Heels collapse, 37-27

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The North Carolina Tar Heels learned that the worst thing about building a 21-0 lead is the possibility of blowing it.

Led by a second-half ground attack that amassed 142 yards, Virginia scored 37 consecutive points after intermission and overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit en route to its sixth consecutive victory in a 37-27 drilling of the visiting Tar Heels before a crowd of 55,648 at David A. Harrison Field and Scott Stadium.

As has been the case all season for UNC, it was a tale of two halves. And like in last week's loss to N.C. State, an excellent first-half effort was the polar opposite of what took place in the final half.

"There were some familiar things that took place out there today, but our team battled and played hard," said UNC coach John Bunting. "There are some good things we can take from this game. There were some things that in my mind hurt us. Sometimes, things that just eat you up, because you know there are trying to make a play, and they get out of position and don't make the play and it hurts us.

"It's a game we had a great chance to pull off something special for our fans back home and our fans that came to the game, and I'm disappointed for them," Bunting continued. "But I'm mostly disappointed for the staff and the players that worked so hard this week."

UNC (2-5, 0-3 ACC) dominated the first half, gobbling up an impressive 266 total yards to Virginia's 127 - of which 35 came on a Matt Schaub scramble under heavy pressure. But as was the case last week, the lead was short-lived.

Virginia's Marquis Weeks returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to put the Cavs right back in the game and give a major juice injection to a crowd in desperate need of something to get excited about.

"That was a big play because it gave them a reason to feel good about something," said

But history then sort of repeated itself in a cruel way for the Tar Heels, which, like it was in an earlier loss to Georgia Tech, may have ultimately been the game's deciding play.

UNC responded the Wahoos' first score with a nifty 71-yard drive, keyed by Durant's 20-yard third-down completion to Bobby Blizzard's fumble at Tech's two on UNC's first possession of the third quarter last month.

A UNC score against the Jackets could have meant victory. Today it would have meant a 28-7 lead and momentum would have swung back to the Tar Heels.

"Moving that ball down there and coming up with no points was also," Bunting said. "There were two very deflating situations in the second half and that was one of them."

UVa responded with a 98-yard scoring drive that included pass plays of 20 and 42 yards, as well as an 8-yard TD reception by Billy McMullen, who was wide open after losing UNC's

Schaub was also sharp, throwing for 154 of his 194 yards after intermission, which included the go-ahead score - a 35-yard toss to Ottawa Anderson with 11:53 left in the game.

Anderson crossed from right to left and received the short pass out in front of UNC's

Compounding matters, Durant, who was having a stellar performance (14-18, 226 yards, 3 TDs), left the game after hitting a helmet during a pass attempt, and was unable to return. Backup C.J. Stephens, who had thrown just 15 passes before today, was thrown into the fire, and the combination of him being rusty and increasing struggles along the offensive line made the final quarter seem like an eternity for the Tar Heels.

"I think collectively we were having some problems offensively," said Stephens. "There was a big momentum swing and we were trying to recover, and I've been in a few games since I've been in so definitely it takes you a minute or two to get your feet wet."

The Hoos scored two more times - a 22-yard field goal by Kurt Smith and a 17-yard scamper by Perman - to complete its barrage. And although UNC tacked on a late touchdown when Stephens hit Aiken for a 14-yard scoring toss, the game wasn't in doubt, and the Heels remained winless in Charlottesville since 1981.

All told, UNC allowed 298 yards in the final two periods, a 100-yard kickoff for a score, and fumbled at UVa's two. Few teams can survive such a half, especially Carolina, even when leading by 21 points.

The Heels opened the game strong, forcing a fumble (recovered by Darian Durant to Jawarski Pollock for a 7-0 lead with 7:02 left in the opening period.

UNC's second score came on a quick-strike from Durant to Aiken for a 78-yard score and a 14-0 advantage with 11:51 left in the second.

The Heels surged ahead by three TDs after John Lafferty hit Bobby Blizzard for 24 yards and a first down at the UVa four.

"We've been waiting for a while to run that on somebody," Blizzard said. "And the type of field goal defense they were running gave us a good opportunity to run something like that. We got them and it was a big play for our offense."

As for Durant, who was icing his right thumb when he met with the media, the waiting will now begin. He will have the thumb examined tomorrow morning to see if it is a break or just a bad bruise. Either way, it wasn't comfortable.

"It's sore," Durant said about the thumb. "There's a lot of swelling, but, that occurs with bruises and that occurs with breaks. So hopefully it's just a bruise."

Although there were many positives for a half, the negatives surely stand out. Over the last two games, UNC has been outscored 64-14 in the second half after holding a combined first-half margin of 31-7. Chapman and his mates know it too.

"We just have to learn to mature out there, in games and in practice," he said. "Once we mature more we will be a lot better."

Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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