The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday June 1st

UNC Cornerbacks Face Test Against Panther Wideouts

Game and time: North Carolina at Pittsburgh. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.

Site: Three Rivers Stadium.

TV/radio: The game will be televised on ESPN2. The Tar Heel Sports Network will provide live radio coverage; its flagship station is WCHL 1360-AM.

Records: UNC is 3-5 overall, 1-5 in the ACC. Pittsburgh is 5-2 overall, 2-2 in the Big East.

Series: UNC leads 3-2.

Personnel: UNC - CB Anthony Anderson (shoulder), RB Rufus Brown (shoulder), P John Lafferty (mononucleosis) and LB Merceda Perry (broken right ankle) are out.

Pittsburgh - DB Junior Palacios (shoulder), RB Malcolm Postell (shoulder) and DB Ramon Walker (knee) are out.

The key matchup: UNC coach Carl Torbush has noticed a developing trend. And it's not one that particularly plays into the Tar Heels' favor.

Week in and week out, the Tar Heel defense has faced some of the nation's best receivers, such as N.C. State's Koren Robinson and Clemson's Rod Gardner. UNC's task doesn't change this week, except that Pittsburgh has two talented receivers in Antonio Bryant and Latef Grim.

"I think they're as good as any we've played, but we've played a bunch of good ones," Torbush said. "It seems like everybody we've played this year from Tulsa on has had a good receiving corps."

Bryant leads the country with an average of 138.3 receiving yards a game. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore has caught 44 passes for 830 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

Grim, a 6-0, 190-pound senior, has 25 catches for 414 yards and one touchdown. He set a Big East record last season with 75 catches and caught seven passes for 86 yards against UNC two years ago.

North Carolina cornerbacks Errol Hood and Michael Waddell will once again be put in a tough position.

Hood and Waddell are both 5-11, but they did a solid job last week against a pair of 6-4 receivers from Virginia. Kevin Coffey and Billy McMullen were each held to one catch in the Cavaliers' 17-6 victory against the Tar Heels.

Torbush said he doesn't plan on having Hood or Waddell locked in on a specific receiver. The matchup will depend on which side of the field each Pittsburgh receiver lines up on.

"We're pretty confident," Hood said. "We stepped up last week and played a good game against two good receivers. We can play with them."

If the Tar Heel defensive backs can stay with the Panthers' wideouts, that will allow Julius Peppers and the UNC defensive line to wreak havoc in the Panther backfield. The Tar Heels have 39 sacks this season, six shy of a school record that was set in 1990.

The Panthers have allowed 26 sacks, a number that must make Peppers' eyes light up coming off a four-sack performance against the Cavaliers.

Final analysis/prediction: Torbush thinks his club might be playing Pittsburgh at the ideal time. The Panthers lost a 37-34 heartbreaker on the road at No. 2 Virginia Tech last Saturday and will travel to No. 3 Miami (Fla.) next week. Pittsburgh could be in danger of overlooking the Tar Heels.

But that won't be a factor with the way the Panthers have been playing at Three Rivers. Pittsburgh is 4-0 at its makeshift home and has won those games by an average of more than two TDs.

UNC defeated Pittsburgh 29-10 at Kenan Stadium in 1998, but a lot has changed since that contest.

"They're a much, much better football program right now than they were the last time we played them," Torbush said.

Pittsburgh 35, UNC 20.

-Compiled by Bret Strelow


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