While the game was more of a struggle than most though it would be and UNC's defense was gouged for over 500 yards there were also two key defensive plays that paved the way to a Tar Heel win.
The first was Brian Walker's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. While Walker gets the credit for the interception and the long return, it was very much a case of being in the right place at the right time. The crucial piece of this play is the pressure on San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler by Tar Heel linebacker Jeff Schoettmer. Schoettmer flushes Kaehler from the pocket forcing him to roll out to his left and make a throw on the run. The pass sails high over the intended receiver and into Walker's arms. The Tar Heel cornerback took care of the rest.
The other big play on the defensive side came at the end of the game and preserved UNC's four point win. San Diego State had driven to the two yard line and looked to be on the verge of breaking UNC's collective heart with a late touchdown. Enter UNC safety Tim Scott. As the play begins bandit Shakeal Rashad is lined up on SDSU receiver Lloyd Mills. At the snap, Rashad blitzes leaving Mills open on a route to the corner of the end zone. SDSU receiver Eric Judge crosses towards the middle of the end zone pulling Des Lawrence over in coverage. Tim Scott immediately shifts over to cover Mills and is in perfect position to cut in front of Mills to intercept the potential game winning pass. There is a brief instance where Mills looks open which is what Kaehler likely saw when he threw the pass. However Scott was positioned to take away the pass and did a great job controlling it while getting his feet down to seal UNC's win.
UNC has won the first two games of the season thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense. The turnover margin has been UNC's best friend but as Roy Williams would say, depending on something like that is probably "fool's gold."