During the week North Carolina coach Butch Davis noticed a small detail of Connecticut's punt protection he thought he could exploit.
The Huskies' normal protector — the player who lines up directly behind the long snapper — was hurt" leaving UConn. vulnerable to a strong rush.
""We felt like if we could kind of confuse him a little bit with some of the alignments that we might be able to get some pressure off the edge"" Davis said after the game.
Never, though, did Davis expect a performance like the one he got from Bruce Carter in the Tar Heels' 38-12 dismantling of then-No. 24 UConn.
After getting a hand on the final punt Sept. 27 at Miami, the sophomore linebacker blocked three straight second-quarter punts. Three.
That's a total normally reserved for an entire team — UNC had three in all of 2007, after all. Not a single player.
But Carter accomplished that feat Saturday, using his superior speed to streak past Husky defenders and make life miserable for punter Desi Cullen.
On the first two I blocked" I thought that was just luck really. I was just going as hard as I can Carter said.
Then on the third one guys on the sideline kept telling me ‘Try and get three" try and get three.'""
And with Cullen standing near his own goal line" No. 54 bulled his way through the middle of the line and completed his hat trick.
Teammate Matt Merletti picked up the ball in the end zone for the score and the Tar Heels were up 17-3 and well on their way to a blowout.
Carter's three blocked punts might have stolen the show but those types of big plays were typical for the UNC defense and special teams. In nearly every facet those two units substantially improved from a lackluster performance at Miami.
After giving up an average of 18.6 yards per return against the Hurricanes" the UNC punt coverage team limited the Huskies to just five yards on three returns.
""We were concerned about their kickoff and punt return guys" and we thought that we made some strides and improvement with our special teams tonight" Davis said. We covered kicks much better than we certainly did a week ago.""
The defense made sure it wouldn't be outdone. The Tar Heels held UConn. tailback Donald Brown in check for the first three quarters and teed off on quarterback Zach Frazer once the Huskies were in catch-up mode.
As the pass rush intensified" Frazer unraveled throwing three interceptions in the game.
The poor performance culminated when Frazer threw a pass as UNC's E.J. Wilson was flinging him to the ground. The ball fell into defensive tackle Marvin Austin's hands" and the big man rumbled 23 yards for the touchdown.
""Coaches told us that he threw the ball under pressure" Austin said.
I've been dreaming about that for years. You know scooping it up" taking it. …
""I saw it come down"" and you just go to playing peewee football — scoop it up and go run.""
Austin's touchdown aside"" much of the postgame talk revolved around Carter's performance. Three blocked punts and seven tackles — two for loss — tend to have that effect.
""He's a freakish athlete" Austin said. One of the strongest" most explosive guys that I've ever seen in my life — and I've seen some fast and explosive guys.
""Bruce is one of the fastest and quickest.""
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