Coming off a bounce back win against East Carolina to pull to a 2-2 record the North Carolina Tar Heels squared off with the Idaho Vandals at Kenan Stadium today. Seeking a winning record for the first time since they started 1-0 on the season in what many expected to be nothing more than a tune up game before the meat of the ACC schedule begins next week against Virginia Tech.
An encouraging sign for Tar Heel fans was the sight of basketball head coach Roy Williams who was in attendance.
The rain was coming down as the Tar Heels and Vandals took the field. The rain didn’t affect the Heels on their first possession of the game as they drove the ball 67 yards on 4 plays in just 1:28 capped off with a 36 yard touchdown pass to Sean Tapley on a nifty flee-flicker. The Heels did not run the football once on the first drive and the wet ball didn’t seem to bother quarterback Bryn Renner at all.
The Heels defense was stout on the next possession, not allowing any offensive yards from Idaho forcing a punt. Head coach Larry Fedora put running back Giovani Bernard back on punt returns again. Bernard started the season as the punt returner and was electric against Elon Phoenix, he did not handle those chores last week against East Carolina, maybe a sign Bernard is all the way back.
AJ Blue took the first two carries of the game, Bernards first offensive touch came as a receiver out of the backfield. Fedora continues to use Blue as the top backup to Bernard despite Romar Morris’ explosiveness. The second TD was a bit unconventional as a quick pass to Eric Ebron was fumbled, Erik Highsmith recovered the ball in the end zone on a heads up play. The play went under review, and the play was confirmed. Carolina went up 14-0 on the 7 play, 51 yard, drive that lasted 2:33.
Kareem Martin recorded the first sack as he and Sylvester Williams provided immediate pressure for Carolina. UNCs game plan early has been to pressure the QB and the defense looked like the aggressive, play making group we’ve seen in the second halves of the last couple contests. Romar Morris came in and blocked his second punt of the season, proving once again, he just needs to be on the field. Quinshad Davis looked a little shaken off after nearly making a spectacular catch in the end zone while drawing a pass interference penalty. On the next play, Bernard took his first carry of the day into the end zone for another Carolina TD putting UNC up 21-0. The scoring drive, 2 plays, 5 yards, in 0:41.
UNCs defense was just as dominating, I literally filled up my drink, came back and Idaho was punting. Pete Mangum got a partial punt block. UNC going with a two back set with Blue and Bernard, Blue fumbled the hand off on the first play of the drive giving Idaho the football. The defense held strong and forced another punt after Tre Boston dropped a third down interception. Idaho finally got off a clean punt, Bernard’s face mask was pulled so hard on the return his neck was spun around and his helmet ripped off, perhaps another sign he shouldn’t be back there (somewhere a broken record is playing).
Maybe the NFL replacement referees were on duty because a block in the back was called against Carolina instead of the face mask penalty. Ebron showed his big play ability again on one of two big gains in the passing game on the drive. Davis caught his first TD pass of his career on a great swim technique down the sidelines for a 35 yard score. The score, 28-0 Carolina on a 3 play, 70 yard drive in 0:53.
The UNC offense did pretty much whatever they wanted in the first quarter, especially in the passing game. On their next drive the Heels finally gave the ball to Romar Morris who promptly proved me right with a big 31 yard run, kid is explosive. The next play the drive was wiped out when Renner threw it up with the rush in his face and the pass was intercepted.
At the end of the 1st quarter, UNC led 28-0 and out gained Idaho 220 yards vs 17 in total offense. Idaho finally got some momentum with a couple big plays on their first possession in the second quarter before a Tre Boston interception. Bernard took a first down carry 68 yards for his second TD of the day on as many carries.
Boston almost came up with another INT on Idahos next offensive play, with 10 mins left in the second quarter, Boston has three broken up passes and an INT. The dropped INTs continued when Jabari Price dropped on two plays later. Idaho finally stopped Carolina front scoring their sixth TD of the game holding them to a 38 yard Casey Barth field goal putting Carolina up 38-0 with 4:51 to go in the first half.
Dion Guy intercepted a pass and took it to the Idaho 14 yard line. Blue took the ball into the end zone four plays later to make the score 45-0 Carolina. Watching the game I kept thinking, how is it only the second quarter?
Score at the Half: UNC 45 Idaho 0
In the second half, Marquis Williams took over for Bryn Renner at QB with UNCs huge lead. His first possession led to the Heels first punt of the day. Renner came back into the game for one snap after Williams lost his helmet on the next series, Williams re-entered the very next play.
Williams is a nice runner and took off often, seems to need work on going through his progressions but is certainly a threat in the open field. Williams nearly gave up a pick six which would have been the first points for Idaho on an attempted screen to Morris put the pick was dropped. The Heels went for it on 4th and 3 at Idaho’s 35 yard line and Quinshad Davis came up with a nice catch and took it to the house for his second TD catch of the day and Williams first TD pass of the season. Carolina extended it’s lead to 52-0.
After another Carolina INT, Williams took a botched snap and still ran the ball into the end zone for another UNC TD putting Carolina up 59-0. And that was the score when the third quarter ended, the only mystery about this game left is will the team surpass the 62-0 opening week score against Elon? And if so by how much.
Yet another INT on the first Idaho possession in the fourth quarter set up another scoring opportunity for UNC to potentially set the all-time scoring record for the Heels. Travis Riley was shaken up after his first carry of the day, looked like his right leg was bent awkwardly in the scrum as he took the ball to the three yard line. Williams took off on the third play of the possession for another Heels TD making the score 66-0 setting an all time scoring record.
Adding insult to injury Idaho fumbled away a snap and Carolina recovered on the ensuing drive. UNC again went for it on 4th down at the 21 yard line on 4th and 2, Williams carried the ball for the first down as UNC tried to break the 70 point barrier. Caleb Presley entered the game on the next play. Carolina went for it on 4th and 10, finally not trying to drive up the score, turning the ball over to Idaho.
UNC forced Idaho to punt with 2:32 left pretty much sealing the shutout. For some odd reason, Giovani Bernard was back again to return the punt, Fedora needs to explain himself on this one. The Heels ran the time out and won in the second huge blowout of the season.
Final Score: UNC 66 Idaho 0
Keeping It Heel will bring you reactions from every angle of this game and the upcoming match up with Virginia Tech over the next week. What did you think of today’s performance?