Heels Handle Wolfpack, 23-9

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- NC State's Daniel Evans threw three interceptions and the Wolfpack offense could only muster three field goals as North Carolina defeated the Wolfpack 23-9.

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    North Carolina came out pumped up in John Bunting's final home game and leading the attack was senior tailback Ronnie McGill.

    McGill started the opening drive by busting off back-to-back double-digit yardage carries to put the Tar Heels in NC State territory. After a long pass from quarterback Joe Dailey to Brandon Tate, the Heels inserted Richie Rich at tailback and the redshirt freshman fumbled the handoff. NC State's Pat Lowery recovered the fumble, ending UNC's opening drive and giving the Pack solid field position.

    However, the Wolfpack couldn't capitalize, as on its opening possession the Wolfpack went three-and-out. Carolina started the next drive by going back to McGill, and the 225-pound bruiser went back to work. McGill rushed for 75 yards on the first two drives, with the second drive being added by a Demario Pressley personal foul penalty. On third-and-goal, McGill leaped over to the of the endzone from the one-yard line to give UNC an early 7-0 advantage.

    State's offense was still stuck in neutral, as it recorded another three-and-out to give UNC good field position on its own 44-yard line. Again it was McGill leading the way, but the big play was an NC State personal foul 15-yard penalty that gave UNC a first down at the Wolfpack 21-yard line. On the next snap Tar Heel wide receiver Brandon Tate ran a reverse to the Wolfpack 6, but North Carolina couldn't put it in the endzone and had to settle for a Connor Barth 20-yard field goal. The Heels led 10-0 and completely dominated the first quarter, totaling 147 yards of total offense to the Wolfpack's 13.

    NC State put points on the board midway through the second quarter as kicker John Deraney knocked in a 22-yard field goal 13-play, 98-yard drive. The drive started at Carolina's 2-yard play, and on the second play Toney Baker busted a run up the middle for 13 yards to give the Wolfpack some room to operate. Evans was effective on the drive, as the sophomore quarterback passed for 66 yards. The field goal cut UNC's lead to 10-3 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

    The Wolfpack would get the ball back with just under four minutes on the clock and started another drive from deep in its own teritory, this time at the seven. Evans again had success through the air, marching the offense down the field to get the Pack to the UNC 26-yard line wtih five seconds left. Deraney came on again to drill the field goal, this time a 44-yarder that led to the halftime score of 10-6.

    As UNC dominated the first quarter, NC State did the same in the second, totaling 161 yards of total offense but managed just six points. Evans completed 11-of-20 passes for 123 yards with an interception, while Baker rushed for 41 yards on 11 carries. McGill was the star for Carolina, as he rumbled for 94 first half yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Joe Dailey completed 5-of-11 for 74 yards.

    NC State received the ball to start the second half and looked to have a big play on a double-reverse as Darrell Blackman rushed down the sidelines for a 28-yard gain, but the play was called back as the Wolfpack was whistled for illegal formation. On the next play, left guard Kalani Heppe was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty, and the drive stalled. The Wolfpack punted to UNC and the Tar Heels cashed in. Although the drive was just 7 plays for 14 yards with four play resulting in negative yardage, the 20-yard pass to Brooks Foster was enough to get UNC in field goal position, and junior Connor Barth drilled a 54-yard field goal to give the Heels a 13-6 lead. The kick was the longest of Barth's career and the second-longest in school history.

    On the ensuing possession, the Wolfpack moved the ball to 44-yard line, but on 4th-and-1 the Wolfpack chose to punt and UNC cashed in again with another Connor Barth field goal. Barth's kick, a 37-yarder, was his third of the day and made him a perfect 9-of-9 for the season, as the Heels increased the lead to 16-6.

    State came right back with another field goal, as the Wolfpack drove to Carolina's 17-yard line, but the drive stalled with the biggest loss coming on an Andre Brown run that looked to be a pass but the tailback was sacked on the play as no receivers went out in routes. Deraney's 41-yard kick pulled State back within a touchdown at 16-9.

    NC State got the ball back with four minutes remaining in the game looking to march down the field and tie the game. However, the Heels had other plans, as on 4th-and-7 from the 15 defensive end Melik Brown charged in unblocked and sacked Evans, forcing a fumble. The fumble was scooped up by Brian Rackley, and the senior defensive end returned it two yards for the touchdown, giving the Heels a 23-9 lead with just over two minutes left.

    The Wolfpack marched back down the field to the 12-yard line, but Evans was intercepted in the endzone by Kareen Taylor, sealing the 23-9 victory, and the Gatorade shower, for head coach John Bunting in his final home game. UNC came into the game with two interceptions this season, but picked off Evans three times on the day.

    The loss was particularly tough for Pack head coach Chuck Amato, as he has now loss three straight to North Carolina and with a game remaining he must get the Wolfpack up for a home against ECU.

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