CHAPEL HILL --- On the first play of the fourth quarter of Saturday night's 40-6 victory over The Citadel, North Carolina junior Da'Norris Searcy lined up underneath a punt off the foot of Bulldog punter Cass Couey.
"I was back there (waiting for the punt) and Coach (Charlie) Williams, the receivers coach, he looked at me and said, 'Stay on the 10 (yard-line). If they kick it over your head let it go, or just fair-catch it. We're going to get good field position,'" said Searcy.
But Searcy was in no mood to make a fair catch.
With a chance to make a splash in UNC's season opener under the lights at Kenan Stadium, the junior was hopeful to get a shot at a reasonable return.
"What was going through my mind was, 'I'm not going to fair-catch it.' I said, 'If it doesn't go over my head I'm not going to fair-catch it.'" he said.
Catching Couey's 32-yard punt at his own 23-yard line, Searcy took off towards the right sideline, ran past a few potential tacklers and found space.
"When they kicked it it was kind of short, so I ran up and I caught it," he said. "I looked and saw I had two people in my face. I jumped sideways to make them miss. My teammates opened up a big hole and I just took off through it."
It wasn't long before Couey---and the sidelines---were the only obstacles in Searcy's path to the end zone.
"I saw the (out of bounds) line, because after I got past the punter he kind of pushed me," he said. "So I was kind of waving my hands just to keep my balance. I looked down and saw how close I was (to the sidelines) and I was like, 'Oh, my God.'"
Searcy nearly stepped out of bounds---and in fact The Citadel challenged the ruling on the field---but he somehow managed to keep his momentum in-bounds and he raced all the way to the goal line for a 77-yard touchdown, Carolina's last of the night.
"I was still running full-speed but I was listening for the whistle, just in case they blew it, but when I didn't hear the whistle and just kept running," Searcy said.
Searcy's scoring run culminated a night of big plays for the Tar Heels, which included a couple of touchdown passes, some lengthy run-oriented drives by the UNC offense, and three interceptions and two sacks by the defense---not to mention holding The Citadel without a touchdown.
It also helped him stake claim to the starting punt returner position for the Tar Heels.
In all Searcy had three punt returns on the night---a three-yarder and a 25-yarder return in the first quarter prior to his fourth quarter touchdown---and given the fact that two other punt returns were muffed by the Tar Heels and lost away to the Bulldogs, Searcy's performance was unquestionably the best of the evening.
"I think everybody was interested in how Da'Norris Searcy would do as a punt returner, and I think he showed tonight that not only does he have running skills, but he has good hands, the ability to make some people miss and he can give us that big play that we certainly missed the second half of last season," said UNC head coach Butch Davis.