All without having to re-program the simulation.
It was another slow start which found UNC trailing 14-7 in the second quarter when we saw an immediate benefit from having a player cleared from one of the investigation prongs. Da'Norris Searcy picked off ECU's Dominique Davis returning 46 yards for the touchdown. The INT gave the Heels a huge lift after the offense had been somewhat stagnant.
In the second half, UNC combined solid defense with huge performances from Johnny White and Shaun Draughn to score on four out of six possessions to effectively salt the game away. White ran for 140 yards and Draughn racked up 137 which also included three touchdowns. Having two tailbacks go for over 100 yards in the same no doubt conjured up memories of past Tar Heel running duos. No one is saying these guys are Kelvin Bryant and Amos Lawrence but if per chance UNC can get Ryan Houston back, the Heels will have a lot of good options in the backfield. And what more can you say about T.J. Yates. Yet another steady performance which served as a nice counterweight to the running game.
On the defensive side, a lot can and should be said for the secondary which collected three picks on the day and mostly held a potent Pirate offense in check. LB Kevin Reddick and SS Gene Robinson ended two ECU drives in the 2nd half with INTs. After taking a 17-14 lead in the third quarter, ECU not only did not score again but completed just four passes in their final five drives. That is fairly impressive work for an inexperienced secondary missing three starters. The secondary was aided by the Tar Heel front seven who pressured Davis. Quinton Coples continues to play well as the leader of the defensive line and spending some time in the ECU backfield.
Overall, this was a huge win for the confidence of the team and both the offense and defense that still finding themselves. The ECU defense was expected to be weak so it is no surprise UNC had its way scoring. The real surprise came from the dominance of the running game. It was nice to see Draughn get a 100 yard game under his belt while White continues to impress despite being largely an afterthought coming into the season. Facing a powerful passing offense, UNC fell back into its bend but don't break mentality in the first 35 minutes of the game before the defense tightened the screws to the point UNC only had 56 yards of total offense over the final 25 minutes of the game. Approximately half of those came on the final drive when the game was out of reach. After the Georgia Tech game, there were real concerns about the defense with so many key players missing. Now it would appear defense has gotten its footing despite difficult circumstances. Searcy's return was a huge boost and another is coming next week with Deunta Williams taking the field.
Having dispatched the annoying baby brother and stabilizing the record at 2-2, UNC now faces the beginning of the real season. Seven of the final eight games will be against ACC competition. Given the parity in the Coastal Division, UNC is still viable to win the division if the offense can continue to play well and the defense gets more personnel back. We know at the very least 3/4 of the secondary will be available for the Miami game. Could Charles Brown also be cleared? How about Robert Quinn and Mike McAdoo? UNC's success in the final eight games could very well rest on how expediently those decisions are rendered.