Andy: Hamstrung Heels

SALT LAKE CITY –- This one might have been interesting if North Carolina had been at full strength. After a quick start resulted in an offensive touchdown and a three-and-out defensive stand to open the game, personnel attrition swiftly crippled the Tar Heels.

And with the fourth tailback, a gimpy Chad Scott, and backup quarterback Matt Baker in for an injured Darian Durant early in the third quarter, Carolina had barely enough available bodies to even complete the logistics of a handoff. Its rushing attack was virtually non-existent in a game it had to ring up big scoreboard numbers to keep up with Utah's "slickity-trickety" offense.

A 99-and-a-half-yard Utes' touchdown drive just before halftime buried the Tar Heels, which might have been better off gathering their wounded and heading home early.

Long before No. 10 Utah easily dispatched of BCS conference member UNC to the tune of a 46-16 defeat Saturday night, Jacque Lewis suffered a back contusion and was lost for the game. Ronnie McGill injured his left ankle and was unable to return and guard Kyle Ralph sprained his ankle and couldn't go.

At 4,227 feet above sea level and playing for the first time on artificial turf since last year at Wisconsin, the Tar Heels were dropping like flies.

"It was mind-boggling at one point," UNC coach John Bunting said. "I didn't think I was going to have a team by the end of the first half."

All of the above occurred less than eight minutes into the game – more than enough time for Utah's offense to baffle Carolina's 112th-ranked defense, and in plenty of time for its slightly above average defense to get the upper hand on the Tar Heels' offense that had become all but one-dimensional and would soon have to shift into catch-up gear.

"Even Madison had to get his ankles taped," Bunting said. "It was a very interesting evening, relative to the running back situation."

One could even argue that UNC had little to no chance before losing its top tackler, Fred Sparkman and defensive tackle Isaiah Thomas, along with its leading receiver Adarius Bowman, to indefinite suspensions earlier in the week. But before third-string tailback Madison Hedgecock fumbled on his second run from scrimmage, North Carolina appeared to be in great shape on the road against No. 10 Utah, leading 7-0.

And trailing 17-10, UNC's defensive front was again getting to Utah quarterback Alex Smith. But then, with 7:57 left to play before halftime, Kyndraus Guy had to leave the game favoring his knee. And on the next play from scrimmage, Smith found Steve Savoy for a 46-yard touchdown pass to quickly extend the Utes' lead.

Guy would return later in the second half, but long after the Utes had the game well in tow.

Shortly after Utah made it 24-10, it was announced that UNC defensive end Melik Brown was out with a concussion. When tight end Justin Phillips was injured, the number of missing or injured Carolina players totaled no less than six before night's end.

In the end, it was clear that Utah was deserved of its lofty national ranking and its misdirection offense was legitimate. The Utes' 669 total yards was a clear determinant of their legitimacy.

The only bright side, and it's hardly illuminating, is that the Tar Heels get a week off before its Homecoming match-up with third-ranked Miami on Oct. 30.

"My No. 1 objective is to get healthy," Bunting said.

Inside Carolina Top Stories