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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Halftime UNC 42, Georgia Southern 7: Linebackers take turns feasting on Eagles

Posted by on Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 4:58 PM

click to enlarge T.J. Yates looked comfortable in the pocket for the first time since facing ECU (Photo by Rob Rowe)
  • T.J. Yates looked comfortable in the pocket for the first time since facing ECU (Photo by Rob Rowe)

Kenan Memorial Stadium/Chapel Hill --  UNC's linebackers stole the show in the first half as each starter forced a turnover.

The fifth longest fumble return in school history pushed the Heels ahead by 14, and linebacker Zach Brown intercepted Lee Chapple on the ensuing possession to put this game out of reach early for the Golden Eagles.

And to make matters worse for Georgia Southern, Bruce Carter picked off one of those pesky bubble screens and returned it 41 yards to make it 35-7.

UNC converted four Georgia Southern turnovers into 28 points.  The offense, meanwhile, didn't exactly run the Golden Eagles off the field but put together an impressive touchdown scoring drive with six seconds to play.

Key series of the half: After a disastrous week against Virginia, offensive coordinator John Shoop scripted a perfect opening 89-yard drive to put UNC up 7-0.

Running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston and quarterback T.J. Yates combined for 51 rushing yards and led the Heels to their first touchdown scored on an opening drive this season.  Houston scored three touchdowns in the first half.

Yates completed two play action passes to tight end Ed Barham and looked comfortable rolling out of the pocket as the offensive line -- aided by the return of guard Jonathan Cooper -- bullied the Golden Eagles.

Key Player(s) of the half: Robert Quinn's seventh sack of the season forced a fumble, setting the Heels up for their second score of the game via a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Draughn -- his first of the season.

Middle linebacker Quan Sturdivant's second career touchdown came halfway through the first half as he forced a fumble and returned it 49 yards to put the Heels up by 14.

The defense faced a plethora of questions about why the 2009 version of the Heels can't force any turnovers after not turning over the Cavaliers last Saturday and answered that question early and often in the first half.

What to watch for in the second half: How many turnovers can UNC pile up?  This game is skewing the turnover statistics as Georgia Southern is coughing the ball up and reminding Tar Heel faithful of last season's mojo.

The Golden Eagles showed the ability to move the ball and could put up some points if Carolina's offense sputters.

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