CHAPEL HILL, NC - Although it was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, North Carolina wound up conducting its final spring scrimmage on Monday afternoon. Several Tar Heels excelled on both sides of the ball, and showed quite a bit of promise for the upcoming 2008 season.
The team began the session with an extended amount of work on the special teams, including field goals, punts, and kickoffs.
Although the coverage units were not 'live,' the returners, including Brandon Tate and Cooter Arnold, took multiple kickoffs. Jay Wooten did most of the place kicking work, while Terrence Brown and walk-on Grant Schallock handled the punting duties.
The game began with the second-string offense competing against the second-team defense. Cameron Sexton took the reigns of the No. 2 offense, with Ryan Houston and Anthony Elzy in the backfield. Houston, who ran well all afternoon, took several carries on the opening drive and culminated the series with a 3-yard touchdown.
For the most part, the running game worked out quite well for the Tar Heels on Monday, as Houston, first-team tailback Greg Little and third-stringer Devon Ramsay combined for 137 yards and three scores in a combined 31 carries (4.4 yards average).
Following Houston's initial score for the second-teamers, the first-team offense, led at quarterback by redshirt freshman Mike Paulus, took the field.
Among the highlights of the first team's opening drive was a 23-yard pass completion from Paulus to Hakeem Nicks, and back-to-back runs by Little that gained eight and seven yards, respectively. Little finished the drive with a five-yard scoring run, and Tate tallied a two-point conversion.
The second string returned to the field from there, but after recording a single first down, they were stopped.
Paulus then took the reigns of the third team for a series against the third team defense, where he completed passes to receivers including Quentin Plair, Kenton Thornton, and Arnold.
After converting a fourth-and-one from the 8-yard line, Ramsay took two more carries before crossing the goal line for a third UNC touchdown.
Paulus stayed on the field for Carolina's next drive, and he helped the Tar Heels move 54 yards in 15 plays before being stopped on a fourth down play from the 11-yard line.
Sexton took control for UNC's next two drives, but the Tar Heels were unable to return to the end zone. The first drive ended with a defensive stand, and the second ended when Sexton fumbled at his own 44-yard line and the defense recovered.
From there, the offenses and defenses got one more crack at 'regular' drives with the respective first and second strings. Paulus once again moved his team within field goal range, but big plays by Kendric Burney and Mark Paschal on defense held the offense at bay.
Sexton returned for his final regular drive, and after completing a 24-yard pass to Anthony Elzy, he made a couple of handoffs before getting sacked by Tydreke Powell. On a fourth down play from the 24-yard line, Sexton went for Thornton in the end zone but was intercepted by Tavorris Jolly.
The final two drives of the game were conducted in 'goal line' situations, as both the offense and defense worked on scenarios inside the red zone. Paulus returned to the field and after an incomplete pass, he handed off twice to Elzy, the second carry resulting in a touchdown.
The game ended with the second strings working goal line scenarios, and Houston fighting his way towards the goal line.
Some of the top individual performances in the game, aside of the running backs, were the performance of the quarterbacks. Paulus finished the game 11-of-16 for 159 yards, while Sexton was seven-of-nine passing for 104 yards.
Combined, the pair was 18-of-25 for 263 passing yards and one interception.
"Both of them (Paulus and Sexton) today showed flashes," said UNC head coach Butch Davis. "Mike had a positive day. He had no turnovers, was efficient with the football and showed some pocket presence. Cam's second spring practice was infinitely better than the spring practice he had a year ago."
Little led all rushers with 51 yards on 11 carries, while Houston had 44 yards on 10 carries and Ramsay had 42 yards on 10 carries. All three players reached the end zone. Elzy added six rushing yards on two attempts.
Four different Tar Heel receivers had at least three catches, with Nicks leading the way with 85 yards.
Defensively the star of the game for UNC was Tydreke Powell, who recorded six tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
"I think we've had a very positive spring practice," said Davis. "One of the things we wanted to find out was about our running game and I thought today was a positive step forward. We've worked pretty hard all spring trying to develop consistency, continuity, a tough mental attitude about running the football."
FINAL SPRING GAME STATISTICS
Mike Paulus - 11 of 16, 159 yards
Cameron Sexton - 7 of 9, 104 yards, 1 INT
Greg Little - 11-51, TD
Ryan Houston - 10-44, TD
Devon Ramsay - 10-42, TD
Anthony Elzy - 2-6
Hakeem Nicks, 4-85
Anthony Elzy, 3-52
Kenton Thornton, 3-46
Brandon Tate, 3-21
Quentin Plair, 2-27
Cooter Arnold, 2-26
Ryan Houston, 1-9
Brooks Foster, 1-8
Tydreke Powell 6, Cam Thomas 4, Alex Crisp 4, Kennedy Tinsley 3, Quan Sturdivant 3, Marvin Austin 3, Mark Paschal 3, Tavares Brown 2, Darius Powell 2, Deunta Williams 2, Aleric Mullins 2, Vince Jacobs 2, E.J. Wilson 2, Jordan Hemby 2, Greg Elleby 2, Ryan Taylor 1, Brian Gupton 1, Jabir Jones 1, Hayden Hunter 1, Chase Rice 1, Tavares Brown 1, Brian White 1, Wesley Flagg 1, Da'Norris Searcy 1, Kendric Burney 1, Matt Merletti 1
Tydreke Powell 2, Darius Powell, Tavares Brown, Cam Thomas, Mark Paschal