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The Daily Tar Heel

Wake's Mix of Passing and Running Finesse Stumps UNC

And there was no reason the Tar Heels shouldn't have been. They spent last week training, assembling an appropriate defense. After all, Wake is one of the best, if not the best, rushing team in the conference, racking up 2,244 yards on the ground in nine games this season.

So, the Tar Heels stacked the box and utilized man-to-man coverage on the wide receivers. But UNC quickly discovered that this plan wasn't going to work.

Problems arose for the Tar Heels when the Demon Deacons decided to abort their traditional maneuvers in favor of passing. In fact, out of 17 pass attempts, Wake's quarterbacks completed 11, including James MacPherson's 17-yard pass to Ray Thomas for the first touchdown of the game. The score was Wake's third passing touchdown of the year, the last one was in the Deacs Sept. 14 game at N.C. State.

UNC defensive tackle Chase Page said that while the first half was frustrating, the team generated a small amount of defensive aptitude as the game continued.

"I thought we were stopping the run a little bit," Page said. "I wasn't really surprised -- they had some long third downs so they went to the pass a little bit, threw us off a little bit."

The second half posed even more problems than did the first for the Tar Heels. The Demon Deacons took this as an opportunity to completely antagonize any adjustments UNC's defense might have made by bringing back the run.

"It drives you crazy because we worked on it so hard to stop it," said UNC linebacker Jeff Longhany. "We drill it and drill it. We've seen those plays probably each play a hundred times this week and for some reason we haven't pulled together as a team in the second half yet."

Wake running back Tarence Williams notched 101 of Deac's yards, tying third place for school's most rushing yards in a single game. This is what Wake is known for, not for a talented passing quarterback regime.

"Their running game is a lot of misdirections and options and what really hurt us was they get us on the run," Longhany said. "In the first quarter, they had the tight end. And we just didn't go through what we knew was going to happen.

"We were stacking the box. We were putting seven to eight men in the box trying to stop the run and then you got man-to-man coverage on a wide receiver out there, and we don't get pressure on the quarterback and he's got time to throw, there's no defensive back anywhere in the country that can lock down receivers for five seconds."

UNC coach John Bunting said he was sure Wake anticipated the Tar Heels' defensive strategy, giving the Deacs a reason to come out differently in the first half.

"To an extent. I'm sure they expected that maybe we'd do some things like play zero coverage. Maybe they thought they saw something in our corners," he said. "They certainly did abuse our corners.

"We knew going into this game that we would have to play tough man-to-man coverage - they hurt us in that."

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

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