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The Daily Tar Heel

Football: UNC feasts on six Eagle turnovers

All three starting LBs join in act

Defensive takle Marvin Austin celebrates after the Tar Heels' 42-12 win over Georgia Southern Saturday. DTH/Andrew Dye
Defensive takle Marvin Austin celebrates after the Tar Heels' 42-12 win over Georgia Southern Saturday. DTH/Andrew Dye

When a potential interception bounced off linebacker Bruce Carter’s hands with no player between him and the goal line, the monkey on the North Carolina defense’s back got a little heavier.

Coach Butch Davis had talked about it repeatedly during his press conferences. Players had said the lack of them had crept into their heads. And Carter’s drop was another example of not being able to get one.

Despite limiting opponents to just more than 250 yards of total offense this season, good for second in the ACC, North Carolina’s defense simply couldn’t capitalize on turnover chances.

Not until Saturday, at least.

“That’s the story of the game,” Davis said after UNC’s 42-12 win against Georgia Southern. “You guys have heard me say for two and a half years that the team that gets and makes the most turnovers has the best chance to win, and tonight we got six of them.”

The barrage of turnovers nearly doubled the seven turnovers the Tar Heels had gotten in their first five games. UNC hadn’t forced any in its last three games against East Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

The six turnovers were also the most for the team since 1999, when UNC forced six against Duke.

 “Our mindset going into this game — we talked about it at the hotel — we just need to get turnovers and strip the ball,” Carter said.

Robert Quinn forced the first turnover of the game when he dislodged the football from GSU quarterback Lee Chapple on a sack in the first quarter, but it wasn’t until just after Carter’s near-pick that the floodgates opened.

On that drive, just four plays later, linebacker Quan Sturdivant ripped the football out of running back Adam Urbano’s hands and scampered 49 yards for a score.

Then, just 50 seconds later, another UNC linebacker got into the act. Zach Brown picked off an attempted crossing route to set the Tar Heels’ offense up on the 22-yard line, a position from which UNC easily punched it into the endzone.

By then, Carter, the only starting linebacker without a turnover, was starting to feel the pressure.

“The first one I missed and (Sturdivant) told me I had an opportunity to score, and I was messing up,” Carter said. “When he got one, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get one.’”

On the next drive, Carter proceeded to make up for his earlier drop by again jumping a route — a wide receiver screen that Ga. Southern had been running the entire half, and this time holding onto the football when it came to his hands.

From there, Carter knew what to do with it. He took it back 41 yards down the sideline, slowing up only when he knew he wouldn’t be caught. His touchdown pushed the score to 35-7 in favor of UNC.

In that span of just more than two minutes during the second quarter, there were three drives, three turnovers — and one game over.

Davis credited his big men up front for freeing up UNC’s linebackers to make plays in the passing game. Other than a 45-yard run for a touchdown, Georgia Southern could only muster 50 rushing yards.

“One of the things that helped us tonight was the defensive line’s ability to hold the run, which allows you to cheat the box, get more people out of the box to help on throws,” Davis said.

North Carolina added two more interceptions late in the game, one by Kendric Burney and another by Gene Robinson.

Carter said all the turnovers were a relief to the defense, but added that it’s just only one game. And a game against a Football Championship Subdivision school at that.

“We are going to try to continue to do this every week,” Sturdivant said. “Everybody wants a piece of the action.”

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