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North Carolina 35 … at East Carolina 20

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 1, 2011


Week 5 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - North Carolina at East Carolina


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 5 - UNC at East Carolina

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Oct. 1 North Carolina 35 … at East Carolina 20
CFN Analysis: The Tar Heels got hot early and coasted from there. Giovani Bernard built off his excellent game against Georgia Tech by ripping through the Pirate defense for 146 yards and a score, while Bryn Renner was nearly flawless throwing for 230 yards and four scores on just 13 completions. The defense gave up a ton of passing yards in an ECU comeback mode, but the outcome was never in doubt. This was exactly the game the team needed after the loss to the Yellow Jackets, and now it’s on to a layup against Louisville before getting Miami and a road trip to Clemson. As long as the turnovers are kept to a minimum, this will be one of the ACC’s most dangerous teams.

East Carolina has a strong offense, but it hasn’t been consistent, there’s no running game, and it’s not doing enough early in games. Having Dominique Davis to bomb away is always a nice security blanket, but even 417 passing yards didn’t get the job done with four turnovers and a soft defense too much to overcome. At 1-3 it’s not quite time to panic. If the Pirates can beat Houston on the road, they’ll be 2-0 in Conference USA play before getting the two-foot putt against Memphis. Getting off to a hot start will be a must.

(AP) GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Bryn Renner threw four touchdown passes while Giovani Bernard ran for 146 yards and a score to help North Carolina beat East Carolina 35-20 on Saturday night.

Renner threw for 230 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown to Erik Highsmith and a 47-yard TD toss to Dwight Jones in a dominating first-half performance by the Tar Heels (4-1). North Carolina scored the first 21 points and never looked back, rolling to 326 yards in the opening half and converting two early turnovers into quick touchdowns to silence a record home crowd for the Pirates (1-3).

Dominique Davis and East Carolina's offense finally built some momentum in the third quarter, getting a touchdown pass to Lance Lewis and closing to within 28-13 entering the final quarter. But, while the Pirates managed to move the football most of the game, they never recovered from that disastrous start and fell to 0-3 against BCS teams.

Davis threw for a school-record 417 yards, though many of those yards came in the second half after the Tar Heels had built their huge lead. He also threw two interceptions, part of the Pirates' four first-half turnovers that sabotaged them from the opening kickoff.

Renner and Jones connected for a second touchdown that ultimately turned away the Pirates' modest rally. With UNC facing a third-and-goal near the goal line, Jones snatched a high throw from Renner with his right hand and pulled it into his midsection despite wrestling with Pirates cornerback Emanuel Davis and falling to the turf. The impressive catch pushed the Tar Heels' lead to 35-13 with 6:55 left and sent many of the home fans who hadn't already bolted during halftime heading to the exits.

North Carolina hadn't traveled to Greenville since Butch Davis' first season four years ago. The Pirates won that game 34-31 on a last-play field goal, which came only after the Tar Heels botched the hold on their own 52-yard field goal attempt for the lead with 49 seconds left. This game drew a rowdy crowd that prompted the school to offer standing-room only admission into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for about 600 fans, setting a new record attendance of 50,610.

But the energy that filled Dowdy-Ficklen didn't last, due both to the Tar Heels' early dominance and the Pirates' bumbling start.

The Pirates were coming off a 28-23 win against Alabama-Birmingham last week despite a school record-tying seven turnovers -- and they picked right up where they left off. North Carolina's Tre Boston ripped the ball away from Danny Webster on a catch in UNC territory to end East Carolina's first drive, Davis threw an interception on the second and Reggie Bullock fumbled on a carry to end the third. Bullock's fumble marked the fifth straight ECU possession -- excluding a kneeldown at the end of the UAB victory -- that ended with a turnover.

After Davis' pick deep in the Pirates' end, the Tar Heels needed just two plays for Renner to find Jheranie Boyd for an 11-yard touchdown and the game's first score. Then, after Bullock's fumble, Renner found Highsmith alone several steps behind the secondary and hit him in stride over the middle for the 75-yard score that made it 14-0. Bernard followed that by stiff-arming Bradley Jacobs inside the 5 before slipping past him for a 10-yard score that made it 21-0 with 12:57 left in the period.

During that drive, Bernard cracked the 100-yard mark for the third straight game.

North Carolina (3-1) at East Carolina (1-2) Oct. 1, 8:00, CBS Sports Network

Here’s The Deal … North Carolina’s Everett Withers has experienced plenty of firsts as the interim head coach in Chapel Hill. This week, he gets his first chance to lead his team following a difficult loss. The Tar Heels played well against unbeaten Georgia Tech in Atlanta, but simply couldn’t execute when it had to down the stretch. They fell short, 35-28, putting the staff in a position to keep its kids focused and motivated for the two upcoming games against non-conference foes.

East Carolina is coming off its first win of 2011, holding off fellow Conference USA East member UAB, 28-23. The Pirates have already shown flashes of upset potential in close calls with South Carolina and Virginia Tech before falling short. A visit from Carolina affords Ruffin McNeill’s kids one final shot to finish strong against a name brand opponent, while climbing back to .500 in time for the resumption of league play.

Why North Carolina Might Win: The defense will continue to be the calling card for the Heels, especially now that the explosive Yellow Jackets are in the rear view mirror. They’ll dominate a sketchy East Carolina offensive line with a flood of future NFL talent, like DE Quinton Coples, DT Tydreke Powell and linebackers Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown. It takes a multi-dimensional offense to put a dent in Carolina, which the Pirates’ 111th-ranked ground game will prevent. In RB Giovani Bernard, the Heels boast one of the ACC rising young playmakers. The redshirt freshman has already run for six scores, and is third in league rushing.

Why East Carolina Might Win: Relatively speaking, the weak link in the North Carolina defense is in the secondary. The Heels are yielding too many big plays through the air, and rank 10th in the ACC in yards per completion. As is often the case with coordinator Lincoln Riley’s attack, the Pirates will take to the air at least 40 times. Although QB Dominique Davis was somewhat sporadic in September, throwing three picks a week ago, he remains the kind of gunslinger who’s capable of engineering an upset. He’ll continue to be supported on the outside by rangy mismatches Lance Lewis and Justin Hardy, a terrific tandem that’s already combined for 45 receptions and six touchdown catches.

What To Watch Out For: Yes, Coples’ draft grade is as healthy as it was a month ago, but shouldn’t more be expected from one of the game’s highest rated defensive ends? Considering his immense talent and junior year, he’s been far too quiet for the Tar Heels through the first third of the regular season. He only has two stops behind the line, both sacks, and those came a month ago in the opener with James Madison. Since then, No. 90 has basically been shut out, generating accusations in some circles that he might not be bringing it on every down.

What Will Happen: For all kinds of reasons, this matchup in Greenville has the makings of a close, nip-and-tuck game throughout. Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be fired up in primetime, and the Tar Heels might still be processing last week’s loss to Georgia Tech. East Carolina has the firepower to pull off this upset. What it won’t have is enough defensive stops to actually turn a close call into a W. Not only will Bernard remain in the groove on the ground, but QB Bryn Renner will victimize the Pirates secondary repeatedly, with ample help from star WR Dwight Jones.

CFN Prediction: North Carolina 38 … East Carolina 24
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: North Carolina -6.5   O/U: 59

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