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April 10, 2010

Defense dominates in 17-0 spring game

T.J. Yates might still be North Carolina's starting quarterback, but after the Tar Heels' spring game, he was going to be serving dinner to his backup

That was the bet for Carolina's nationally televised spring game - losers would serve the winners dinner afterward.

And that meant highly touted backup quarterback Bryn Rennerand the rest of the White team, which won 17-0, would be on the receiving end of dinner service from Yates and the Blue team.

"It's gonna be a lot of fun," Renner said with a mischievous smile.

Renner finished 10 for 14 for 152 yards a touchdown but was sacked three times and intercepted twice on tipped balls.

Yates had an even tougher day, going 10 for 17 for 91 yards and an interception while getting sacked four times.

While the head-to-head matchup of Carolina's top two quarterbacks was the most intriguing plot of the game, their struggles only reinforced that the strength of this team will be defense.

Carolina's defense - considered one of the nation's best with nine starters back from last year - dictated the outcome of the game by racking up eight sacks and five interceptions.

"As a defense, I thought we played extremely well," tackle Marvin Austin said. "We've got guys out there who can play football."

More important, the Tar Heels showed that their defensive prowess goes beyond the easily recognizable names.

The White team had a couple of backups emerge as standouts in the scrimmage.

Sophomore cornerback Mywan Jackson led the team with six tackles while intercepting a pair of passes and breaking another up, and junior defensive end Michael McAdoo had four sacks and an interception.

"Their mentality is to go get the ball, and that's what they do," Blue team tailback Shaun Draughn said.

It was no huge surprise that the defense did well against the offense, since the plan going into the game was to run a fairly vanilla scheme on both sides, eschewing mind games in favor or seeing who could win one-on-one matchups.

But that also meant is was hard to gauge whether Renner would have outperformed the veteran Yates as much against a live defense that was throwing blitzes and disguised coverages into the mix.

Renner, a redshirt freshman, struck first in the quarterback battle, orchestrating a 13-play, 70-yard drive that took more than seven minutes.

He hit receiver Greg Little - who caught five passes for 62 yards - three times on the game-opening drive, including a 9-yard touchdown pass.

While Renner came back down to earth on his second drive, going three-and-out, and threw a long interception - on a great play by safety Brian Gupton - late in the second quarter, incumbent starter Yates struggled to get going at all.

Yates was sacked three times and intercepted once - on a hit at the line of scrimmage that put the ball in McAdoo's hands - in the first half while completing 7 of 13 passes for 77 yards.

Renner fared much better, completing 8 of 11 passes for 92 yards in the first half, and also setting up White's second touchdown of the first half with a long pass to Little that led to a 2-yard scoring plunge by tailback Anthony Elzy.

"Every day (Renner) closes that gap," said UNC coach Butch Davis, who stressed that it was still Yates' job to win or lose in the fall.

The game, televised nationally by ESPN, consisted of 12-minute quarters and was a big enough deal to draw an estimated 29,500 to Kenan Stadium.

That turnout made as much of an instant impression on the players and coaches as anything that happened in the game itself, even with dinner service on the line.

"I don't think there's any way it could have gone any better," Davis said. "I was thrilled with the way people came out."


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