After posting strong performances in his first two games, the North Carolina cornerback had earned a chance to go head-to-head with perhaps the best receiver in the nation -- Texas' Roy Williams.
But it was Williams, not Waddell, who made a statement in Saturday's 52-21 Longhorn victory.
Facing man coverage from Waddell all night long, Williams hauled in five passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
North Carolina coach John Bunting said his plan going in was to be aggressive with his safeties and trust Waddell to handle Williams mostly on his own.
"We were going to have (Waddell) stick with Williams a lot, and we were going to have him get up and bump him around," Bunting said. "We were going to play different coverages, and we were going to blitz.
"He was going to be faced with some man-to-man coverages, and Michael Waddell is extremely talented, and we thought that he could handle it."
In the first quarter, Waddell did handle it, as Williams was held without a catch. But a play that Williams almost made dazzled the crowd and served as a sign of things to come.
At the end of the first quarter, with Texas leading 10-0, the Tar Heels jumped off sides on a second down and six.
Texas quarterback Chris Simms recognized the free play and lofted a ball down the left sideline for Williams, who was being blanketed by Waddell.
Without turning around, Williams reached behind his helmet to catch the ball, but could not manage to get a foot in bounds.
On the Longhorns' next drive, Williams burned Waddell for a 34-yard gain on a third-and-eight play, then scored his first touchdown a few plays later, despite Waddell practically piggybacking him in the end zone.
"He is the type of receiver you have to bring your 'A' game out," Waddell said. "We were competing for the ball all game, and he made the bigger plays tonight."
Williams' longest catch of the night, a 58-yard touchdown on a relatively short hitch route that Waddell misplayed, gave Texas a 38-21 lead, effectively ending North Carolina's comeback bid.
The play occurred at the 12:40 mark in the fourth quarter with the Tar Heels trailing by 10. North Carolina sent a safety blitz on a key third down play, leaving Waddell alone with Williams, who made the catch and easily evaded Waddell's sloppy tackle attempt.
Said Bunting, "They're going to make plays, you've got to tackle the catch."
Several Tar Heels suffered minor injuries Saturday, but the only significant one was incurred by sophomore Jarwarski Pollock.
Pollock, who hurt his shoulder against Syracuse last weekend and aggravated the injury against Texas, is questionable for next week's game against Georgia Tech.
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