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UNC 40 Middle Tennessee 20

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In a somewhat uneven performance, the Tar Heels stake a 23-0 halftime lead and go on to defeat Middle Tennessee 40-20

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

On one hand, it was a consistent performance from UNC. Both the offense and defense had stretches of good play, mostly in the first half and a second half were things didn't go as well as they could have. Still it was a 40-20 win so the complaining should probably be kept to a minimal as much as possible.

UNC actually opened the game by botching the coin toss, which should be impossible but there it is. According to Larry Fedora there was a miscommunication which led to the Tar Heels UNC kicking off to start both halves. Fedora also said it led to referee Ron Cherry "looking at me like I was an idiot." I am pretty sure I've never heard of a team kicking off twice and that such a thing happened with Ron Cherry running the coin toss should surprise absolutely no one.

At any rate, the Blue Raiders took the ball to start the half and proceeded to gash the Tar Heel defense driving down to the one yard line after a called touchdown on the field was reversed on replay. Tre Boston's one handed interception of Logan Kilgore ended the drive. For the rest of the half the UNC defense appeared to right itself giving up only 31 yards after surrendering 68 on the first drive.

Meanwhile the offense got on track, well sort of. The first drive went off in clockwork fashion with Romar Morris going 26 yards for the touchdown. The Tar Heels tried for two and failed. After getting a stop, UNC drove down to the Blue Raider three but needed all four down for the second touchdown. Another two point conversion try was successful but a holding call canceled it so UNC settled for a 25-yard extra point from Thomas Moore to make it 13-0. The Tar Heels tacked on a Morris 1-yard TD run and a Moore FG to take a 23-0 lead into the locker room.

After the break, it appeared UNC decided to not only take the foot off the gas but turn the engine off and coast the rest of the way. The defense was wildly inconsistent with Middle Tennessee gashing the way down the field for a touchdown to open the half. The Blue Raider's next possession went much the same way before Darrien Rankin ended it with an interception. That play and some timely penalties from Middle Tennessee supported what was a lackluster defensive effort in the second half from the Tar Heels.

Likewise the Tar Heel offense coughed and sputtered for much of the second half putting together just one good drive that only resulted in a 35-yard Thomas Moore field goal for North Carolina's only points of the third quarter. UNC started the fourth with a punt and on the next offensive possession the Blue Raiders scooped up a Ryan Switzer fumble to make it a 26-13 game. The Tar Heels responded with Renner hitting Sean Tapley, Eric Ebron and Quinshad Davis in successive plays with the sophomore pulling an 18-yard touchdown pass to stem whatever momentum Middle Tennesee might have built up. Marquise Williams came in for mop up duty and hit Bug Howard for a 15-yard touchdown pass to put the Heels up 40-13. Middle Tennessee closed to within 20 on a late drive for the final margin.

On the day North Carolina racked up 511 yards of total offense. Renner threw for 339 yards and one touchdown versus an interception. Multiple receivers caught passes with nine different players registering at leas 10 yards receivers. Tapley led the way with 93 yards. Mark McNeil had 75 yards, 59 of which game on one play. Davis was fairly quiet with only 18 yards. The rushing game consisted of Romar Morris, A.J. Blue and freshman Khris Francis each rushing for a little over 40 yards. UNC totaled 134 yards on 41 attempts which is a little alarming. There was a sense that the Tar Heel offensive line simply wasn't getting the push it needed to open up the rushing attack. Renner being sacked twice and hurried or flush on other occasions will likely renew concerns about the offensive line that were allayed somewhat following a decent performance against South Carolina.

A solid defensive effort in the first half gave way to the UNC giving up 302 yards after halftime. The Tar Heels took advantage of four Blue Raider turnovers and a pair of fourth down stops to hold Middle Tennessee to just 20 points. It was the kind of performance that hearkens back to the days of the "bend-but-don't-break" defense under Everett Withers. The defensive performance today was built more on opportunistic turnovers or opponent mistakes rather than effective execution. Not that forcing turnovers isn't part of that but the Blue Raiders were able to run their offense with far too much ease in the second half for anyone to be satisfied with the overall performance.

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