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RALEIGH, N.C.--- North Carolina spotted arch-rival N.C. State 10 points Saturday afternoon in the renewal of an intense in-state rivalry, but behind two Quinshad Davis touchdowns and a solid defensive effort over the game's final 50 minutes, the Tar Heels claimed a 27-19 triumph for its second straight win over NCSU, its second straight win this season, and its first victory in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005.
"Every time we allowed them in the red zone, we held them to a field goal," said UNC head coach Larry Fedora, speaking of his team's defensive effort. "We held them to four field goals (after an early touchdown). You have to give the defense a lot of credit for that, because they bowed up when it really counted."
"Any time you lose a game like that, it's going to be hard to deal with afterwards," said NCSU head coach Dave Doeren. "It came down to mistakes for us. We made too many mistakes. In a game like that, there isn't much margin for error. It's disappointing."
In all, UNC went the game's final 57 minutes without allowing N.C. State to reach the end zone following Brandon Mitchell's 6-yard quarterback keeper just two minutes and 13 seconds into the game, following an early Bryn Renner interception.
State led 10-0 early following a Niklas Sade field goal, but then Marquise Williams led Carolina on an impressive eight play, 74-yard march, climaxed by a short touchdown pass to Davis, his first of the afternoon.
Williams finished the game eight-of-15 passing for 92 yards and the touchdown to Davis, while Renner was 15-of-22 passing with the one early interception. Both UNC signal-callers dealt with various ailments throughout the game, including a shoulder injury to Renner that looked reasonably serious and forced him to miss the remainder of the game after it happened in the second half.
NCSU would kick two more field goals in the first half against UNC's bend-but-don't-break defense, which allowed just 388 total offensive yards on the afternoon to the Wolfpack.
But UNC surged to take the lead at halftime 21-16 following a short Renner touchdown run (before the shoulder injury), which came after an inexplicable N.C. State fake punt attempt deep in its own territory, and then a second touchdown to Davis.
"I thought we had it (the fake punt)," said Coach Doeren. "That's on me. They gave us the look that we saw on film earlier in the week, and so I thought we had a chance there. They did a good job defensively to stop us.
The biggest play of the game for Carolina came courtesy of true freshman receiver Ryan Switzer, who took a quick pass in the flats and subsequently threw a bomb to Davis, who had gotten behind his defender.
Davis made the catch and 59 yards later, the Tar Heels had a lead they would not relinquish, 21-16 at the 9:43 mark of the second quarter.
The explosive first half, in which the teams combined for 37 points, gave way to a passive defensive struggle in the second half, as NCSU failed to reach the end zone over the game's final two quarters, while UNC added an important insurance touchdown at the 11:19 mark of the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run by freshman T.J. Logan.
"We keep saying that every rep these young guys get is experience for them and they keep getting better and better," said Fedora. "They are going to keep playing for us and keep making plays."
While Fedora was naturally pleased about the way his young players responded amidst NCSU's hostile home environment, he was also satisfied with the maturity his team showed, rallying from an early 10-0 deficit by sticking to the game plan and staying focused.
"We talked Thursday night what happened last year (against NCSU). We jumped out early and had all the momentum and they came right back. We (the coaches) just say good or bad, play the same way all the way through, and that's what we did."
"I knew coming in that it (UNC-NCSU) was a great rivalry, and a passionate game," added Doeren. "I love playing in games like this. The environment our fans created was great. I say 'thank you' to all of them, especially our student section and band. I'd also tell them to hang with us as we continue to build."
From here, North Carolina (3-5, 2-3 ACC) returns to Chapel Hill next week for another ACC game against Virginia, while the Wolfpack (3-5, 0-5) try to keep alive their faint bowl hopes next Saturday with another local rivalry contest at Duke.