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Tar Heels tripped up by Wake Forest

UNC struggles to score after bye

By: Nicole Lukosius, SportSaturday Editor

Issue date: 10/29/07 Section: Sports 

WINSTON-SALEM - After a bye last weekend, North Carolina expected to come out looking revived and ready for a Wake Forest team that has been barreling through the competition.

But this was not the case - a turnover on the first play of the game set the stage for how the rest of the afternoon would unfold, as the Demon Deacons dismantled UNC 37-10 Saturday in Winston-Salem.

Quarterback T.J. Yates stepped back in the pocket and looked downfield, where he was hoping to find wide receiver Brandon Tate. But Wake's Aaron Curry read the pass and stepped in for the interception, which later led to a field goal.

"That first play of the game for us kind of set the tone, and we just went downhill from there because that just kills it," Yates said. "If we're trying to get momentum and start the game off quick, throwing an interception like that is not going to help the team get on track."

While North Carolina (2-6, 1-3 ACC) was having difficulties finding a rhythm on offense, the Demon Deacons (6-2, 4-1) scored on their first three possessions. UNC was finally able to get on the board just more than a minute into the second quarter after Connor Barth kicked a 38-yard field goal, but Wake would answer just 12 seconds later.

Kick returner Kevin Marion found the end zone after a 98-yard return - the second-longest in school history - to put the Demon Deacons up 17-3. Marion also had an 83-yard return in the fourth quarter that set up a touchdown run on the next play.

Head coach Butch Davis said the UNC coverage units have to find a way to limit those plays, which alter the field position game.

"We continually keep putting our defense on the field, if not scoring points, at least setting up the opportunity to score points," head coach Butch Davis said.

"And that's something that's got to stop. It just puts way too much pressure on your defense."

UNC finished the game with 313 total yards - compared to Wake's 269 - but were never able to establish the running game. Only 77 of the team's total yards were rushing gains, and in the second half, it seemed as if North Carolina had almost abandoned the run completely.

"In all three aspects of the game, we didn't do good at all," said senior defensive end Hilee Taylor, who recorded a sack. "This is the worst game we've played."

But UNC did eventually manage to cross the goal line. Down 23-3 nearing the end of the third quarter with the ball on the Tar Heels' 21-yard line, Yates found three different receivers to march 45 yards downfield before the end of the quarter.

After a crossing pass to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and a 12-yard rush by freshman Johnny White to start the fourth quarter, Yates connected with fullback Bobby Rome for the score, but the touchdown was just too little, too late.

"This isn't the way we wanted to come out after a bye week," Nicks said. "They just came at us today, and we didn't meet up to our expectations."

After matching its worst loss of the season - a 37-10 defeat against South Florida - North Carolina can only look ahead to the rest of the schedule. With four games remaining, UNC will need to win them all in order to stay bowl eligible, which is something Taylor thinks still can be accomplished.

"There's no turning back now. I mean, it's all or nothing," he said. "We got four games left. As seniors, these are our last four, maybe in our life … I promise you we're gonna do better."

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