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September 22, 2012
Heels hammer Pirates
Larry Fedora's promise to be an attacking team in all phases of the game on Saturday in a 26-7 victory against East Carolina at Kenan Stadium.North Carolina delivered on first-year coach
"We played a complete game," Fedora said. "I wouldn't say we played a great game, but we played a complete game. We played hard the entire game. You have to give a lot of props to our defense.
"Anytime you get seven sacks, you hold somebody to  yards of total offense, they did a tremendous job. They kept them out of the end zone the entire day."
The offense did all right as well. Carolina amassed 450 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play from scrimmage.
Star running back Giovani Bernard returned for UNC after missing two games with an injury. He gained 50 hard-earned yards rushing, but he also caught six passes for 52 yards and scored the game's first touchdown on a reception.
"It was huge to get him back," UNC quarterback Bryn Renner said. "He is one of the best backs in the country, so it doesn't hurt to have him.
"He brings guys in the box because obviously they are going to want to stop him. It helps us as a whole offense."
East Carolina focused its defense on slowing the Tar Heels' runners, so Renner took advantage and punished the Pirates with UNC's passing game.
Renner completed 27-of-43 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, with a long of 62 yards. The long of 62 yards went to wide receiver Sean Tapley, who broke a tackle along the sideline midway through the run and finished it off with six points.
"Bryn played well," Fedora said. "You take the drops [his receivers had], and it would have been an unbelievable game. It really would. We have to give him more help.
"He is still making mistakes. He'll tell you that. The good thing is he learns from every mistake he makes. Everything is a new rep for him. You know the old saying about the game slowing down.
"There is a lot to be said for that," Fedora said. "When you know what is going to happen, the game slows down for you. In some instances, it is starting to work that way for him."
Tapley's touchdown stretched Carolina's lead from 10-6 to 17-6. The Tar Heels seized control from that moment forward.
"I felt the momentum shift," starting cornerback Jabari Price said. "Tapley did a good job. He has come a long way. He had a great training camp. I feel like when he is on his game, nobody can stop him."
Eight different Tar Heels caught passes as Renner spread the ball around. Senior Erik Highsmith had the most with eight catches for 66 yards. His receptions could have been greater had he not dropped several passes.
As usual, Renner threw the ball accurately and with zip. In addition, this is clearly his offense. He is in command when the offense is on the field. He gets lines the team quickly, tells everyone the plan and then makes a play. Saturday that included three rushes for 19 yards.
"Bryn did an amazing job," Bernard said. "He was able to find those creases. He was able to find those open spaces for throwing the defense evaded because they stacked the box."
The defense did an equally fine job, if not better. East Carolina moved the ball at times, but the Tar Heels found a way each time to keep the Pirates out of the end zone. Carolina kept increasing the punishment it delivered to quarterback Shane Carden as the game progressed.
"We came out with a lot more intensity, especially compared to the first half last week," linebacker Tommy Heffernan said. "We took it upon ourselves all week in practice to prepare right. We came out with the mindset that there are no exceptions for coming out flat or lackadaisical.
"We just had to buckle down and play assignment football. That is the biggest thing we've needed all season is to play assignment football. Being able to do that is huge. We were able to buckle down and make the plays when we needed them."
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said the Tar Heels' performance excited him so much that he is ready for the next game.
"To get to the quarterback as much as we did, I'm just excited," Williams said. "I want to get some more hits on some more quarterbacks. I'm so proud of the guys on this defense. I'm proud of the coaching staff.
"And I'm excited to be here. It's amazing what you can do if you put it all together and play a good football game. I'm ready to play Idaho. I'm ready to go home, enjoy my night and get ready to play Idaho. Our team is strong enough to move past losses and strongest enough to move past wins."
Carolina (2-2) will play Idaho at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Kenan Stadium.