‘Toughness' prevails at Spring Game

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Overcast skies and an early April nip slightly tempered attendance for North Carolina's annual spring football game Saturday at Kenan Stadium. But while a noticeably improved defensive effort along with a renewed emphasis on the running game also limited the amount of the spectators' eye candy, there was drama as White rallied from a touchdown deficit to score twice in the third quarter and top Blue, 17-7.

  • Coach Bunting Quotes
  • Locker Room Report
  • Photo Gallery I
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  • Box Score

    And whether or not it was by design, the moderate scoring was seen as a victory for the Tar Heels' much-maligned defensive unit from a year ago.

    "I wanted us to develop more mental toughness, and you get that by running the ball and stopping it," UNC coach John Bunting said. "In that respect, we're further along at this point than I thought we would be."

    Ronnie McGill ran for 89 yards on eight carries for the White, but was somewhat upstaged by walk-on teammate Justin Warren, who accumulated 52 yards on 10 rushes, including a one-yard touchdown run which tied the score at 7-7. Warren, the only non-special teams player to don jerseys on both sides, managed just three yards on three carries for the Blue.

    The Blue had a drive stopped in the first quarter when Melik Brown provided the rush and walk-on Warren Green sacked Baker to force a fumble and a turnover.

    After a scoreless first quarter, Jacque Lewis capped six-play, 48-drive with a nine-yard touchdown run carrying two defenders into the end zone. The touchdown was set up when freshman tight end Rock Wells caught a 22-yard pass from Durant to give the Blue a 1st and 10 at the White 8-yard line.

    Sophomore walk-on kicker Heath Martin, likely keeping his toe warm until Connor Barth's arrival, nailed the PAT to give the Blue a 7-0 advantage.

    Kareen Taylor picked off two passes by White starting White quarterback Matt Baker in the first quarter.

    "I learned a lot from Dexter Reid," Taylor said. "If I had dropped back better in that deep area, I could have made a lot more tackles than I did."

    Baker just missed throwing the first touchdown pass of the game from 33 yards out, when he overthrew Jesse Holley who was covered well by Bryan Bethea.

    The White team had two sacks called on Darian Durant, who played just one quarter and was protected by a red jersey. But Khalif Mitchell drug Durant down for a conventional sack for the third of the first quarter.

    "In a way, I knew I wasn't supposed to sack him, but I just got into that game mode," Mitchell said. "I didn't hear a whistle, so I just got my hand on him to try and let him know to stop running. I didn't try to bring him down hard; I just tried to grab hold of him. When I got to the sideline, they weren't chewing me out."

    "I thought it was great," Bunting added. "Darian needed that."

    After Shelton Bynum broke up a Baker pass attempt to Madison Hedgecock on a 3rd and 6, freshman Roger Heinz entered the game at quarterback for the Blue. With 9:06 remaining in the first half, he completed his first pass to Derrele Mitchell for seven yards and a first down.

    But a sack by White defensive tackle Chase Page brought up 2nd and 15. Yet Lewis then answered with a 19-yard run for another Blue first down.

    Just before the half, the Blue had a 1st and 10 at the White 27. After a four-yard run by Heinz and an incomplete pass attempt in the end zone to Michael Norton, Heinz threw a nearly perfect pass to Wallace Wright who hauled in the catch in the back of the end zone. But for some reason, Wright decided not to try and get two feet down. Enter Martin, whose 44-yard field goal attempt fell short before halftime.

    "I was doing well in spring practice, and Coach said I was making a push for [backup], but I don't know if you can take today as a realistic push as to how I've played, or Baker, or Durant," Heinz said. "It's just the guys have played together for years, and then we split them up on offense and you just don't have that same feel that you've had for the last weeks in the spring. Somebody is on this page, and somebody else is on this page…so it's rough."

    With the score tied 7-7, and with Winston-Salem senior Jared Hall in at quarterback, the White executed a seven-play, 34-yard drive which culminated in a one-yard TD pass to Adarius Bowman, after Bethea had fallen down on the play.

    The key play came on a 30-yard pass from Hall to Jesse Holley who made a spectacular catch with Lionell Green draped all over him. It set up a 1st and 10 at the Blue 17-yard line, and the drive was extended on a nine-yard run by Warren on a 4th and 2.

  • Kyndraus Guy, limited this spring due to off-season shoulder surgery, did get in a few repetitions last week.
  • Senior tailback Chad Scott was ineligible due to a conflicting academic requirement.
  • Sophomore tight end Jon Hamlett broke his left fibula Thursday night and will be out for four to six weeks.
  • There were no punts or kickoffs. The ball was spotted at the 20-yard line to start each half and following scores, and was moved 40 yards downfield on each fourth down change of possession.

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