The Tar Heels faced the NC State Wolfpack after a devastating loss to arch rival Duke. UNC came into the game with a record of (5-3, 2-2 ACC) against the Wolfpacks (5-2, 2-1 ACC). NC State survived two straight close games in which they were able to come up with fourth quarter comebacks. These two teams hate one another and a slug fest was promised.
On the first possession the Tar Heels marched down the field sparked by an end around trick play in which they inserted backup quarterback Marquis Williams who handed it off and the ball was flipped to Bryn Renner who lined up at receiver, Renner completed a long pass to Erik Highsmith. Two plays later Giovanni Bernard punched in a touchdown run to put the Heels up 7-0.
After a quick three and out by NC State, Highsmith took a reverse 45 yards for another TD. Larry Fedora surprised and went for a two point conversion that was successful putting UNC up 15-0 early. Carolinas first two scoring drives totaled eight plays in 2:02. The Wolfpack stayed resilient with putting together a drive following UNCs second TD and displayed a lot of mental toughness converting several third downs.
Conservative defensive play calling on third down killed the drive for UNC. Mike Glennon found a wide open Charlie Hegedus for 32 yards and a TD. It was an impressive drive that went 9 plays for 75 yards in 4:25, State did not take the bait and go for two, kicking the extra point to come within eight 15-7 UNC.
Romar Morris got in the game early and ran for a first down in the first quarter and saw some time flanked out at WR, something I love to see is this kids speed. Renners first incomplete pass came with 4:15 left in the first quarter, Renner started with eight straight completions, a vast contrast of the Duke game.
Bernard was shaken up on a first down run late in the first quarter, always a scary site for Tar Heel fans. Bernard checked right back into the game after a Carolina timeout. Facing their first third down of the game, UNC went for it all throwing it into the end zone for Eric Ebron and the pass was broken up setting up a 45 yard FG attempt that Casey Barth knocked in extending the lead 18-7.
A fumble that was initially called down was overturned after Fedora pleaded for a review by the officials who granted the ball to UNC. If that call wasn’t called down it would have been an immediate TD for UNC. The Heels faced a quick third down after a two yard option run by Renner and a dropped pass by Ebron. They went back to the same play and Ebron held on taking the ball to the six yard line on a 16 yard reception.
Two straight runs by Carolina put the ball on the one yard line on 3rd and goal. Fedora stuck with the run and punched it in with Bernard on a one yard TD run putting Carolina up 25-7. Glennon came out firing on the next drive and despite two straight big drops by Underwood he led his team into Tar Heel territory. State stayed strong and kept themselves in the game with a beautiful outside shoulder throw to Rashard Smith for the TD. An impressive drive that went 6 plays for 75 yards in just 58 seconds, the score 25-14 UNC.
On third and seven a great open field tackle stopped Bernard shy of the first down after a five yard completion forcing the first punting situation of the game. After a wild first quarter the teams combined to average 8.5 yards per play on 393 total yards of offense and 39 points. At a pace of 156 points, 1,572 yards, impossible to keep up but fun to imagine.
UNC finally put together a nice defensive possession by the defensive backfield nearly intercepting two passes and forcing a quick punt. The offensive show that was the first quarter turned into the defensive show early in the second with three straight forced punts. Something that was interesting was TE Ebron playing on both sides of the ball moonlighting at defensive end. After applying good pressure on his first down on defense, NC State doubled the athletic TE on his next snap.
Glennon started 8-9 then cooled down to go 5-11. After a shanked punt giving State the ball at the UNC 40, Glennon completed three straight passes capped off by a Bryan Underwood for 20 yards for a TD. State trailed by just four after the extra point, I was surprised State didn’t go for two to bring the score within a FG, 21-25 UNC.
UNC finally mustered some offensive momentum after two straight stalled drives. The Heels got into State territory after a big pass play to Ebron, State forced a fourth down and a 46 yard FG attempt was wide left. UNC turned up the heat sending extra rushers on every play forcing a 3rd and 23. Glennon found a wide open Tobais Palmer who was more wide open than he was during pre-game warm ups for an 83 yard TD pass, State took the lead 28-25 in front of a shocked Kenan Stadium crowd.
On a very important drive after State took the lead a third and six pass was batted down at the line forcing another punt. Glennon continued to carve up the Tar Heel defense, especially on third down where UNC pretty much refused to send more than four rushers. UNC was bailed out when Darien Rankin came up with a dropped a pass that landed right in his hands. Rankin returned the ball to the 44 yard line.
