by Mike Potter
Today’s visitor is in-state rival East Carolina (2-1), which is coming off a 24-14 win at traditional foe Southern Mississippi last week.
UNC played its two losses without all-everything back Gio Bernard, who is back from the injury list and ready to go against the Pirates.
The Tar Heels have won two straight in the series, including a 35-20 victory in Greenville last season.
Today UNC breaks away after a close first half, scoring the last 17 points en route to a 27-6 win.
The Tar Heels get on the board first late in the first quarter. Bryn Renner hits Bernard in the right flat for a 14-yard
ECU erases its goose egg early in the second, on Warren Harvey’s 22-yard field goal at 14:15. The boot completes a 14-play, 70-yard drive.
But the Tar Heels respond at 7:27 as Barth nails a 20-yard field goal to complete a 14-play, 72-yard march.
The Pirates come back with a third consecutive extended drive resulting in three points, as Harvey connects from 26 to finish a 15-play, 66-yard journey at 1:29.
Barth misses a 34-yard field goal attempt at the buzzer and it’s 10-6 at intermission.
UNC finally gets some lightning early in the third, as Renner hits Sean Tapley down the left sideline for a 62-yard scoring strike with Tapley breaking an open-field tackle along the way. Barth adds the boot at 10:45.
And the Tar Heels get another big boost when Bernard goes in from four yards out at 7:55 and Barth adds the boot. That comes at the end of a four-play, 15-yard drive, which begins when Kevin Reddick sacks the Pirates’ Shane Cardin and Kareem Martin picks up the fumble.
The Tar Heels tack on their last points on a 41-yard Barth field goal with 5:16 to go.
UNC finishes with 450 yards total offense to 233 for the Pirates.
Renner completes 27 of 43 passes for 321 yards and the three TDs. Bernard rushes 18 times for 50 yards and the score and catches six passes for 52 and his other.
Carden completes 17 of 30 for 124 for ECU, which gets 68 yards on six carries from Vintavious Cooper.
They said it …
UNC coach Larry Fedora: “We’ve got a much better taste in our mouths than we have had. I thought our guys played well. I wouldn’t say it was a great game, but it was a complete game. We played hard the entire game. Anytime you get seven sacks and hold somebody to 230-some yards total offense, you did a tremendous job.”
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill: “It was a tough, disappointing loss for us. I thought we prepared very well as a team and thought we were ready to go. And we were. (Early in the second half) we had some mishaps happen that really set us back a little bit, and against a team like that, as talented as they are, you can’t have those setbacks.”
Renner: “We still need to improve on things, but it’s coming together. It was huge for Gio to come back. He’s one of the best backs in the country, and he made a lot of great runs today. And Tapley breaking that tackle was unbelievable. He was so happy about getting his first career touchdown. He’s been talking about that all summer.”
Bernard: “I was ready to go. Going into the game really got me going. Going into a game you know you’re going to get hit. … Sean Tapley did a great job giving us some breathing room. We weren’t feeling that stress any more after he scored. It really was a team effort, too, not letting ECU get into the end zone.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels look to be back on track, and that ECU needs to develop a more consistent offense against top-notch competition.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Tapley’s reception for his first career TD.
UNC: Won 1.
ECU: Lost 1.
UNC leads 12-2-1.
UNC at Idaho, Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m.
ECU vs. Texas-El Paso, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.