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The Daily Tar Heel

Fumbled Away

Hakeem Nicks drops a fumble late in the third quarter of UNC?s matchup with Virginia on Saturday. The Tar Heels committed three turnovers in the game" bringing them to minus five in their two losses. ?The turnover battle? Cameron Sexton said ?today that?s why we lost.?

CHARLOTTESVILLE Va. — Just inches away.

With Virginia down one point and needing an extra point to complete an astonishing late-game comeback against No. 18 North Carolina Deunta Williams gave a superhuman leap and got one hand on the ball.

The kick turned into a wounded duck and fell — just inches above the crossbar.

On to overtime in which halfback Cedric Peerman's two-yard run trumped a UNC field goal giving UVa. the come-from-behind 16-13 victory against North Carolina.

That late-game surge is doubly painful for UNC since the Tar Heels locked down the Cavaliers for 57 minutes of play.

In fact" the only sustained drive Virginia had was its 82-yard march in the game's final two and a half minutes.

""It's frustrating" losing a game that you've led for the majority of the game senior linebacker Mark Paschal said. Whenever you do that" it's damn heartbreaking.""

Paschal and the rest of UNC's defense still had memories of 2007 and the 186 yards that Peerman racked up in the Cavaliers' 22-20 victory last season.

In 2008 they succeeded in slowing down UVa.'s run — Peerman gained only 44 yards in the game" and Virginia's offense managed just 49 yards in all of the first half.

But the Tar Heels couldn't stop the senior halfback in the red zone.

While limited in the open field Peerman willed his way to two key touchdowns" one at the end of regulation and a second to end the game in overtime.

""It just kind of snowballed on us"" said Paschal, who was bulled over trying to stop the first Peerman score.

While the game's final minutes were indicative of a close contest, the Tar Heels looked in control for much of the game and several times came inches from a knockout blow.

UNC opened the game with an 83-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Ryan Houston run. Shaun Draughn racked up 48 yards on that drive — part of his career-high 138 yards in his first start.

But they could not finish Virginia off. On UVa.'s next drive, quarterback Marc Verica's third-down pass was tipped by three separate Tar Heel defenders, but none could reel in the catch.

It was unusual, considering that UNC leads the nation in picks.

We had one" two maybe even three opportunities for interceptions ourselves where we just missed the ball" coach Butch Davis said. And those balls had gone to us in the previous six ball games.""

UNC's offense also managed to keep Virginia in the game with turnovers. On their third drive of the game" the Tar Heels were looking to score from UVa.'s 33 yard-line.

But Cameron Sexton's third-down throw didn't have enough zip to get past Virginia's Byron Glaspy at the UVa. 17-yard line. Just like that" the game was still in question.

Sexton helped UVa. out again with another offering in the second quarter — that set up a 37-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.

""I haven't turned the ball over very much this year" and today those two turnovers they're just costly Sexton said. You can't do that and win football games. And to be honest with you" I feel terrible right now.""

UNC also coughed up a fumble when Hakeem Nicks lost his grip on a catch on another third down.

""When you lose the turnover battle" as you've seen you put yourself in a big hole" Paschal said.

All of that set up for Virginia's final drive.

After North Carolina kicked a field goal to make the score 10-3 with just 2:22 remaining, the Cavaliers needed 82 yards to tie the game.

With UNC sitting back in a soft defense, Virginia managed to eat up big chunks of yardage in the passing game and Verica was almost perfect on the drive to set up the game-tying touchdown run.

You've just got to make them turn the ball over or get them off the field"" Paschal said. And we weren't able to do that.""

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