The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 7th

Longhorns Stifle UNC Comeback Attempt

Click here to view more pictures from the game

Mack Brown rolled back onto the sidelines of Kenan Stadium equipped with a strong, fast and experienced Texas team. The third-ranked Longhorns stuck to the anticipated script for most of the first two quarters, and the end result -- a 52-21 Texas rout -- didn't surprise many.

What came from out of the blue was North Carolina's gritty comeback attempt in front of 60,500 fans while facing a 24-point deficit.

Texas opened the game with a 72-yard drive resulting in a 22-yard field goal from Dusty Mangum. The momentum officially belonged to the Longhorns.

And, oh the damage they did.

On its next four possessions, Texas completed touchdown drives of 71, 68 and 64 yards, with Texas quarterback Chris Simms securing a 24-0 lead with a 6-yard toss to wide receiver Roy Williams.

But what really did in the Tar Heels was the revival of Texas' ground game. Running back Cedric Benson made his measly 49 yards in the Longhorns' season opener against North Texas on Aug. 31 disintegrate into a distant memory.

Benson charged through wide open holes, compliments of Texas' quick offensive line roughing up UNC's front seven, and racked up 115 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

"They did what they said they were going to do," said UNC coach John Bunting. "Their offensive line said they needed to make amends for the first week, when they gave up eight sacks and they weren't able to run the football. And the stats bear out that they certainly made more than their share of amends."

Texas settled back with its 24-point cushion, and with 1:18 left in the half, UNC came to life.

In their most efficient drive up to that point, the Tar Heels completed three consecutive first downs before quarterback Darian Durant scrambled for a 27-yard run reminiscent of former QB Ronald Curry into the endzone.

"We felt we were in the game," Durant said. "We thought all along we could play with this team."

And they did, in flashes. Early in the second half, center Jason Brown flopped on a Jacque Lewis fumble in the endzone to bring UNC within 10.

"If you look at football games, they have five minutes before the half, and going in for the first five minutes after the half, that's what they're dominating," Brown said. "And that's a really scary feeling."

If Simms was scared at all, he certainly didn't show it. Just two passes after North Carolina's score, Texas struck again.

But Durant had one more answer left for the Longhorns. The UNC quarterback clawed his way to another score when his 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Sam Aiken brought the Tar Heels within 10 again.

But Texas wasn't about to mess around. The Longhorns returned to what worked and handed the ball to Benson on the next four plays to grind out 22 yards. A 58-yard touchdown pass to Williams reclaimed the momentum for good.

The Longhorns wore down North Carolina's defense and ran in two more scores, quashing any Tar Heel hopes of revenge on an ex-coach.

"Of course it's something special," Benson said. "Him coaching here, and doing some great things here, and then coming to Texas ... I'm sure these guys wanted nothing more than to pound him. We called this one the 'Mack Bowl.'"

After the clock ran out, Brown gathered his players together and silently raised his hand and formed the signature "Hook 'em Horns" gesture. The team and fans followed suit, and Brown lead his school in its fight song.

But as far as dignifying the emotions surrounding his first win at Kenan on the opposite side of the field, Brown downplayed his long-awaited return.

"It means that we're 2-0," Brown said. "There was way too much talk about me coming back here. Hopefully, it will be some closure for some people because we won't be playing anymore. This university is a great university, and football was here before I got here."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel's 2022 Year in Review

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive