After two straight games against ACC opponents, East Carolina fans have to accept the fact that they have a team capable of a little under thirty minutes of good football. After that though, they're kind of screwed. Similar to the Virginia Tech game two weeks earlier, the Pirates started strong, and had two sustained drive for touchdowns and a lot of early stops. Then they stumbled, and started punting. And then the met Da'Norris Searcy.
Searcy, with ECU holding a lead and starting a late second-quarter drive, picked off Dominique Davis at the ECU 46 and rumbled all the way into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown the Pirates could never recover from. With that interception the UNC secondary came alive just as ECU fully abandoned their unsuccessful running game. East Carolina would only attempt sixteen rushes on the game, compared to 52 passing attempts. The Heels would go on to get two more interceptions, these by Kevin Reddick and Gene Robinson, in the fourth when ECU was trying to make up an ever-increasing deficit; the defense made sure this game was never in doubt in the second half.
Of course, it helped to have a fully functioning offense to help them out, and here UNC excelled without relying on T.J. Yates. Carolina established a solid running game that resulted in hundred-yards games from both Johnny White (140 yards and 2 TDs) and Shaun Draughn (137 and 1). With that kind of success, the Heels were able to eat up over twelve minutes of the fourth quarter while only throwing twice, and still netting the fourteen points that turned the final score into a rout. Yates also had a good game through the air, completing on 18 of 26 passes and not throwing an interception in his third game this season.
This was exactly the type of game UNC needed heading into the bulk of their ACC schedule. They're still down eleven players, with firm return dates for only two of them – and a good chance at east will never see the field again – so to have both sides of the ball achieve a steady rhythm for an easy win is critical. They face a tough three-game that includes two road games, and while there's still a lot that has to be improved (punting and tackling come to mind, and the offensive line could stand to play a complete game one of these days) the Heels seem to have overcome their early-season self-inflicted problems. If they can buckle down and start to overachieve in the next three weeks, they'll be right in the thick of the Coastal Division title where they should have been.