Early in the game anxiousness was apparent on both sides of the ball. The offense was moving the ball comfortably, but the first two drives ended in turnovers. The first was a 25-yard pass to tight end Justin Phillips in which he just lost control of the ball without much contact.
I don't really remember it all that much," said Phillips who had three catches on the afternoon for 65 yards. "I caught it and got hit, made a guy miss, and then I must have gotten hit from behind or something. I think I may have been switching it up and gotten hit, but all I really know is I fumbled."
On the second possession, running back Jacque Lewis scampered for 49 of his 125 total yards to the W&M one yard line before losing the ball. He admitted to thinking about the touchdown before reaching paydirt.
"I think I was just trying to score," Lewis said. "I cut it back and wasn't really taking care of the ball."
After two offensive possessions, the Tar Heels had more than 100 yards in eight plays and no points to show for it. Meanwhile, the defense missed several tackles in the backfield that could have snuffed out big plays by the Tribe. The biggest missed opportunity came when linebacker Fred Sparkman whiffed on Tribe quarterback Lang Campbell, and Campbell hit wide receiver Josh Lustig for a 46-yard touchdown strike to give W&M a 7-0 lead.
"We came out with a lot of first-game jitters," said defensive tackle Jonas Seawright who made three tackles for the game. "There were a lot of guys who didn't play a whole lot last year and it was there first time out there as starters. But now we have been on the field and we know what it feels like."
"It wasn't really nerves," Sparkman said. It was like we were too hyped. We just had to calm down and play the game and make it slow for us."
Carolina refused to get down on itself and finally got on the scoreboard with 6:46 remaining in the first quarter on a 12-yard Jacque Lewis touchdown run after the defense forced a punt.
"That's the game of football," Lewis said. "Turnovers happen. You can't get your head down. That's how a team loses. If you turn the ball over, you have to forget about that play. You have to pick it up and keep moving forward, and that's what we did."
Chad Scott capped a seven-play 89-yard drive in the second quarter to answer a W&M touchdown and knot the score at 14 apiece, but the woes for the offense weren't yet over.
Quarterback Darian Durant would kill two offensive drives with two miscues of his own, both setting up W&M scores. The Tribes's Travis McLaurin picked up a Durant fumble at the UNC 37 yard line and returned it the four which would lead to a touchdown and a 21-14 lead for W&M. Later, Durant threw an interception that was returned deep into Tar Heel territory and eventually led to a field goad and a 24-14 deficit at the half.
"On that run play the guy just stripped me on the fumble," Durant said. "On that interception, the guy just made a heck of a play. He got his hand out, tapped the ball in the air and got it.
"I didn't think he could get a hand on it because he looked like he was coming towards me. As he saw me throwing it, he got in the lane and made a good play."
Noticeably absent from Carolina's offense in the first half was running back Ronnie McGill. He carried the ball twice on the first drive of the game and then would carry it only once more in the half due to a hip pointer and had to go to the locker room twice.
"I got hit on the second play, took a helment to the hip" McGill said. "I went in and didn't expect it to keep hurting after that, but it started to hurt again so I had to go back into the locker room."
The offense put the defense in poor position several times in the first half, but the defense gave up two touchdown drives of 62 yards or more so the defensive coaches talked about what to do in the second half.
"We came into the locker room and the defensive coaches gave a very inspirational speech to us so we bounced back in the second half," safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. "It got kind of loud, but it was encouraging. He wasn't downing us or anything."
And it must have worked because the defense forced punts five of the first six W&M possessions of the second half. The play that started the ball rolling was a blocked punt on the Tribe's first possession and then it snow-balled from there.
Meanwhile, the offense was finally clicking, scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions of the half. The first came through the air on a 19-yard strike to wide receiver Adarious Bowman who finished the day with six catches for 61 yards. He caught it in traffic and then bulled his way into the endzone over a Tribe defender.
"To be honest, I didn't even see the guy," Bowman said. "I caught it, and I just saw the endzone. I was going for it, and I hit him. I didn't go down so I got to the endzone."
"He made some outstanding plays. He's been doing that all through training camp. I talked to him a couple of days ago at practice, and he said, 'If I get the ball around the endzone, I'm going to run somebody over, and he did it."
Later in the quarter Durant hit wide receiver Derele Mitchell for a 29-yard touchdown on a straight fly pattern down the middle.
"We noticed that on the weak side of the field that they liked to load their covers to the strong side," Durant said. "We had a lot of one-on-one match-ups on the weak side. I gave him a look and he ran a great route. I was fortunate enough to put it into position for him to make a play."
The Tar Heels entered the fourth quarter trailing 31-28. It was Ronnie McGill's time. He racked up 100 yards and three touchdown runs (4 yards, 10, and 7) in the quarter alone, with a long run of 49.
Carolina finished with two 100-yard rushers on the game: McGill with 133 and Lewis with 123 of the 341 total yards on 45 attempts.
"What more do you want to do than to hand it off to the guys who can keep the chains moving?" Durant said. "It's great to have those guys on my team."
Durant currently holds 47 UNC football records but put in an average performance for the game with 14 completions, one interception on 24 attempts for 234 yards and two touchdowns. On this day he was happy to trade the individual records for the victory.
"It's great!" he exclaimed. "You play the game to win. You don't play the game for stats. That's my goal this year. I've achieved a lot of stats in my career. The main thing I want to do is just win games I don't care if I throw for 100 or 400 as long as we win. That's all that matters."