A big run by AJ Blue and a nice pass to Jack Tabb for 26 yards put the Tar Heels in scoring position at the four yard line. Renner forced a second down pass attempt to Ebron and the pass was picked off in the end zone killing UNCs momentum and a chance to tie or take the lead.
Score at the half: UNC 25 NC State 28
In the second half, the Tar Heels defense forced a three and out on States first possession after the half’s opening kickoff. The first UNC offensive play went for 36 yards on a terrific screen play, Gio went down holding his ankle on the State sideline one again forcing Tar Heel Nation to hold it’s breath.
After getting into State territory, CJ Wilson took the ball right out of Quinshad Davis’ hands after a nice pass by Renner blowing another scoring opportunity. Had Davis held on UNC would have had the ball inside the five yard line. UNC forced a punt on the ensuing possession despite giving up two more third down conversions.
Bernard remained on the sidelines when UNC took over possession as the training staff worked on his tender ankle, Morris took his place in the backfield. The drive stalled on third down after another ill advised pass that was almost picked off intended for Ebron forcing a punt about five yards deep in his own end zone.
After the seventh drop by NC State on the day bailed them out on 2nd down, Terry Shankle came up with a big time INT in the end zone breathing new life into the Tar Heels. Bernard re-entered the game on third and one on the ensuing possession. He was given the ball on his first play back in the game and had nowhere to go after the offensive line was blown up forcing another punt.
The trend continued with State marching the ball down the field as they easily galloped into Carolina territory. State mixed it up well in this possession completing big passes on third down (surprised?) and running right through a seven man front. Shakel came in and crushed Washington on a third and 16 swing play forcing fourth down, a hit that kept Washington on the ground in pain. State missed a chip shot FG attempt keeping it a three point game.
Carolina was only able to muster five yards after State failed to score forcing yet another punt. After a high scoring first half, both teams remained scoreless in the second half with less than a minute to play in the third quarter. And the second I was done typing that last sentence on the first play of the ensuing drive Glennon hooked up with Bryan Underwood on a 55 yard TD strike putting State up 10. The score made it 28 unanswered points for State, the score UNC 25-State 35.
UNCs offense seemed to just get worse on another three and out highlighted by yet another ill advised pass that the Heels were lucky wasn’t picked off. The punt gave State great field position at the 36. After finally calling an aggressive set of defensive rushes the Heels forced a three and out setting up some decent field position of their own.
After a pass interference call and a big time run by Bernard, UNC found themselves in the red zone again looking to cut into States lead. Questionable play calling continues to haunt UNC in the RZ as they advertised a first down rAun that went nowhere. On third down Renner completed a three yard TD pass to Sean Tapley to cut the NC State lead to three 35-32. By far the best drive since the first quarter a 9 plays, 74 yards in 3:05 for the score.
UNC forced an NC State punt on a nice defensive stand and looked to take the lead with just over eight minutes left to play. A big drop by Bernard brought up third and seven. Another dangerous pass was almost picked off and forced a UNC punt. State chewed time off the clock running the ball well on the next possession up by three with under seven minutes left in the game at the start of the possession.
After a couple first downs UNC forced a punt and took the field on offense with 4:31 remaining. Two big runs by Bernard put the Heels in striking distance inside State territory at the 25 with just under four minutes to play. Renner took a big sack on third and seven from the 12 yard line forcing a FG attempt to tie the game. A 34 yard attempt was nailed by Barth to tie the game with 1:24 left.
The ball was in Mike Glennons hands with a chance to win the game in a situation very similar to last week against Duke (minus UNC being ahead but you know what I mean). UNC continued to bring the pressure that worked on the last possession resulting in a first down sack. State stayed on the ground and looked content to let regulation run out and head to overtime before Fedora elected to call timeout with State facing a third and long with 35 seconds remaining.
After another UNC timeout, Gio Bernard went back to return the punt with 30 seconds to go. Bernard took the punt 73 yards for the TD putting Carolina up 43-35 after the extra point snap was low and the holder rolled right and found a receiver. An exciting ending to a great back and forth game in Kenan Stadium.
Bernards return was a historic moment in this great rivalry we will see replayed over and over throughout the years.
Any chance of a NC State miracle was erased when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled and recovered by UNC.
Final score: UNC 43 NC State 35
Stay tuned to Keeping It Heel for more reactions from Kenan Stadium including the box score and a picture gallery of the action.