Eugene, Sutton Lead Pack to 31-27 Win Over Heels
Updated: 6:36 p.m., 11/10/2007 to add quotes, stats
BY TIM PEELER
The team had been denied that privilege when athletics director Lee Fowler asks all athletes who beat the rival Tar Heels to stand up for recognition in recent years after losing three consecutive games to its Triangle neighbor.
“That one kind of hurt my soul a little bit,” said senior offensive lineman Kalani Heppe, who was left seated at last year's banquet. “There were a bunch of boys who had been here a long time, and none of us had ever gotten to stand up for that.”
But O’Brien promised Wolfpack Club boosters during his spring meetings that his players would be on their feet next spring, and thanks to the play of tailback Jamelle Eugene and a last-ditch defensive stand that kept the Tar Heels out of the end zone on the next-to-last play of the game, O'Brien's promise became a reality.
“They made some plays to get down there [to the goal-line],” O’Brien said. “But four times from the 7-yard line and they couldn’t get it in for the touchdown, that is a credit to our defense right there.”
The Wolfpack (5-5 overall, 3-3 ACC) took over for one final play to run out the clock, ending its three-game losing skid to its nearest rival and stretching its winning streak since its bye week to four consecutive games.
“It was a phenomenal game (by
“There were some seams in there that he found and where there weren’t seams, he made them.”
Besides the goal-line stand at the buzzer, the biggest defensive play of the game came with five minutes left when Yates went back to pass and was nabbed by defensive end Willie Young as he began to throw the ball. Yates tried to stop the throw, but it left his hand and landed on the fingertips of NC State defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, who stumbled forward to the UNC 25-yard line with 5:38 remaining in the game.
Relying primarily on Eugene, who carried the ball on seven of the drive’s eight plays, the Wolfpack marched down the field to the goal line to retake the lead on
“It just makes me feel good that they trust me we the ball and want to give me the ball in pressure situations,” said the sophomore from
But he has certainly earned that trust with his hard work on and off the field.
“I knew from the beginning that Jamelle was a great player and a great athlete,” said tight end Marcus Stone, who made his first career touchdown reception earlier in the game. “When the ball is in his hands, good things are going to happen for us. I would say he is the hardest working guy on the team, on the field and off the field.
“Pound-for-pound, there is no doubt that he is the strongest guy on this team. He’s kind of a freak show in the weight room.”
The defense played well all game long, forcing two turnovers that led to 10 Wolfpack points. It also held the Tar Heel offense to just 12 rushing yards in the entire game and limited them to just two of 12 third-down conversions.
It was the third consecutive game that the Wolfpack actually gave up a fourth-quarter lead and came back to win.
The Wolfpack which had some good karma on the sidelines in first-round NFL draft pick Mario Williams and former head coach Dick Sheridan, who owned a 6-1 record against UNC from 1986-92 -- took a quick 17-0 lead in the game by scoring on its first three possessions.
The first score, a 40-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 9:58 remaining in the first quarter, was set up by safety DaJuan Morgan’s interception of Yates on the game’s opening drive. It was Morgan's third straight game with an interception.
The second score came on a 4-yard touchdown run by
The Tar Heels missed on their only scoring opportunity of the first quarter when kicker Connor Barth missed a 52-yard field goal into the wind with 31.9 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Tar Heels got back into the game with 10 unanswered points, after UNC cornerback Charles Brown intercepted a Daniel Evans pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown, the third longest interception return in school history.
After a Wolfpack short punt, the Tar Heels scored again on a 47-yard field goal by Barth, this one with the wind at his back.
But Evans led the Wolfpack on another long drive before the half ended, marching 84 yards on nine plays with the help of a 40-yard reception by wide receiver Donald Bowens. The drive, which gave State a 24-10 lead, ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Evans to a wide-open Stone, the first career touchdown reception by the former starting quarterback.
The third quarter belonged to the Tar Heels. They scored the second half’s first points on a 50-yard touchdown pass from fullback Bobby Rome to wide receiver Brandon Tate. They also had several opportunities to tie the score after two short punts by NC State’s Bradley Pierson that gave the Tar Heels the ball in Wolfpack territory.
But the Wolfpack defense held
The Tar Heels took their only lead in the game, 27-24, with 9:40 remaining in the game when redshirt freshman Kendrick Burney picked off a tipped pass and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown. It’s the first time since 1994 that the Tar Heels have returned two interceptions for a touchdown in the same game.
But a heavily partisan crowd was behind the Wolfpack the entire game, and they were rewarded at the end with the heroics of Eugene and Sutton.
“The fans were tremendous,” O’Brien said. “It was a great college atmosphere. They are the best fans in this state, by far. It’s not even close there. They gave this team a huge boost there.”
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