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November 3, 2013
Youth propels Tar Heel offense
North Carolina did what it needed to Saturday to overcome a rough offensive start and beat NC State 27-19.
For the Tar Heels, early offensive errors, an offensive surprise and an offensive first stood out as the three plays of the game.
Bryn Renner was picked off on the second play of the game on the 24-yard line and NC State capitalized on the field position to take an early 7-0 lead. Renner was not discouraged by the throw, though, it was just enough to make him realize he was doing too much.
"We go through the top ten plays that we're going to run week in and week out and I decided some way to screw it up," Renner said. "It's unfortunate. I can't make a play like that, especially to put us in a hole and give them a short field."
"I was kind of just trying to throw it away, I thought Romar (Morris) as I was going down was going to be there and (Juston Burris) made a diving catch, unbelievable."
"I think the first two drives, whenever you get a big ball game, you want to try to make a big play and unfortunately I made the opposite. I made a huge play that cost us seven points. You can't do that to the team and I felt bad ."
On North Carolina's next possession, Eric Ebron fumbled the ball on North Carolina's 16-yard line. Ebron recovered his own mistake, but NC State then held UNC to three and out before taking over. The Tar Heel defense prevented the Wolfpack from scoring more than a field goal on the drive but the home team a 10-0 lead.
When UNC got the ball back, Marquise Williams lead North Carolina's third possession - following the game plan, Fedora said - as the Tar Heels got on the board with a two-yard pass from Williams to Quinshad Davis.
North Carolina's defense held NCSU to its own 30-yard line, before forcing the punt then scoring on its second consecutive possession on a one-yard run from Renner.
Two possessions later, North Carolina opened the playbook to a page not yet seen this season as Renner pitched the ball to slot receiver Ryan Switzer from the Tar Heels' 41-yard line before Switzer threw the ball 59 yards to Davis who was in the end zone.
And for Davis, the execution of the play was as much of a surprise as it was to the fooled Wolfpack defense.
"Let me tell you," Davis said. "Switz in practice could not throw the ball could not throw it. But in the game, he put it on the money, so that's all that matters. I sold it pretty good, I was just hoping they would hold up long enough for him to get the ball off, and they did so you saw the big play happen."
Switzer - who said the last time he threw a touchdown was "probably midget league," - himself was on the list of players who was surprised to hear his pass-play called.
"I didn't think they were going to call it, but when I herd my number, I was like 'Hey, I've got to get it,'" Switzer said. "I thought I threw it a little too far inside but Quinshad made me look real good, I got real excited, (it was) a big play, it was a great moment."
Despite the shock of the "big play," when Switzer's play was called he acted according to a conversation he and his freshmen classmates had earlier this week.
"The freshmen here have a good bond," he said. "We sat down and talked - this is our eighth game this week - and we decided that we weren't freshmen anymore, that we had to play like upper classmen. So we came in here and TJ (Logan) ran great today, Khris Francis made some plays, got a touchdown called back, and Bug Howard (played well) too."
Swtizer's ability to locate the ball close enough for Davis to make the play was not the only thing that went right on the play though, Davis said.
"We got to have the o-line blocking, (Sean) Tapley blocking or whoever it is that's slot blocking to give him time to throw the ball and they did and the play worked."
Davis said his focus on the play was selling his own block and not looking back.
"So I wasn't looking back until I got past my guy."
As he got past his guy, Davis moved the score to 21-16 UNC.
North Carolina did not score in the third quarter, but after taking control a little over a minute into the fourth, Williams again ran a touchdown-scoring drive, but this time it was freshman T.J. Logan who stepped into the red zone and did something for the first time for the Tar Heels.
"It's a big deal to me," Logan said of scoring a touchdown in his fourth game playing for UNC.
Although it was a first at the college level, the tailback's ability to get into the end zone came on a familiar type of play - one he scored on many times in his high school career.
"It was an inside zone read and the line kind of doubled on the linebacker, so when they did that, I just cut it off and tried to get into the end zone," Logan said. "I thought it was going to be a little more cloudy but I came through and it was open."
"I saw the line, got up to the linebackers and my eyes got wide so I just tried to finish up. I was just thinking get to the end zone, that's all I was thinking."
Thomas Moore missed the point after the touchdown, but Logan's six points gave North Carolina the 27-19 lead it held until the clock wound down and added his name to both the list of running backs that have scored for North Carolina this year - and the list of backs that the Tar Heels will continue to use by committee - and to the list of first-year collegiate players that are making bigger and bigger impacts for UNC as the season progresses.
"We have a real good group of guys so coach Fedora gives us a chance to actually get out there and play, so when that happens we have to make the most of it," Logan said of the freshman class's bettering performances.
"As a class, we're competitive, we're going to congratulate each other when it's time but also we're going to help each other get back up even if it's bad. But we're mostly just friends, all of us, so it's cool."