Ed. note: Due to unforeseen publishing delays, the GBU Report did not appear in its usual slot on Sunday. Apologies abound -- Doc
After a strong 5-1 start in the first half of the season, UNC limped home to a 2-4 finish in the second half, but at least ended on a solid note with 37-21 thumping of Duke to secure the Victory Bell for the 21st time in the last 22 attempts. The Tar Heels were pretty much in control for most of the game, and while Duke did close to within 23-21 early in the second half, Carolina responded with a pair of touchdowns to put the game away. Also of note are a trio of record-setting performances for UNC's offensive stars, Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones, and Gio Bernard.
So while we are still in a mood of giving thanks, let's give thanks for UNC's 4th-straight winning season with this week's GBU report:
Dwight Jones: Now that's a senior day. Jones had 10 catches for 101 yards and three touchdowns, setting a school record for receptions (79) in a season along the way. He also had yet another SportsCenter-worthy one-handed grab. Jones will finish the regular season leading the ACC in receptions and touchdowns.
Gio Bernard: The rookie sensation had 165 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and hauled in four passes for another 57 yards. Bernard ends the season with 1222 rushing yards, eclipsing the school record for yardage by a freshman held by some guy named Amos Lawrence.
Bryn Renner: For all his ups and downs on the season, Renner threw for 274 yards and the three TD passes to Jones. Renner ties the school record for TD passes in a season with 23, against only 12 interceptions. He also threw for almost 2800 yards on the season, completing nearly 70% of his passes. Not too bad for a sophomore first-year starter.
Defensive front seven: The defensive front had a solid day, registering 7 tackles for loss and two sacks, while holding Duke to a net 46 yards rushing.
Kicking game: Yes, the kicking game. Nice to see Carolina's pair of freshman kickers finally have it go right. Thomas Moore was 3-for-3 in field goals, including a career-long 46-yarder. Thomas Hibbard had a nearly 44-yard average on his punts, and put two of them inside the 20.
Offensive line: Can we just put a ditto on this group for most of the season? Still, in the 12th game, these guys cannot consistently open holes between the tackles and whiff on their blocks when they pull. One of my hopes for the new coaching staff is someone who can coach up what is an otherwise impressive physical group.
Defensive secondary: Still amazed that in game 12, these guys can be out of position and get beat like they did, giving up touchdown passes of 45 and 70 yards.
Penalties: UNC had nine accepted penalties for 75 yards (there were actually more called). Over the course of a game, you're going to have penalties here and there. But the false starts, too many men on the field, and late hits are matters of being disciplined.
Duke cheerleaders: #Doherty'd
And so the book closes on the 2011 season, which in many ways has to be regarded as a success considering the potential for disaster that could have been (and was predicted by some) given the timing of the firing of Butch Davis. Kudos to Everett Withers and his staff for keeping the program in the road and competitive in every game, except for Clemson. The Heels will now head most likely to Washington, DC for their 4th straight bowl game and a chance to hit the magic number of 8 wins, which seems to be the magic number of the past few years.