Sylvester Williams and the UNC defense came up with enough late stops to give the Tar Heels a chance on Saturday. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina’s rousing 43-35 victory against N.C. State on Saturday at Kenan Stadium will take its place as one of the great games in the 102-game history of the rivalry. A look back at the Tar Heels’ victory, from the UNC point of view:
What worked: During the first and fourth quarters, most things worked for the Tar Heels, who outscored the Wolfpack 43-14 during those two quarters. UNC got off to a fast start and built a 25-7 lead before rallying from a 35-25 deficit to win the game with Giovani Bernard’s 74-yard punt return for a touchdown with 13 seconds to play. As he has been for most of the season, Bernard was spectacular on Saturday. He gained 135 yards on 23 carries, caught eight passes for 95 yards and finished the game with the electrifying punt return. UNC finished with 570 yards of offense, and gained an average of 6.6 yards per play.
What needs work: As well as UNC played at the beginning and end on Saturday, N.C. State dominated the middle portion of the game. The Heels’ pass defense was exposed on Saturday and the Wolfpack seemed to pass underneath the coverage – and sometimes over it – at will. Mike Glennon, the N.C. State quarterback, finished with a career-high 467 yards passing and threw five touchdown passes, which tied a school record. The 467 yards passing were the third-most that UNC has ever allowed.
-Giovani Bernard. What more can be said about Bernard? How about this – and I wrote it on Twitter (you can follow me @_andrewcarter) after the game on Saturday: Bernard deserves a place in the Heisman discussion. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game and is the only player in the country to score multiple touchdowns rushing, receiving and on special teams.
-Jonathan Cooper. UNC’s senior offensive guard played 85 snaps on Saturday and finished with 18 knockdown blocks. That’s a lot. He also graded out at 90 percent and led an offensive line that allowed the Tar Heels to amass 570 yards of total offense.
-UNC’s resiliency. The Tar Heels have shown some fight before – most notably in second-half comebacks that fell short at Louisville and Duke. And there UNC was again on Saturday, entering the fourth quarter with a double-digit deficit. This time, the Heels’ rally ended in victory.
-The pass defense. N.C. State’s Mike Glennon finished with a career-high 467 yards passing and his five touchdown passes tied the school record. Glennon played well, but UNC didn’t exactly make it difficult for him. Many of his receivers were wide open, including Tobias Palmer on that 83-yard touchdown in the second quarter that turned the momentum – and the game – in the Wolfpack’s favor.
-The second and third quarters. UNC’s poor performance during the second and third quarters nearly spoiled what the Tar Heels accomplished at the beginning and end of the game. The Heels were outscored 21-0 in the second and third quarters. They had no answers defensively and had difficulty generating offense, too. That was a surprise given UNC’s early success.
-The helmets. I know the players liked them. I know many of the fans liked them. But as much as I tried to appreciate UNC’s helmets on Saturday, I just couldn’t. They’re not the worst college football helmets I’ve seen lately (Maryland has some hideous designs) but they did look a bit gimmicky, no? Metallic gray with a big, oddly-shaped foot stretched around either side. And if you’re going to wear those, shouldn’t it be against an opponent that’s not your rival? Rivalry games are about tradition and history, and the helmets UNC wore on Saturday looked out of place.
Up next: UNC has an off week this week before hosting Georgia Tech on Nov. 10. The Tar Heels are 11-9-2 at home against the Yellow Jackets.