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Heels head into tough games

By Eddy Landreth
Staff Writer
Carolina is halfway through its schedule and about to embark on the most difficult portion yet.

The Tar Heels, despite losing their head coach one week before practice began, have gone 5-1, 1-1 in the ACC, and clearly have some talented players and depth at several positions.

To finish the season strong, UNC is going to have to develop some consistency. The most important thing the Tar Heels did in a 14-7 victory against Louisville this past Saturday was find a way to win after being tied 0-0 at the half.

“I’m pleased with the kids,” interim coach Everett Withers said. “I thought their attitude at halftime was great. There was no panic, and the score was 0-0.”

Finding a way to win has been the common thread running through the first six games. In the one loss, a 35-28 defeat at Georgia Tech, UNC tied the game late in the fourth quarter, but the defense could not stop Georgia Tech from scoring the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession.

“We definitely feel like we should be 6-0,” said redshirt freshman running back Giovani Bernard, who became the first freshman in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in four consecutive games with 109 against the Cardinals.

So far this season, Bernard has rushed 103 times for 657 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 109.5 yards per game.

“Gio’s the first back since 1984 and Ethan Horton to rush for 100 yards in four straight games,” Withers said. “So that’s a pretty good stat. We need to keep that going.”

His performance will be of particular importance this week. UNC is 4-0 against Miami in Chapel Hill, and one of the Tar Heels’ consistent themes has been a strong running game. The Hurricanes have a lot of speed, so the best way to attack them is straight up the middle.

Miami is 2-3, 0-2 in the ACC. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

Forget the Hurricanes’ record. Miami has a talented team with a tough schedule. The Hurricanes lost 38-35 at Virginia Tech last Saturday.

Withers is hoping Carolina’s ability to win close games, like the 24-22 victory against Rutgers and the win over Louisville, will produce a confident team that will rise to the moment.

“I think it’s important to have a close game at this point in the season and win one,” Withers said. “I think it’s important to go win an ugly football game. Then you can go back and your kids see you can win games when you don’t play your best.

“When you start stepping up the competition and playing in the ACC week after week, we’re going to have to be at our best.”

If the Tar Heels can keep quarterback Bryn Renner, Bernard and wide receiver Dwight Jones healthy, they will have a chance to score.

Jones seems to make an ESPN highlight play on a weekly basis. This time it occurred on a 43-yard touchdown catch. He spun out of the arms of two defensive backs and virtually strolled into the end zone.

“I was just trying to keep my legs moving,” Jones said. “I was expecting someone to grab my ankles. They were trying to strip it out.

“I was surprised when I spun out. I said, ‘I’m free.’”

Jones continues to impress even his teammates, who see him make astounding plays in practice every day and in games on the weekend.

“Man, I don’t know how he just continues to amaze us every day with something new,” junior-college transfer linebacker Fabby Desir said. “He is a tremendous part of this team. I’m going to love watching him play on Sundays next year.”

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