by Mike Potter
The favored home team, still without nine mostly key players from its summer depth chart as part of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation of allegations of academic misconduct and improper gifts from agents, is hoping to improve its record to 2-2.
UNC, which was a consensus Top 25 team in preseason polls, got off the schneid a week ago with a 17-13 win at Rutgers after good efforts in identical 30-24 losses to LSU and Georgia Tech in the season’s first two games.
Back with the team today is safety and kick returner Da’Norris Searcy, who sat out the season’s first three games during the investigation.
With a few thousand purple-clad Pirate fans in the house the stadium is a sellout as the UNC breaks away in the second half for a 42-17 romp.
The Tar Heels come right back, tying the score on a 25-yard pass from T.J. Yates to Jheranie Boyd at the goal line to complete an eight-play, 77-yard march. Casey Barth converts at the 2:44 mark.
ECU got a lightning strike on the first play of the second period, as Davis throws a long overhand lateral left-to-right across the field to Dwayne Harris who hits Joe Womack near the right end of the goal line for a 39-yard score. The eight-play, 88-yard possession ends at 14:54 with Barbour’s boot making it 14-7.
Searcy makes his mark with 2:53 left in the half, stepping in front of a Davis pass at the ECU 46 and returning the ball to pay dirt. Barth’s try ties the score.
The Tar Heels have a chance to go ahead on their first possession of the second half, but Barth’s 37-yard field-goal attempt is wide right. And the Pirates take advantage of the opening as Barbour hits one from 28 yards out at 9:31 to complete the 11-play, 69-yard march.
But UNC takes the lead for the first time with 5:40 left in the third, as Yates hits Dwight Jones across the middle for a 13-yard scoring strike to complete a seven-play, 80-yard drive. Barth’s boot makes it 21-17.
The Tar Heels are back in business at the Pirate 26 after a Kevin Reddick interception. Shawn Draughn goes in from a yard out to finish a five-play drive with Barth adding the boot with three seconds left in the third and it’s 28-17.
And Draughn applies the knockout punch on a four-yard scoring run with 6:22 left that completes a 13-play, 88-yard drive. Barth converts.
Draughn scores his third straight touchdown to help finish the scoring with 49 seconds left.
Draughn — who missed the season’s first two games with eligibility questions — carries 27 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns and Johnny White adds 16 for 140, giving the Tar Heels two rushers with triple-figure yardage in the same game for the first time since the 2004 opener against William & Mary.
Yates completes 18 of 26 passes for 181 yards and the two touchdowns without an interception on a day the Tar Heels never turn the ball over. Zach Pianalto catches seven passes for 95 yards for UNC.
Davis completes 33 of 51 passes for 244 yards and the touchdown with three interceptions on a day the Pirates rush for only 64 yards. Lance is the top ECU receiver with nine catches for 68 yards and the score.
They said it …
UNC coach Butch Davis: “The story of the game was our ability to run the football and not turn the ball over offensively. Certainly (Searcy’s) interception came at a big time in the ball game. It really helped kind of spur on our defense. I’m really proud of our kids and how they play, and each week it’s a new challenge. … Whenever you have so many young guys on the field at important positions, there is some growing up to do (but) they are getting better every game.”
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill: “Penalties (13 for 120 yards) hurt us. That’s probably the only statement. We corrected it, we thought we corrected it. We’ve just got to keep progressing on that. It put us in some tough situations and it was tough to climb out of that. … We have a team that is young and very talented and they will make some mistakes in the journey and in the progress that we have got going on. Learning to play the next play will be the next part of the journey and the area we will continue to improve. ”
Yates: “Our game plan was to come in here and run the ball on them a whole lot. We just knew that could be a big strength for us coming into this game. We’re pretty happy right now. We’re getting guys back game-by-game. These guys are excited and energetic and ready for the next game.”
Draughn: “We have a couple of great running backs. (Davis) has given us a great rotation. And with the O-line we started off kind of slow but we for it going in the second half. Over the summer we just talked about winning the fourth quarter, and I feel like Coach (Jeff) Connors said their conditioning was the same and they were going to try to out-run us. But we stuck in there and I think they wore down.”
What does it all mean?
That both teams are at .500, and the Tar Heels have momentum while the Pirates don’t.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Reddick’s interception late in the third.
UNC leads 10-2-1.
UNC: Won 2.
ECU: Lost 2.
UNC vs. Clemson, Oct. 9, 3:30 p.m.
ECU at Southern Mississippi, 7:30 p.m.