'Thunder' Ball

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The defense did all it could to erase the memory of a record loss to Louisville by pitching a 7-5 stopper over then-ranked Virginia last Saturday. Meanwhile, hopes for a resurgent offensive ground attack have also heightened, thanks to a season-high 172 rushing yards led by Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards.

"To have those two complement each other is terrific," John Bunting said. "Ronnie has been around this program, and he knows our running game inside out. Barrington is a young football player that had some big runs for us."

In just his second game of the season, McGill ran for 118 yards – his third career 100-yard performance, including no carries for negative yardage.

McGill doesn't bounce off would-be tacklers, they bounce off him.

Edwards added 52 yards, running noticeably stronger and taking on more contact than he has all year. He had a career-high 129 yards rushing at NC State on Sept. 24, but had to work much harder for his real estate against the Cavaliers' defense.

"My coaches challenged me," Edwards said. "They said, ‘Barrington, we need you to come in and run a lot harder this game.' Whatever I can do to help this coach, team and university win, I'm going to do it."

On Saturday, it was apparent the two were working in a tandem – feeding off each other so to speak – in punishing the UVa defensive front.

"Whatever they ran today, I'm glad I don't play defense," said the confident sophomore Edwards. "Ronnie had a great game. I take my hat off to him.

"He and I became closer after this game right here."

Immediately following, Edwards was ready to bestow the pair the nickname "Thunder and Lightning."

But McGill (pictured, right) might have suggested "Thunder and Thunder."

"I keep trying to tell him we can't call it ‘Thunder and Lightning,' because I'm the ‘thunder' and he's supposed to be the ‘lightning,'" laughed McGill. "He's really not that fast.

"He told me on the sideline, he liked how I was banging them in there and it softened them up. I'll do it any day, as long as he comes in and handles his business when I'm out."

Along with the tailbacks, the UNC coaching staff also challenged its offensive line in practice last week.

"We've just had enough of people saying we can't run the ball," said preseason All-ACC guard Kyle Ralph. "We were reading The Daily Tar Heel's mid-season report card and they gave us a ‘D-plus,' saying we couldn't run the football. We proved them wrong today and we're going to build on this. This is not the finished product.

"We're going to keep working on running the ball, and go down to Miami and play them strong."

In order for the Tar Heels to try and keep pace with Virginia Tech in the league's Coastal Division -- and in doing so move closer to a bowl-eligible season -- they will have their work cut out for them at No. 6/5 Miami this Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Carolina used a strong rushing offense and a stout defensive effort stopping the run to stun the then fourth-ranked Hurricanes last year in Chapel Hill. In the 31-28 victory, the Tar Heels compiled 545 yards of total offense – including Chad Scott's career-high 176-yard rushing outburst. Meanwhile, the UNC defense held the 'Canes to a season-low 77 yards via the run.

The successful combination of the two is almost always unbeatable, as it was in last year's epic win over Miami and last week's grudge match victory over Virginia.

"We felt like we had to prove something in front of our home crowd," McGill said. "We knew Virginia was a pretty good team, so we had to come out here and show everybody in the ACC what we could do."

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