Talking points: Heels bend, don't break
Posted November 16, 2012
1.Critical red-zone stops and a crucial pick six in a 37-13 win over Virginia – It's hard to believe this was the same North Carolina defense that gave up 68 points this past Sunday against Georgia Tech.
Not that the Tar Heels were defensively flawless Thursday night in Charlottesville. Outside of Phillip Sims finding a wide open Darius Jennings for a second-quarter touchdown, the Cavaliers never made North Carolina pay for their pass coverage mistakes and poor tackling. Virginia added to their own woes with dropped passes, grounded throws and turnovers.
Regardless, North Carolina did the important stuff. As in keeping Virginia out of the end zone.
North Carolina's defensive momentum ultimately took off when Tre Boston notched his first career touchdown on a 36-yard interception following Sims' touchdown in the second quarter. The Cavaliers were forced to punt twice after snuffed drives heading into halftime.
With the Tar Heels leading 20-13 late in the third quarter, the defense stood their ground and kept Virginia from punching it in from a yard out. North Carolina flipped the turnover on downs into a 97-yard scoring drive that ultimately iced the game.
2. The ESPN broadcast crew gushed over Giovani Bernard most of the night. Jesse Palmer went as far as to say Bernard was the best running back in the country, which is something we've discussed in this space plenty of times throughout the season.
Virginia's game plan acted accordingly and focused on limiting Bernard most of the night.
Bernard finished with 15 carries for 57 yards and 4 receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. Not exactly ACC Player of the Year numbers, but Bernard was key in North Carolina's 97-yard scoring drive across the third and fourth quarters. He rushed for 24 yards and was wide open down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown reception.
3. With Bernard limited, the Tar Heels relied on quarterback Bryn Renner effectively passing at a faster tempo. His favorite target of the night? Quinshad Davis, who stepped up in the absence of tight end Eric Ebron.
The freshman wide receiver caught 16 passes for 178 yards, setting a single-game school record and matching an ACC record for single-game receptions. Davis was the final target of the game in an attempt to break the record, but Marquise Williams threw the ball into the ground for an incompletion.
4. Following a back-breaking 23-yard touchdown pass to Bernard near the top of the fourth quarter, Renner celebrated by "mowing the lawn." For those who didn't understand the shenanigans, Thomas Jefferson's natural architectural flourish in the middle of campus is a grassy expanse known as "The Lawn."
5. We're one step closer to ACC Bowlmageddon after Virginia fell to 4-7 overall, putting the Cavs out of the running for a bowl berth.
With North Carolina serving NCAA sanctions, that leaves Duke as the lone bowl-eligible team from the Coastal Division with two weeks left in the season.
The Blue Devils also control their ACC Championship destiny with contests against Georgia Tech and Miami. If Duke beats the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, Paul Johnson's squad would have to beat Georgia to make the postseason. Duke could also knock off Miami next week.
The Hurricanes could become bowl eligible before their trip to Wallace Wade with a win over South Florida, but Miami could impose their own bowl ban to appease the NCAA before they wrap up the Nevin Shapiro investigation.
Somewhere, John Swofford weeps.