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Friday January 22nd

North Carolina defense takes control

UNC?s Charles Brown (12) and Kendric Burney (16) celebrate Brown?s interception in the second quarter during North Carolina?s 44-12 win.
Buy Photos UNC?s Charles Brown (12) and Kendric Burney (16) celebrate Brown?s interception in the second quarter during North Carolina?s 44-12 win.

PISCATAWAY N.J. — North Carolina sophomore cornerback Kendric Burney had seen enough.

For the second consecutive drive Rutgers looked poised to break through against North Carolina's defense.

Scarlet Knight quarterback Mike Teel was making it look easy completing five of his first six passes against a Tar Heel secondary that seemed content to play off the ball and prevent a big play.

That trend looked to continue after Teel again found an open receiver — this time Tiquan Underwood — over the middle on second down from the UNC 48.

Then Burney entered the equation.

Flying in from the right hashmark Burney lowered his shoulder and slammed into the Rutgers wideout" jarring the ball loose and sending Underwood to the Scarlet Kinghts' sideline. The UNC defense had gotten its mojo back.

""When he threw it" you know I just kind of threw all my 185 into him" Burney said. That lifted up our defense as a whole and lifted our team up.""

The effect of Burney's hit was evident from the moment the second play resumed. Again Teel dropped back to pass and fired" and again a Rutgers receiver was dropped by a Tar Heel defensive back — this time safety Deunta Williams.

Strutting back to the sideline as the Scarlet Knights readied to punt" Williams let the silenced crowd know he wasn't going to let anyone show him up on national television.

""I definitely told KB" ‘I was gonna get me a body this game"'"" Williams said.

Those two blows not only energized the entire unit but threw the Scarlet Knights off their game.

Rutgers stopped being automatic on offense and starting reacting to the UNC defense. On the next drive" cornerback Charles Brown intercepted a pass at the Rutgers' 32 to set up a Jay Wooten 43-yard field goal. To follow that a swarm of white jerseys stopped Underwood just shy of the first-down marker forcing a three-and-out.

The next time Rutgers had the ball North Carolina was up 10-3 and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano had abandoned his game plan.

That's when the Tar Heels showed there still were areas the secondary needs to improve.

Facing a no-huddle attack UNC looked confused and Rutgers capitalized to draw within 10-6. Throughout that drive North Carolina youth was on display as the defense relaxed in coverage and allowed the Scarlet Knights to log five plays of 10 or more yards.

But North Carolina hunkered down on defense when it counted the most Thursday.

The first two times Rutgers threatened inside the red zone the Tar Heels halted the Scarlet Knights' drives and kept the UNC lead safe.

The most glaring example of UNC's defensive prowess was Burney's end zone interception late in the second quarter" ending Rutgers' last real chance to get back in the game.

""They got their yards and everything" but the motto that we always go by is ‘Bend and don't break"'"" Williams said.

But it wasn't physical play of the UNC secondary or the four interceptions that stuck out in coach Butch Davis' mind.

Davis cited the players' commitment to their responsibilities on the field.

""The best part about all of that was that they were disciplined enough to stay at home and let the play come to them"" he said.

And that had been a problem the week before.""



Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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