CHAPEL HILL -- Josh Brown's 12-yard touchdown scamper around left end on third-and-nine
was all anyone had to see to get the gist of the final 25 minutes of N.C. State's
performance against North Carolina.
Brown - who ran for all of his 88 yards in the second half - and the Wolfpack
simply took advantage of what the Tar Heels gave them. And they wisely stayed
on the ground for 29 of 34 plays in the final two quarters and walked away with
a 34-17 victory before a sellout crowd of 60,250 at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
"It was a disappointing loss," said UNC coach John Bunting, whose
team is now 0-4 at home this year. "The entire team is extremely disappointed
because they realize the opportunity that they had to beat a team here at home
in front of our fans that was undefeated and shock the world. We didn't do it."
It was really pretty simple. The No. 14 Wolfpack (7-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference)
weren't getting the production through the air they expected. Although they
had success, the 'Pack still trailed 17-7 five minutes into the third quarter.
After the Tar Heels scored on James Faison's 5-yard TD reception with 10:04
left in the third quarter, State decided to go almost strictly to the running
NCSU went to true freshman workhorse T.A. McLendon for consecutive runs of
13, 4, 9, and 38 yards before Philip Rivers scored on a 1-yard plunge two plays
later to cut the margin to 17-13. The extra point was blocked by UNC's Michael
Waddell, which appeared to shift momentum right back to the Tar Heels (2-4,
But on Carolina's next play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Darian Durant
dropped back to pass. Under heavy pressure - a constant in the second half -
Durant ran backwards at an angle, hoping to find a corner to turn. Yet with
the ball in one hand, he was tripped by State's Terrance Martin and fumbled
the ball and Wolfpack linebacker Dantonio Burnette fell on it on UNC's four.
One play later McLendon went around right end untouched for another touchdown,
giving State a 20-17 lead with 7:03 left in the quarter.
"It was devastating," Durant said about the fumble, and what it led
to. "It's one thing to fumble in their territory. It's another thing to
fumble in ours. And then to fumble inside the red zone is really bad.
"I'm not surprised by what happened," Durant continued. "The
ball was wet out there all day because of perspiration. It just slipped out
of my hand."
The Wolfpack tacked on another score after chewing up 46 yards on the ground
and 28 through the air on a drive that salted the game away at its final margin
with 4:33 left in the contest.
But the story of this game was State's physical dominance in the second half.
After UNC scored on its opening drive after intermission, the Tar Heels were
held to just 43 total yards the rest of the way. On the other hand, the Wolfpack
had 220 yards, with 165 coming on the ground.
"We did a fine job in the first half," Bunting said about handling
State's ground attack. "We were getting a lot of hats to the football.
McLendon, who is a tough runner, was getting hit by one, two and then three
guys. In the second half, particularly with the perimeter run, we just did not
get enough people there."
The sensational McLendon, who ran for 164 yards on just 22 carries - an average
of 7.5 per attempt - with two scores, made it look easy on nearly every carry.
He had ten runs of at least five yards, including gainers of 21, 11, 15, 16,
13, 9, and 38 yards. As for Brown, he also had ten runs of at least five or
more yards, which included dashes for 14, 9, 8, 8, 9, and 12 yards.
It was State's power that wore down and wore out the youthful Heels.
"They were able to run the ball on us," cornerback Kevin Knight said
about the Wolfpack. "We are pretty disappointed in ourselves. You have
to stop the run in this game, and we didn't stop the run in the second half."
"As a defense we need to step up to the challenge and we didn't do that
as well as we wanted in the second half," said freshman linebacker Doug
The Wolfpack struck first, driving 80 yards on a variety of misdirection and
straight-ahead plays to open the game, and scored on its 11th play of the drive
on a 5-yard McLendon run for a 7-0 lead 3:55 into the contest.
The Tar Heels cut the margin to 7-3 on Dan Orner's 29-yard field goal with
14:44 left in the first half after a 16-play, 86-yard drive. UNC's possession
included an end around, a shovel pass, and some amazing individual efforts by
Jawarski Pollock on a leaping reception and by Durant on a 10-yard scramble.
A charged up UNC defense then stopped State's suddenly stagnate offense three-and-out,
and the surprisingly imaginative Heels proceeded to drive 50 yards for a go-ahead
touchdown - a 22-yard pass from Durant to tight end Bobby Blizzard - for a 10-7
lead 10:12 left before intermission.
UNC appeared in control of the game after it opened the second half with an
exciting 78-yard scoring drive to go up 17-7 with 10:02 left in the third period.
The march was highlighted by a 21-yard reception by Zach Hilton, another leaping
grab by Pollock for 18 yards, and a tough 13-yard reception by freshman Derrelle
Mitchell over the middle.
But State then put on its hard hats and went to work.
"We have half a season left and it is our job as coaches to get this team
ready to play and see if we can correct those errors," Bunting said. "There
were assignment errors, tackling errors and again. I am really surprised, we
really were tackling well in the first half and making a lot of plays. We stopped
them on third down and we didn't do it in the second half."
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.