UNC Beat: Tar Heels Pressure ECU Into Submission

You know that Citi commercial that was played into oblivion last winter? The one with the rock climber? Okay, if that doesn’t ring a bell, the song in it will.


If somebody had broken into an impromptu a capella rendition of that song (“Into The Wild,” by LP, if you wanted to know) during the second half of North Carolina’s game against East Carolina on Saturday, it would have been completely acceptable, because somebody left the gate open on the Pirates’ offensive line.

The Tar Heels held a slim 10-6 lead over East Carolina at halftime, as Casey Barth had an uncharacteristic miss on a 34-yard field goal just before the half.

North Carolina opened the third quarter with a three-and-out that featured two incomplete passes and a negative-yardage run for Giovani Bernard.  This gave East Carolina the ball with a chance to make a statement, as a touchdown would give them the lead.  Instead, Jabari Price sacked Shane Carden on 3rd and 9.

The Tar Heels only needed one play to score on their next drive, a 62-yard pass from Bryn Renner to Sean Tapley.  From there, the defensive pressure only continued.  On ECU’s next possession, Carden was flushed from the pocket by Kareem Martin on second down before throwing a ball out of bounds.  On third down, Kevin Reddick jarred the ball away from Carden on a sack, giving the ball to North Carolina on the Pirate 15-yard-line when Martin recovered the fumble.  Again, North Carolina scored, putting them ahead 24-6.

East Carolina held possession three more times over the remainder of the game.  During that time, Carden was sacked four times (not including a Shakeel Rashad sack erased by a facemask), and two other plays involving Tar Heels disrupting Carden.  At the time, it seemed like a lot more.  I imagine Shane Carden would concur.

It is this kind of defensive pressure that was absent in the first half against Louisville. In that contest, all three of North Carolina’s sacks came in the second half, just as six of UNC’s seven sacks were in the second half Saturday.  The Tar Heels had only one sack against Wake Forest.

It’s not exactly a surprise that, to this point in the young season, there is a correlation between sacking opposing quarterbacks and playing well.  That said, it should be interesting to keep an eye on as the season progresses.  Will the defense continue to play better in the second half of games?  Are the Tar Heels doomed if they can’t get to opposing quarterbacks?  Stay tuned.

THEY’RE NOT BOOING, THEY’RE …:  I posed this question on Twitter during the game Saturday, but I didn’t get a satisfactory response: How long until UNC fans respond to Quinshad Davis receptions with a long, drawn-out “Q?”

Davis, a true freshman from Gaffney, South Carolina, has seen plenty of action this season. While he hasn’t found the end zone yet, he has 11 receptions for 121 yards.  His first career reception was a juggling act along the sideline against Elon to prevent an interception, and five of the other ten came Saturday against East Carolina.

So, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a fan favorite.  And I’m not saying fans are unoriginal, but we’ve seen this movie before across both basketball and football. Quentin Thomas was “Q,” especially after a senior season that saw him thrust into the starting point guard role after injuries to Ty Lawson and Bobby Frasor.  Bruce Carter was “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce,” a cheer that accompanied both Carter tackles and often came from the crowd before opposing punts after Carter had a three-block game against Connecticut in 2008.  Larry Drew was “Drewwwww.” Okay, maybe he really was getting booed.  Currently, A.J. Blue touches are serenaded with “Bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue.”

So, it’s only a matter of time before Quinshad gets the “ooooooh” treatment, right? What will be required to get folks in Kenan to offer it first? Maybe it will be his first career touchdown.  Perhaps he will have to wait until he is a more consistent component of the offense (which may not be a long wait at all).  Maybe fans are just waiting for Blue to graduate to avoid confusion.

Mark my words, though: It will happen. And it will be beeauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful.


First Star – Kevin Reddick: Reddick led the way for the Tar Heel defense against ECU.  He finished with nine tackles, including his forced fumble on the sack in the third quarter that set up the touchdown that gave UNC a 24-6 lead.

Second Star – Bryn Renner: After leading the comeback effort last week against Louisville, Renner came back with another strong outing against the Pirates, passing for 321 yards and two scores.

Third Star – Giovani Bernard: In Gio’s first game back from The Knee Injury Not Discussed Around The World against Elon, he showed no signs of slowing down.  He didn’t have nearly as many yards as he did against the Phoenix, but he scored two touchdowns, rushing for one and receiving another.  The 50 yards rushing on 18 carries may have been slightly concerning, but Bernard still made plays in the passing game, getting six catches for 52 yards.

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