The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 7th

UNC Faces Stiff Challenge Against Texas

Game and time:

Site: Kenan Stadium.

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

Records: Texas is 1-0, 0-0 in the Big 12. North Carolina is 1-1, 0-0 in the ACC.

Series: Texas leads, 5-3.

Personnel update: Texas -- none reported. North Carolina -- DT Eric Davis is out for the season with a knee injury.

The key matchup: Although Texas coach Mack Brown's first return to Chapel Hill might be the most played-up aspect of Saturday's game, clearly the outcome of what will be the most-watched game of the Tar Heels' season lies in the hands of North Carolina's still-developing defense.

UNC's defense has played better than some expected, holding its first two opponents to an average of 316.5 yards a game.

Against Miami (Ohio), the Tar Heels held quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under 50 percent passing for the first time in his career, and they allowed Syracuse just 71 yards passing.

Now unranked UNC will have to step up and take on the big dogs -- starting with third-ranked Texas.

"I was pleased with the improvement last week; we are going to have to be better this week because Texas has some big offensive players," said UNC coach John Bunting.

Texas quarterback and Heisman-hopeful Chris Simms saunters into Chapel Hill with an armful of nationally touted wide receivers to throw to.

Texas returns the lethal trio of juniors Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas. The three caught 167 passes for 2,206 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2001 and are arguably the nation's top receiving trifecta.

North Carolina might have more experience in the backfield this year, but if the Tar Heels want to shut down Texas' air game, the weight really falls on the shoulders of the defensive line.

If the Longhorns' offensive line, which gave up two sacks for six yards against North Texas two weeks ago, can hold off North Carolina's front four, Simms should have any easy day of touchdown target practice -- a threat too challenging for UNC's secondary to contain. So the responsibility falls on senior defensive end Will Chapman, who has had six solo tackles and two sacks so far this season, and the rest of the Tar Heel front four to break through Texas' O-line and get to Simms before he finds his rhythm.

"Their offensive line is a lot bigger than ours," Chapman said. "I've played against these guys before, and I know they come off the ball and hit you. They are really aggressive and strong."

Final Analysis/Prediction: Minus his shaky performance against Miami (Ohio), UNC quarterback Darian Durant is adept at keeping his composure in big games. His poise will keep the Tar Heels in the game early on.

And North Carolina found a surprise weapon on special teams in kicker Dan Orner, who might help the Tar Heels get some points on the board.

But when it comes down to it, Texas is just too deep for North Carolina to keep up.

Defensive end Cory Redding -- who Bunting said reminds him of former UNC powerhouse Julius Peppers -- anchors a quick, seasoned defense that will flush Durant out of the pocket and have him running for the sidelines.

And record-setting sophomore running back Cedric Benson leads a running game that is equally potent to the Texas' air show.

Brown and his Longhorns will inevitably show UNC what a real football school is.

Texas 41, UNC 10.

--Compiled by Kelly Lusk

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