The Tar Heels took the field for the final time in the 2012 season and closed the book on the first season of the Larry Fedora era against the Big Ten bound Maryland Terrapins in front of the home crowd at Kenan Stadium. UNC came into the game with a 7-4 record coming off a big win against Virginia. A huge question coming into this game was whether or not this would be the final time we would see star running back Giovani Bernard in a Tar Heel uniform.
UNC scored on three plays on the opening drive on a 30 yard touchdown pass from Bryn Renner to Eric Ebron after a 42 yard run by Bernard just 42 seconds into the contest. You could sense a blowout was coming on the ensuing possession when Maryland QB Shawn Petty was crushed on a blitz and threw and interception to Darien Rankin who returned it to the Maryland five yard line. Two plays later freshman receiver Quinshad Davis went up for an impressive TD catch to put the Heels up 14-0 before three minutes had ticked off the clock.
Maryland actually threw the ball a lot more than I expected with eight of their first 18 offensive plays going through the air. The Terps surprised the Heels defense by going for it on 4th and 1 and throwing the ball for a first down. MD did a nice job of keeping the UNC defense on their heels going 66 yards for the score on a Brandon Ross two yard TD run. The drive ate up over five minutes on the game clock and MD pulled within one score 14-7 UNC.
Bernard finished the first quarter with 63 rushing yards and Renner connected with four different receivers on five completions. Maryland put together a second straight stop forcing a punt by the Heels after a questionable non-call on an option pass attempt by Marquis Williams to Erik Highsmith, a lot of contact between the defender and Highsmith resulted in no call due to Williams pass falling more than a yard short of his intended target.
Maryland tied the game on a two yard TD run by Petty after a 71 yard run by Ross to set up the score. MD did a terrific job of keeping their head in the game and grinding it out on offense after some big stops by their defensive unit to not only keep them in this game but tie the score with 7:31 to go in the first half.
UNC sped up the tempo on the ensuing drive and took the lead on a nifty catch and run by AJ Blue on third down, Blue avoided multiple defenders after receiving the ball and stopping on a dime and changing directions and powering into the end zone.
Maryland tied the score at the end of the first half on a end around option throw by Stefon Diggs to Matt Furstenburg for 8 yards for the tying TD. MD went 75 yards on eight plays in 2:57. The Terps recovered a fumbled kickoff return with 13 seconds to play at the UNC 28 yard line and took the lead on a 28 yard TD pass as time expired in the first half to take a seven point lead into halftime.
The defensive backfield let down the Tar Heels once again as a converted linebacker diced up the UNC defense in the first half to the tune of 10 for 15 passing for 119 yards. Coming into the game Maryland had the last ranked offense in the nation averaging just 274 yards per game, UNC surrendered 304 in the first half alone.
Score at the Half: UNC 21 MD 28
The second half Maryland extended their lead with a 99 yard kickoff return for a TD to open the half by Stefon Diggs making it three TDs in 34 seconds for the Terps who suddenly led the Heels 35-21. UNC answered on the ensuing possession with a 50 yard catch and run for a TD by Quinshad Davis to shave the lead to seven 35-28. The pace of this game started to give me a confusing headache with four TDs in 67 seconds.
Down 35-28, Quinshad Davis caught a laser across the middle and fumbled the ball as his knee was making contact with the ground, the ball was recovered by Maryland and the play went under review with the call on the field that Davis was down before the fumble. The call was upheld and UNC had the ball at the Maryland 15 looking to tie the score. The following play the Tar Heels tied the score on a beautiful pass by Renner who was under pressure to Highsmith on a fade route for the TD. After an official review of the play upheld the call UNC tied the score at 35 the TD was the fifth in under four minutes of play in the game. Renners fifth TD pass of the game tied tie the UNC single-season record.
After nearly recovering a fumble inside their own five yard line the Heels had terrific field position after a Maryland punt but were only able to turn it into a 22 yard field goal to take a 38-35 lead.
After forcing a Maryland punt UNC looked to add to their lead and Renner almost broke the all time UNC record with his sixth TD throw of the game to Davis for his third TD catch of the game but the call was reversed after the officials review showed that Davis’ knee was down at the MD 1/2 yard line. Giovani Bernard punched it in on the next play to extend the Tar Heel lead to ten 45-35. The TD gave UNC 24 consecutive points after Maryland’s late second quarter/early third quarter rally.
After forcing MD a turnover on downs after four consecutive punts, Renner was bailed out after a dropped interception around mid field that could have gone the distance had the MD defender held onto the football. MD forced a punt and had just over seven minutes to make up a ten point difference.
After a big pass interference call, MD got within striking distance but couldn’t convert in the red zone and were forced to settle for a 27 yard field goal after a 15 play drive that went 74 yards but took 5:17 off the clock and left the Terps with just 3:12 left in the game to make up a TD difference 45-38 UNC.
UNC did a great job of grinding it out behind Giovani Bernard on the ensuing possession forcing Maryland to take all three of their timeouts. After forcing Bernard out of bounds the Heels faced a huge 3rd and 4 with 1:50 remaining with the game in hand Bernard bounced outside for a 12 yard game to seal the victory. With no timeouts the Heels were able to simply sit on the clock and secure the win.
Quinshad Davis had another big game after his record setting game last week with nine receptions for 135 yards and two TDs. Bryn Renner threw for his fourth consecutive 300 yard passing game. Bernard had an excellent game in what could be his last as a Tar Heel with 159 yards on 26 carries.
Final Score: UNC 45 MD 38