NCF Nation: Chapel Hill 0806

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
 
 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
 North Carolina's Bruce Carter blocks Connecticut punter Desi Cullen's kick, one of three punts Carter blocked in the game.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Here's a tip for future punt teams who face North Carolina: Get Carter.

Tar Heels linebacker Bruce Carter pulled off something that might be unprecedented in major college football. He blocked three straight punts in Saturday's 38-12 win over Connecticut, giving him four consecutive blocks dating back to last week's victory at Miami. Three other players in FBS history have blocked three punts in a game, but it's unknown if anyone has put together a streak quite like Carter's block party.

North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, who watched the game from a box upstairs, probably would like to see Tyler Hansbrough get three blocks in a game.

"Bruce is a freakish athlete," North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin said. "He's one of the strongest, most explosive guys I've ever seen in my life."

Carter got a hand on Miami punter Matt Bosher's kick late in the fourth quarter last week. The kick went only 24 yards, setting up the Tar Heels with good field position and helping lead to their go-ahead score.

On UConn's first attempt in the second quarter, Carter deflected Desi Cullen's punt, though the kick still traveled 47 yards.

"I was really surprised it went as far as it did," Tar Heels coach Butch Davis said.

The next two weren't so fortunate. Carter got a bigger piece of Cullen's second attempt, and the wounded duck was recovered by another UConn player one yard behind the original line of scrimmage. The third block was the most productive, as teammate Matt Merletti pounced on it in the end zone for a touchdown.

"It came as a surprise to me," Carter said of his special night on special teams. "I think I was just rushing hard. I go hard every play. If everybody goes hard, you never know who might open up."

Actually, Davis had some idea. He said Connecticut had changed its personal protector, the guy who lines up directly behind the snapper, because of an injury.

"We felt like if we could kind of confuse them a little bit with some of the alignments, we might get some pressure off the edge," he said. "It wasn't anything spectacular by scheme, other than guys giving great effort. And certainly Bruce made some great plays."

Carter said UConn moved the personal protector toward him on the third block, "but I was lucky enough to get there." Against Miami, he said, he wasn't really supposed to rush the punter.

"I've kind of been doing my own thing," he said. "But as long as I get there, coach doesn't say anything."

He works on punt blocking in practice and studies film and technique. He learned from a missed opportunity last year against South Carolina.

"I could have got one but I jumped in the air," he said. "You've got to shoot your hands down, not up."

Carter sure seems to have it figured out now. Future punt teams better beware.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In many ways, this is a mirror image of Connecticut's formula for success.

The Huskies have a big edge in time of possession, total yards and plays from scrimmage. They've run 62 plays for 247 yards, compared to 37 plays for 175 for the Tar Heels. But they've made all the big mistakes, and North Carolina has cashed them in -- big time.

Zach Fraser showed his inexperience on his third interception of the game. He was under heavy pressure from E.J. Wilson and was falling backward when he tried to throw the ball. Terrible idea. Marvin Austin caught it, and the 300-pounder rumbled 23 yards for a touchdown, North Carolina's second non-offensive score of the game.

UConn very nearly fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, but the officials ruled that Darius Butler had stepped out of bounds before he got stripped.

No matter. The Huskies had to punt, and North Carolina is about to score again here when the fourth quarter begins.

Serious bragging rights for the ACC over the Big East, and in particular for the Tar Heels, who beat Rutgers 44-12 last month.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Connecticut Huskies have been uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half, and that's why they're trailing 17-3.

Zach Frazer has been intercepted twice and they've had three punts blocked (though they snapped Bruce Carter's streak on punt No. 4). At one point they committed three straight penalties, leaving them facing a third-and-21 from their own 3. Needless to say, they didn't convert.

This is not how the Huskies play, and certainly not how they win games.

As much of a threat as Donald Brown is (63 yards on 15 carries -- an off night by his standards), you would think Frazer would have lots of open receivers. However, North Carolina's coverage has been strong, and Frazer has tried to fit the ball through some pretty tight windows.

His second interception came in the final seconds of the half on the North Carolina 5-yard line, killing a chance for the Huskies to get a much-needed score just before halftime.

On the plus side, Connecticut has held North Carolina to just 107 total yards in the first half. If not for a blocked punt for a touchdown and an interception that set up another score, this game might be about even.

If Connecticut doesn't clean up its act and get something going on offense, the Big East will lose its last undefeated team.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Connecticut usually avoids mistakes and capitalizes on the opponent's miscues.

The opposite happened at the end of the first quarter at North Carolina tonight. New starting quarterback Zach Frazer threw an interception right to Tar Heels linebacker Mark Paschal late in the quarter, which led to a Ryan Houston touchdown run three plays later.

Rather than play it safe with a first-time starter at quarterback, Randy Edsall dialed up passes on four of the Huskies' first seven plays. UConn has been lining up with three wide receivers, and Frazer's arm makes North Carolina respect the pass while also having to account for Donald Brown, who has 40 yards rushing in the first quarter.

But Frazer made the critical mistake, which is the one thing the Huskies can't afford.

After a poor opening drive, North Carolina has been moving the ball in big chunks. UConn could have a hard time keeping up with the Tar Heels offense if it does not control the time of possession.

Defensive tackles Alex Polito and Kendall Reyes have not played for UConn. Reyes, who was hurt in the Louisville game, did not make the trip. Freshman Tywon Martin has started in their place.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- I don't know if I expressed exactly how big of a deal this game is to both Navy and Air Force. It's a pretty big deal.

The two battle -- along with fellow military academy Army -- for the Commander In Chief trophy, a piece of hardware that is given to the military academy that has dominated the other two in a round-robin affair.

For five years, Navy has horded the trophy, but for the first time in that span, Air Force got an extra week to prepare for the Midshipmen's run-heavy offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Greetings from Kenan Memorial Stadium, one of the prettiest settings for college football anywhere (though not always home to the prettiest football over the years).

Two schools that could potentially make the Final Four in basketball this season are trying to reach new heights in football. Connecticut is ranked 24th and is hoping to improve to 6-0 for the first time since it moved up to FBS in 2002. North Carolina is hovering on the edge of the polls and would have a good shot at cracking the Top 25 if it can take down its second Big East team of the season.

The Tar Heels have a more explosive offense with Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks, the top two receivers in the ACC. They're averaging 31 points a game, which is second in the conference.

Connecticut is a more deliberate team that likes to pound it on the ground with the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown. UNC is giving up about 140 rushing yards per game but the Tar Heels have a big defensive line, anchored by 330-pound Cam Thomas. They'll need to stuff Brown near the line of scrimmage, because once he's able to get into the secondary and make his cuts, he's very hard to bring down.

The wild cards here are at quarterback, with Cameron Sexton and Zach Frazer making their first starts of the season. For Frazer, it's his first start ever after he came in to lead UConn to victory at Louisville last week following Tyler Lorenzen's foot injury. It will be really interesting to see how Randy Edsall decides to attack with Frazer, whether he keeps it simple or tries to get aggressive to utilize Frazer's strong arm.

Lost in the news of Lorenzen's injury last week was tight end Steve Brouse's broken leg. The Huskies will go with senior Martin Bedard at the position and bring backup left tackle Dan Ryan in as an extra tight end in short-yardage situations.

Weather: Low 70s and blue skies, with the temperature expected to drop into the low 60s during the game. I'm not sure what it is, but every game I've been to so far this year has had incredible weather.

Officials: We have a Big East crew, led by referee Jeff Maconaghy.

It should be an interesting game. Much more to come throughout the evening ...

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