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September 29, 2012

Heels tame Vandals

Clouds rose over the pines that surround and hover above Kenan Stadium on Saturday, while rain, more annoying than detrimental, fell on the field and the fans.

Then Carolina poured it on, far heavier than the weather, racing to a dominating 45-0 halftime and eventually a school record 66-0 victory against Idaho.

No UNC team has ever scored that many points nor beaten an opponent by that large a margin.

"The positive thing is the game's over," Idaho coach Robb Akey said. "We didn't start well. We didn't play well. Carolina played a hell of a game, and we didn't."

UNC runner Giovani Bernard looked like the player who scored three touchdowns in a little more than a quarter in the Tar Heels' season opener.

He only had two carries from scrimmage, but he scored on both. He ran one for a 2-yard touchdown and the other he broke for a 68-yard TD.

"I didn't realize I only had two carries," Bernard said. "It's something I pride myself on; whenever I touch the ball, I've got to do something special. Nowadays, there are players out there who can touch it one time and they're going 90 yards.

"I want to pride myself on being able to make something out of every touch."

Oh, Bernard did that. He had 50 yards on four receptions, and he returned punts for the first time since the opening game of the season. He returned one of those 30 yards and gained a total of 150 yards in all-purpose yardage for the game.

Tight end Eric Ebron showed again why he will more than likely be chosen in the first round of the National Football League eventually. He has tight end size at 6-4, 235 pounds, but he can run with the wide receivers.

"Ebron's a freak," said freshman wide receiver Quinshad Davis, who caught the first two touchdown passes of his collegiate career. "That's all you can say. He's a big guy, and he's fast."

Davis and Ebron hurt the Vandals down field with their height and speed. Ebron caught one pass on which he raced deep into the secondary and then cut across the middle. UNC quarterback Bryn Renner hit him in stride for a picture-perfect catch.

Ebron caught three passes for 67 yards. Davis caught four passes for a team-best 89 yards, two of those covering 35 yards for touchdowns.

Renner went 14-of-19 for 231 yards and three touchdowns while playing just one play in the second half.

Renner threw to nine different receivers. At 6 feet 4, Davis used his height to beat the defender each time on his touchdown receptions.

"Bryn threw it up, and I saw it," Davis said. "I just went up and got it."

Davis appeared to be headed in this direction for several games, but he looked much more comfortable in this game than at any point in the year to date.

"I'm starting to get in my rhythm," Davis said. "I'm starting to get comfortable with the plays, the signs, how fast the movement is."

Meanwhile, Romar Morris is as comfortable and confident as anyone on the field for Carolina. He reminded teammates, coaches and fans once again that he is a total football player. Morris blocked his second punt of the season, while also rushing for 42 yards in the first half and a team-high 74 yards for the game. He returned one kickoff 33 yards.

"Romar is a great addition to this team," said safety Tre Boston, who had one of UNC's four interceptions. "He has really filled his positions and done what the coaches want him to do, from offense to special teams. And having it happen on special teams is something great.

"A blocked punt can be the one big play that changes the whole game, the one big play that has the other team thinking. And once you kick them down, it's all about keeping them down."

Pete Mangum did his part to keep the Vandals on the ground. He blocked a punt as well.

The question now is whether the Tar Heels can continue to play as well as they have since halftime at Louisville, when they nearly came back to win after falling behind 36-7 in the opening two quarters. UNC allowed just three points from the Cardinals in the second half and have not given up a touchdown in the two games that have followed. UNC has not allowed a touchdown in the 12 quarters they have played at home this season, in victories against Elon, East Carolina and Idaho.

The big test will come next Saturday at 12:30 against Virginia Tech at Kenan Stadium.

"We should have woke up after the Wake Forest game," said senior defensive lineman Sylvester Williams, who had four total tackles Saturday and two and a half tackles for losses.

"The Louisville game really woke us up," Williams said. "Louisville is a great team, but we thought we were better than them. We went out there in the first half and peed in our pants.

"It was nothing they were doing. It was everything we were doing. Once we started coming back, a lot of the guys saw that this defense can really work. We fed off of that second half, and we plan on carrying that through the rest of the season."


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