Bunting Gives RU Full Credit

North Carolina Football Head Coach John Bunting saw both positives and negatives in his Tar Heels' 2006 debut. One thing he made abundantly clear, however, was just how improved Rutgers was, despite the often lagging perception - "They ran the ball right down our throats."

With an abundance of offensive talent, All Big-East caliber players at a number of positions, the one unit that perhaps didn't receive its due credit for Saturday's performance was the Scarlet Knights' offensive line. Most certainly, Raymell Rice continued to display the initial burst and balance that alerted fans of the young man's talents last year. Rarely going down after the initial hit and almost always falling forward, Rice dazzled onlookers not familiar with the resurgent Rutgers program with his second career 200-yard performance and his third straight 100-yard game.

Rice's vision, patience, and balance, in full complement with a now seasoned and veteran offensive line, worked magically for four full quarters.

"I've been talking to our defense about that all week long, about their offensive line - powerful group, powerful group - three starters back, a Center that I believe has All-Conference abilities in that league and maybe an NFL-type guy, two tackles, and we recruited both of them ...," stated UNC Head Coach John Bunting.

As is often the case, any successful running attack must start with a cohesive unit doing the dirty work in the trenches. The pleasant surprise of 2005 and Dave Rimington Preseason Watch List honoree - Darnell Stapleton - continued right where he left off last year. Jeremy Zuttah and Pedro Sosa flanked the OL marvelously, and while allowing only 1 sack on the day, pushed UNC's down linemen all day long.

"We give Rutgers an awful lot of credit ... this defense did not play well, but give Rutgers credit. They ran the ball right down our throats," stated Bunting.

The perceived question marks of the unit, Mike Fladell and Cameron Stephenson, were both in good form. Fladell moved downfield with relative ease, and his shear size became an impact on a number of running plays that literally created a vacuum in his wake - all to the benefit of RU's Ray Rice.

"We were physically outplayed and mentally we probably played a number of bad fits," continued Bunting.

Seemingly, and conspicuously absent from yesterday's game was former Garden State star wideout Jesse Holley. Holley, who had given the opposition plenty of bulletin-board material prior to the season opener for both teams, broke into the stat sheet by recording three receptions for 25 yards, numbers that one would think are well short of a squad's big-time playmaker and go-to wideout.

"I still made a big play down the stretch when we needed one, across the middle. That's what I do. Hopefully, we'll look at this and regroup, and next week I won't have this problem," stated Holley. On the big play referenced by Holley, Rutgers So. Courtney Greene displayed a glimpse of what might make him an improved and eventually all-world S: the ability to cover the opposition one-on-one.


Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano played only four true freshman in the Scarlet Knights' season opener. They were Zaire Kitchen, Ryan D'Imperio, George Johnson and Blair Bines.

Scarlet Report Top Stories