Art's Angle: A Win For Losing
A lot has happened since Carolina last won a football game before Saturday’s 27-6 victory over East Carolina.
UNC lost its chief fund-raiser, a former star quarterback who flew the coop with the mother of the school’s most decorated basketball player.
UNC lost a chancellor, who resigned effective at the end of the school year over the distractions his embattled office was causing.
And UNC hoped not to lose, even for a single practice, its beloved basketball coach, who had one of two tumors removed from his kidneys.
While all this was going on, UNC had lost its best football player with whom the Tar Heels would not have avoided all of the above but might have won two games and be standing 4-0 today instead of 2-2.
It’s been one helluva a fortnight.
All is certainly not right with the world after Carolina shook off its third straight sluggish start and put away the Purple Pirates from down east with its third straight shutout third quarter and improved second half performance.
But with Giovani Bernard back at tailback and Bryn Renner continuing to leapfrog other quarterbacks in the UNC record books, the Tar Heels are in a position to peel the winless Idaho potatoes this week and be ready for their “white out” effort against big, bad Virginia Tech on October 6, both games in Kenan Stadium.
Coach Larry Fedora’s first team remained undefeated at home by trying to get Gio and his healed knee back in shape despite the Pirates loading up the box with as many as nine defenders. It lead to a ho-hum first half in which both teams had trouble scoring points and subdued the sun-baked crowd of nearly 60,000 hoping for a continuation of Carolina’s sensational second half at Louisville last week.
The first 30 minutes ended with Casey Barth, UNC’s record-setting placekicker who owns the most field goals in UNC history and would eventually set the new PAT mark as well, missing a chip shot from 34 yards right in front of the moaning Tar Pit students. It was Barth’s first miss of the season after 16 makes.
Fedora denies that he delivers a Rockne rendition at halftime, but the Tar Heels again came out to dominate both ends of the field, scoring two touchdowns that put the game away and improve UNC’s aggregate score in the third quarter to 52-0 on the season. They added a field goal in the fourth, running their summative second-half to 79-10.
Bernard was not Elonesque, but he did have 102 total yards and two touchdowns without returning a single punt. The real story of the game was Carolina’s special teams that backed up the Pirates throughout the second half, recording seven sacks of ECU’s young QB Shane Carden, and Renner finally burning the encroaching ECU defense and going over the top to finish with 321 yards and moving into third place on UNC’s all-time touchdown pass list even though he’s only played in 17 games. At this rate, he’ll surpass in two full seasons what T.J. Yates took four to accomplish. And Renner had more than 100 yards of passes dropped, including a bomb that slipped through the hands of WR Erik Highsmith, who had his man beaten down the left side (he had eight others that he caught).
Renner, who entered the game leading the nation in touchdown passes, can be called a masterpiece (instead of work) in progress. He’s still learning Fedora’s fast-break offense, making mistakes as he goes while accumulating amazing stats. He’s really a pro-style passer trying to adjust to the so-called “Fed Spread” and looks destined to be playing in the NFL someday. Saturday, at least, he just looked like a damn good college quarterback.
As long they as they keep score, especially in this worrisome period of untimely departures at UNC, a boring win is always better than an exciting loss.