kevin Reddick and Gene Robinson intercepted tipped passes.

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill, aka Weebles, agreed that the turnovers were costly. But he said that other mistakes also hurt the Pirates. "Penalties hurt us - that's an understatement - and it put us in some tough situations," he said. The Pirates were penalized 13 times for more than 100 yards whereas the Heels were penalized 10 times for 80 yards.

As Carolina was steamrolling in the second half, the adversity built but McNeill said he needs to teach the team to just play the next play. He said the team is "young and talented and they're going to make some mistakes."

East Carolina finished with a respectable 347 total yards but that's 100 fewer than the Pirates have averaged plus they only managed 64 on the ground. Carolina racked up 444 total yards with 263 on the ground and 181 through the air.

UNC improves to 2-2 while ECU falls to 2-2.

Random Thoughts: East Carolina was every bit as good as UNC until the Pirates wore down. Coach McNeill has done an excellent job of getting his offense to buy into his passing, quick-playing offense. The defense is simply too small and inexperienced to help the offense much at this point though. McNeill has the Pirates playing better than I thought they would at this point in the season. While they are 0-2 against ACC teams, they are 2-0 in their own conference and will be a force.

Durham Bulls play-by-play announcer Neil Solondz did a commendable job as the ESPN3 announcer for the game. He has a good voice and seems to know the two teams fairly well. He did have the "huh?" moment of the game however when he said that an ECU runner had "a negative gain of two yards." That would be a two-yard loss to you and me.

His sidekick, commentator Jay Taylor, wasn't nearly as good. He had too many "duh" moments to mention but the one I liked the most is when he said the ECU defender wouldn't have been called for interference if he had turned around and not touched the receiver. Ah, duh.

It was nice that Time Warner Cable broadcast the ESPN3 game to its viewers in the state. Otherwise, the game would have only been available through online streaming video. Unfortunately, technical difficulties cut the first few minutes of the game.

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