Sophomore Cedric Benson ran for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns
and Chris Simms passed for 298 yards and four touchdowns as the Longhorns
held off a pesky UNC team before pulling away late, 52-21, before a sellout
crowd of 60,500 at Kenan Stadium.
"He's powerful," UNC defensive end Will Chapman said about Benson.
"He hits the hole hard and keeps running. He keeps his legs churning and
he's tough to bring down."
Fifty-seven months after accepting Texas' offer to become its new football
coach, Brown returned to a place he once thought he'd never leave.
UNC fans had been waiting for the opportunity to let their ex-coach know how
so many of them still feel. UNC supporters dreamed of an upset, as Brown's teams
have stumbled in similar settings before. But despite their boos upon his entrance
into the stadium, Brown and his team put an exclamation mark on this "Controversy."
"I am really proud that North Carolina football is in John Bunting's hands
and moving forward," said Brown, whose record a UNC was 69-46-1 from 1988-97.
"We had better
players, our guys hung in there, and we had more depth.
"I am proud to be part of the two biggest crowds in school history,"
continued Brown, whose team's output was more than any UNC opponent ever in
Chapel Hill. "I was just on the wrong side of one of them."
Last year in Austin, the Tar Heels fell to Texas 44-14 mainly due to turnovers
and poor special teams play.
Although Texas (2-0) dominated the first 29 minutes, Carolina managed to stick
around and give its fans hope.
After scoring on Darian Durant's 27-yard scamper right before intermission,
the Heels took the opening kickoff of the second half and moved to the Longhorns'
26 before a false start penalty and Durant interception into the end zone stalled
UNC (1-2) held Texas and quickly got the ball back on its 34. Derrele Mitchell
hauled in a 48-yard pass, and a 25-yard dash by Durant gave the Heels first-and-goal
at the Texas six. Jacque Lewis bowled over right guard to the goal line but
fumbled into the end zone. Texas' Rod Babers couldn't handle the ball and UNC
center Jason Brown fell on it for the touchdown, cutting the margin to 24-14
with 4:08 left in the quarter.
"We fought hard all night and went at them
with everything we had," said Lewis, who carried the ball 20 times for
84 yards. "We knew that we could move the ball and we weren't discouraged
when we got down 24-0."
A face-masking penalty on the ensuing kickoff allowed the 'Horns to start at
UNC's 45. Two plays later Simms found tight end Chad Stevens for a 10-yard TD
pass, and the Longhorns were up 31-14 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
But Carolina remained gritty, as the Heels responded when Durant found Sam
Aiken near the corner of the end zone on a gorgeous fade, cutting the margin
to 31-21 with 14:55 left.
But, like championship caliber teams often do, Texas responded with a game-clinching
score. After four Benson runs moved the 'Horns to the 42, Simms found All-American
Roy Williams with a relatively short soft pass near the sideline, and Williams
shook off Waddell and waltzed most of his 58 yards into the end zone to essentially
put the game out of reach, 38-21 with 12:15 left to play.
"We had several missed tackles and we're a young defense, we are going
to take chances and try to make plays against the No. 2 team in the country,"
Bunting said, clearly bothered by the number of times UNC defenders did not
wrap up Longhorns. "Sometimes we did things well and some other times we
were obviously not at the right place. The missed tackles are what really hurt
us, especially in the second half."
The Longhorns tacked on a pair of late scores for the final, somewhat deceiving
"We were never really out of this game," said Durant, who completed
12 of 23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. "They had a 10-point lead
with 10 minutes to go in the game, you can't ask for a better situation than
After the Longhorns scored on their first possession to take a 3-0 lead, they
stopped the Heels on three downs and quickly darted up the field on four plays,
scoring on a 35-yard pass from Simms to Ivan Williams - his only reception -
to take a 10-0 lead with 6:49 left in the quarter.
UNC followed with a 48-yard drive - all but three yards on the ground - taking
five minutes off clock, giving the defense a needed rest. But Durant was sacked
for 8-yard loss on third and 10, forcing the Heels to turn to place kicker Dan
Orner. However, Orner, who made three kicks of 50 or more yards a week ago,
missed the 49-yard attempt as the ball clanked off the right uprights.
Texas then marched 68 yards on eight plays, mostly on runs by Benson, who carried
the call seven times for 47 yards on the drive, including his 4-yard TD run
to put the Longhorns up 17-0 with 13:42 left in half.
Two possessions later Texas scored again, this time on the brilliance of wide
receiver Williams, who hauled in a 35-yard pass from Simms to set up his 6-yard
scoring reception. And it appeared the rout was on, as Brown's club led 24-0
with 6:02 left in the half.
"I was in great position," said Michael Waddell, who was assigned
to Williams all night. "We both were competing for the ball, but he came
down with it. He made the big play when he was supposed to."
The Tar Heels hurt themselves on several positive possessions. Carolina moved
to Texas' 32, but Durant was intercepted in the end zone by Dakarai Pearson.
"For sure (we missed opportunities)," Durant said. "Turnovers
hurt, but they especially hurt when you are down in the red zone. I just have
to stop trying so hard and let the game come to me."
The Tar Heels, however, got on the scoreboard just before halftime, going 74
yards on just four plays.
While the final score may be a bit misleading, the total numbers aren't.
Texas had 569 total yards - 271 of which came on the ground.
For Bunting, there are positives. But this team clearly has plenty to work on.
"We hung with those guys," Bunting said. "That game could have
been a tied ballgame at halftime. In the third quarter, we were moving the ball
well. We just could not, after scoring, stop them."
And for Brown, it was probably a sweet victory. But he won't say so. And at
this point, that is probably best.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina.
He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington
and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.