The Oklahoma Sooners struck like lightning in the first half of the Hispanic College Fund Classic. Mother Nature and two drives lead by reserve UNC quarterback Darian Durant added to the fireworks in the second half.
Stout UNC defense and Durant's heroics in the second-half were not enough to overcome a 34-point first half deficit, but might have been enough to create a quarterback controversy at North Carolina.
It might also have been a confidence booster for the Tar Heels.
Ronald Curry had been unable to move the UNC offense against one of the better defenses in the country. Durant, a red-shirt freshman, led the Tar Heels downfield and capped an 86-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chesley Borders. It was the first career toss for Durant, and first career touchdown reception for Borders.
With the summer lightning increasing in intensity and threatening to stop the contest, Durant led the Tar Heels on another fourth-quarter touchdown drive. This time Durant directed a 80-yard drive, and connected with Brandon Russell for the touchdown.
Brandon Russell touchdown
Durant does not think that there is a controversy, and does not think there should be one. "At the quarterback position, not every game is not going to be a perfect game, " days Durant. "This is no quarterback controversy. I am the back-up, he is he starter, and that is the way it going to be for the rest of the season."
Durant says there is no QB controversy
The key play of the final drive was a fourth-and-ten completion by Durant . The Tar Heels did not convert the extra point, but closed the Sooner margin to 14 points to 41-27 with 7:00 minutes to be played. In addition to the two touchdown drives, Durant was also UNC's leading rusher on the night with 39 yards.
Five turnovers by the Tar Heels allowed the Sooners to roll up 41 first half points, even though they did not have a scoring drive that lasted more than one minute and twelve seconds, or covered more than 46 yards.
Oklahoma scored on a variety of North Carolina misues. They scored on a recovered fumble. They scored after a fumbled kickoff. They scored on a kickoff return and tossed in a field goal for good measure.
Oklahoma's All-American linebacker Rocky Calmus got the scoring started when he recovered a Ronald Curry fumble on the first UNC drive. Less than a minute later, the Tar Heels went down 7-0 to the Sooners. Oklahoma went on to run off 24 more unanswered points before UNC's All-American defensive end Julius Peppers intercepted a pass, and for the second consecutive game, ran it back for a touchdown.
Michael Waddell, the junior speedster from Richmond County, added a touchdown of his own – the second longest punt return in UNC history, and made more history:
His touchdown marked the first time in eight games against the Sooners that the Tar Heels have scored more than a touchdown. That is right. In seven previous meetings with the Sooners, North Carolina had never scored more than a single touchdown.
Does Durant think that the comeback attempt, though it came up short, helped the confidence of the team?
"We showed a lot of character by the way we played in the second half, " says Durant. This team has a lot of fight in it, and we are going to learn from this game. The main thing this game gave us was the sense that we can play with anybody in the country."
Linebacker David Thornton, who had a career-high thirteen tackles, agrees. "Oklahoma is a great team... we fought hard against them. I think we have something to build off of, and something to go into next week with."