UNC will take its bizarre win, strong defensive performance

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


North Carolina safety Deunta Williams had one word to describe it -- crazy.

It’s a fitting adjective to use when you only score 12 points -- all in the fourth quarter -- and still manage to win, but that’s exactly what happened to the Tar Heels on Saturday in a 12-10 win at Connecticut.

Thanks to a holding call in the end zone with 1:32 left in the game, UNC earned a safety and escaped with the win. Just how rare of a comeback victory was it? It was the fewest points in a win under Butch Davis and since a 7-5 victory over Virginia in 2005.

“It was a crazy game,” Williams said. “I think the major thing about it was there was no surrender, no back down from anybody on our team. That speaks to guys’ character, their willingness to get gritty, dig in, look in the mirror and find that part of you that’s a warrior. A lot of guys did that and we came up with the W. It was ugly, but some games are going to be like that, and I will definitely take it.”

Considering the Tar Heels were missing three starters on offense, including center Lowell Dyer, who suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the week during practice, fullback Bobby Rome, who stayed home with swine flu-like symptoms, and offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (ankle), it’s no wonder they struggled to move the ball. They were missing key blockers, and without two of their starters up front, UNC allowed six sacks. They never allowed more than four in a game last year, and that came against Virginia Tech.

Enter UNC’s standout defense, which has allowed just 16 points over its first two games of the season for its lowest total since surrendering 10 points over the first two games in 1996.

The plan is to keep it up.

“We have a chance to do some good things on defense,” said Williams, who has two interceptions and two pass breakups this season. “Like I’ve told a lot of people, they’ve been talking about the potential this defense has for a very long time. The thing I drove home to the defense is, I’m tired of hearing about potential. We need to put this stuff on the stat line, on the sheets. When people see that, they can see we’re dominating every game, and it has to be about consistency, it’s not one or two games during the season. We have to do it every single game. I think that guys are really buying into that and it’s sinking in for a lot of players.

“It’s kind of hard to get the young guys going sometimes because they’re just so thrilled to be out there on the field, but it’s really bigger than that, especially with this game coming up vs. ECU. I’ve been preaching this whole time, it’s personal. It’s nothing against them, but it’s a personal game for a lot of guys on this team, and there are going to be a lot of guys going hard out there. My message to them is you’ve got to match my intensity. I’m going all out.”

He’s got some added motivation, being a native of Jacksonville, N.C. When Williams was little, his aunt lived near ECU’s campus so they would walk there, and Williams would play at the track and the basketball court.

“It’s personal,” he said. “I really want guys to understand that, but these guys (the Pirates), they’re a great group of guys, they present challenges that we’re going to have to meet again this week through the passing game, and the run game as well.”

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