by Mike Potter
UNC will host its season football finale against Maryland on a sunny, cool late afternoon. The Tar Heels knew coming into the season they wouldn’t be heading to a bowl because of NCAA sanctions. And if they can hold off the underdog Terps, Larry Fedora’s first season will be a decent one that with a few different bounces could have been a lot better.
With a win, the Tar Heels can finish 8-4 and with their best victory mark since the 1997 club went 11-1.
As for Maryland with its odd state-flag uniforms, this could be the Terps’ last football visit to Chapel Hill for a very, very long time.
Maryland (4-7), which will finish a losing season, has announced its departure from the ACC for the Big Ten in the near future. I guess anyone who wants tickets for those future home football games against Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana or Northwestern had better get cracking.
UNC wins in a shootout, holding on for a 45-38 victory on a day when conditions just keep getting colder and colder as the game progresses.
The Tar Heels score the first two times they get the ball. Eric Ebron makes a spectacular left-handed catch for a 30-yard TD from Bryn Renner 42 seconds into the game, completing a three-play, 75-yard drive. Thomas Moore adds the boot.
And after Darien Rankin’s 44-yard interception return to the Maryland 2, Renner hits Quinshad Davis from two yards out three plays later. Moore’s kick makes it 14-0 with 12:11 left in the quarter.
And the Terps tie it with 7:31 left in the half. Shawn Petty goes in from two yards out following Ross’ 71-yard sprint and Craddock tacks on the try.
UNC takes the lead again at 21-14 with 3:18 left in the half. Renner finds A.J. Blue for 12 yards up the middle to complete a 12-play, 63-yard excursion with Moore adding the boot.
But the Terps tie it again with 21 seconds left in the half. Stefon Diggs hits a wide-open Matt Furstenburg on a halfback pass from eight yards out to end an eight-play, 75-yard march with Craddock adding the kick.
And following a muffed kickoff the Terps add more points 17 seconds later, as Petty connects with Kevin Dorsey from 28 yards out on the next play and Craddock kicks.
Maryland tacks on seven more as Diggs returns the second-half kickoff 99 yards down the right sidelines and Craddock converts to give the Terps 21 points in 34 seconds.
UNC gets seven back just 33 seconds later as Renner hits Davis on a 50-yard bomb to end a three-play, 60-yard drive and Moore kicks to make it 35-28.
And the Tar Heels tie it with 12:10 left in the quarter, as Renner hits Erik Highsmith from 15 out to finish a three-play, 56-yard march and Moore adds the boot.
Moore adds a 22-yard field goal at 6:58 to end an eight-play, 27-yard excursion.
Gio Bernard then gives the Tar Heels a pad again on a one-yard run to finish a 10-play, 51-yard march. Moore’s kick makes it 45-35.
Craddock makes it 45-38 when he hits a 27-yard field goal to complete a 15 play, 74-yard march with 3:12 to go.
But the Tar Heels run out the clock from that point.
Renner completes 28 of 39 passes for 305 yards, tying a school record with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Davis catches nine passes for 135 yards and two TDs while Bernard carries 27 times for 163 yards and a score and catches five passes for 32.
Petty completes 16 of 25 for 208 yards and a TD with one interception, adding 11 carries for 20 yards and the TD. Ross carries 21 times for 141 yards and a score while Diggs catches eight passes for 82, rushes three times for 20 and throws the eight-yard TD pass.
They said it …
Fedora: “Wow, what a game! It was like two different games in the first half and the second half. I was proud of the way these guys fought back in the second half, came out there and fought, scratched and clawed their way to a victory. I’m proud again of these seniors and what they mean to this team. To be Coastal Division champs — and that’s the way we’ll look at it — we’re very proud of this football team.”
Maryland coach Randy Edsall: “It’s tough — those guys gave everything that they had out there today and came up a little bit short. We just couldn’t get some stops in the second half, the third quarter, and had trouble generating anything in the third quarter. But the guys kept fighting and still had a shot there at the end.”
UNC roverback Pete Mangum: “In the spring we had to get used to a new coaching staff and a new offense and defense. I feel like we’ve come a long way with that and become comfortable. We trust each other. It’s definitely been a journey and not too many people have seen the ups and downs like we have.”
Davis: “I’ve definitely started to get in my groove, but now that (the season) is all over that’s something to carry into next year. My confidence is really high. I feel like I can go out there and make a lot of plays now.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels look to be in very good shape for next season, while Maryland’s picture is currently looking murky.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Davis’ 50-yard scoring pass from Renner.
UNC: Won 2.
Maryland: Lost 6.
UNC leads 36-33-1.
2013 season openers