Brown's Longhorns down UNC 44-14

The Tar Heels looked to make a fight of it in the first half, but the play of Texas punt returner Nathan Vasher broke the back of the UNC effort.

A special teams player may have been the difference in a game whose final margin of 44-14 was out of proportion.  The outcome was in question for three quarters until a retuned punt for a touchdown by Vasher broke the game open. 

Nathan Vasher set individual and team records for Texas in punt return yardage, racking up 153 yards on nine punt returns.  His performace was such that UNC head coach John Bunting declared, "He [Vasher] was spectacular, he was the back breaker – that is the difference in the ballgame." 

The Tar Heels gave Mack Brown's Longhorns all they wanted in the first half, and entered the lockeroom holding a six-point lead as the result of two field goals by Dusty Mangum. 

"We were after them in the first half," said Coach Bunting, "You saw it and I saw it – we had them on the run." 

Texas struck first when Corey Redding intercepted a Ronald Curry pass on the 22-yard line, and leaped over Curry for the touchdown.  The Tar Heels were unable to move the and on the ensuing punt, Texas ran off a 59-yard return by Nathan Vasher to the five-yard line.  Chris Simms leaped the final yard and Texas lead 14-0 with 6:45 left in the first quarter. 

Following the Texas kickoff, UNC began to show signs of life. Ronald Curry directed the UNC offense on a drive of 77 yards on nine plays in 3:01 seconds, taking the ball in himself on a twenty-yard run for the touchdown.   

Madison Hedgecock recovered a punt fumbled by Vasher – perhaps his one mistake of the day - on the Tar Heel 17.  Andre Williams covered those 17 yards in two runs of 8 and 9 yards respectively, knotting the score at 14-14.  

The Longhorns returned a punt to their own 18-yard line, but the Tar Heel defense held, and Texas had to settle for a 36-yard field goal with 5:08 left in the half to retake the lead, 17-14.  The first half ended on a 49-yard field goal by Texas' Dusty Mangum, giving the Longhorns a 20-14 lead.   

Neither team scored until 2:35 left in the third quarter, when Texas scored on 89-yard drive capped by a eight-yard run by Ivan Williams. The attempt for a two-point conversion failed, making the score 26-14.  It was the only sustained drive the Longhorns would have all day.

The final margin of 44-14 could have been 45, but Texas elected to take a knee instead of kicking the extra point to honor junior defensive lineman Brandon Cole Pittman who died in a one-vehicle accident in February.  A ceremony honoring Pittman took place before the game.


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