HEELS STATE CLAIM
North Carolina defensive backs Tré Boston and Tim Scott ran to midfield at Carter-Finley Stadium and started stomping on the freshly painted Wolfpack logo.
Defensive lineman Tim Jackson knelt down to slap the Wolfpack’s face, and got up to lead a “Whose state? Our state!” chant with his teammates, a play on N.C. State’s slogan of “This is our state.”
UNC may not be able to accomplish many of its goals because of a tough start to the season, but it was able to win what many consider the most important game on its schedule.
Overcoming an early 10-point deficit and temporary injuries to both its quarterbacks, the Tar Heels (3-5, 2-3) pulled out a 27-19 win Saturday at N.C. State, their first victory in Raleigh since 2005.
Afterwards, UNC coach Larry Fedora — who joined Ray Wolf, George Barclay and Carl Torbush as the only UNC coaches to win their first two games against the Wolfpack — said it was important to be known as “THE” team in North Carolina.
“Believe me, this team and this university and all of our fans take a tremendous amount of pride in that,” said Fedora, who was given a Gatorade bath on the field. “As far as I know, it’s always been the Tar Heel State and always will be.”
Junior tight end Eric Ebron, who was the most visible trash-talker on either side of the rivalry, fumbled on his first touch but finished with a game-high nine catches for 70 yards as UNC improved to 65-32-6 all-time against its rival.
“If we don’t have your respect already, we’re going to keep on taking it, until the point that you have no choice but to respect us,” Ebron said. “I mean, this is our state. Our win ratio to their losses, I mean, we’re killing them. You just have to let them know whose state this really is. … “If this really is your state, then come prove it.”
N.C. State (3-5, 0-5) couldn’t have asked for a better start. The Wolfpack intercepted Bryn Renner’s first pass at UNC’s 24, and quarterback Brandon Mitchell ran the ball in four plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Ebron’s fumble on the first play of UNC’s second drive led to a 16-yard loss and N.C. State drove 59 yards for a 20-yard field goal that made it 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Tar Heels finally started moving the ball behind backup Marquise Williams, who came in for the third possession and engineered a 74-yard touchdown drive capped by a 2-yard fade route to Quinshad Davis.
“Coach said there was going to be some adversity,” Williams said. “I had to pick the guys up. Let them know, ‘Believe in me, believe in the offense and what we’re doing.’”
The Wolfpack then helped UNC’s cause with a failed fake punt on fourth-and-8 from its own 30 that gained only one yard.
The Tar Heels needed four plays to take a 14-10 lead on Renner’s one-yard keeper.
“I thought we had it. That’s on me,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “They gave us the look that we saw on film earlier in the week, and so I thought we had a chance there. They did a good job defensively to stop us.”
After the Wolfpack took the lead on a pair of field goals early in the second quarter, UNC went ahead for good at 21-16 on a double pass, when wide receiver Ryan Switzer hit Quinshad Davis for a 59-yard touchdown.
The Tar Heels allowed just three more points on N.C. State’s final 12 possessions and also intercepted two passes.
UNC’s offense also struggled in the second half, and both Renner and Williams were injured in the third quarter.
Renner took a hit to his left shoulder — the same one that required surgery before he arrived at UNC — but had it popped back in and came back after missing one series.
Williams appeared to take a hit to the head, but said it was “just a little stinger” and that his concussion test was negative. He came back on the next possession.
T.J. Logan finally created some separation with his first career touchdown, a 14-yard run with 11:19 remaining, though Thomas Moore missed the extra point — UNC’s second failed extra point in two weeks — to keep it a one-score game.
But there would be no amazing ending to match UNC’s game-winning punt return in the final seconds of last year’s meeting. A desperation throw by N.C. State on the final play could only get as far as the UNC 24, setting off the wild celebration for the Tar Heels, who lost 13-0 in their last game here.
“It’s definitely sweet,” Ebron said. “My freshman year we came here and were shut out. That feeling, that taste that was in your mouth for two years, just sat there. We came back, and we were relentless. We made mistakes — every football team makes mistakes — but we were relentless. We kept coming at them.”
|NORTH CAROLINA 27, N.C. STATE 19|
NCSt—Mitchell 6 run (Sade kick), 12:47.
NCSt—FG Sade 20, 7:12.
NC—Q.Davis 2 pass from Williams (T.Moore kick), 4:41.
NC—Renner 1 run (T.Moore kick), 1:59.
NCSt—FG Sade 38, 14:48.
NCSt—FG Sade 44, 10:31.
NC—Q.Davis 59 pass from Switzer (T.Moore kick), 9:43.
NCSt—FG Sade 28, 4:50.
NC—Logan 14 run (kick failed), 11:19.
|Time of Possession||29:36||30:24|
RUSHING—North Carolina, Williams 17-51, Logan 5-43, Francis 5-23,
Blue 5-17, Morris 2-10, Renner 3-5, Switzer 1-3. NC State,
Mitchell 21-105, Thornton 22-90, Creecy 2-9, Thomas 1-6, Dayes 1-3,
Caldwell 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—North Carolina, Renner 15-22-1-124, Williams 8-15-0-92,
Switzer 1-1-0-59. NC State, Mitchell 10-22-2-130, Thomas 4-7-0-46.
RECEIVING—North Carolina, Ebron 9-70, Howard 5-72, Q.Davis 2-61,
Thorpe 2-22, Tapley 1-25, Blue 1-9, Francis 1-7, Logan 1-6, Switzer 1-5,
Morris 1-(minus 2). NC State, R.Smith 3-27, Valdes-Scantling 3-23,
Ramos 2-45, Copeland 2-12, Payton 1-33, Creecy 1-21, Watson 1-16,
Grinnage 1-(minus 1).