Unlike Michigan, North Carolina avoided
the potential embarrassment of opening the season at home with a loss to
a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) power.
The Tar Heels took care of business in a
37-14 win over James Madison.
The Dukes held a 15-14 edge in first
downs and led 150-100 in rushing yardage as the Heels showed as little
as possible of their offensive package under new coach Butch Davis
coming into this Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff at East Carolina.
"Last week we had an advantage over JMU
because there really wasn't any tape on us they could use," said Tar
Heels receiver Brooks Foster. "ECU will obviously have last week's tape
and I think we will have to be more prepared to play."
This is the earliest date the two
regional programs have played in the series which UNC-CH leads, 8-1-1.
This is only the second time the teams have played in Greenville, where
captured a matchup of winless clubs,
28-17, in the last meeting on Oct. 11, 2003.
While the Heels were tuning up with JMU,
the Pirates launched their season with a respectable showing in a 17-7
loss at No. 9 Virginia Tech in which ECU was without projected starting
quarterback Rob Kass.
The Pirates limited the Hokies to a
mere 33 yards rushing on 31 attempts but Virginia Tech quarterback Sean
Glennon compensated with 245 yards passing as he completed 22 of 33 with
one touchdown and one interception.
A moral victory wasn't what third-year
Pirates coach Skip Holtz was looking for on his trip to Blacksburg. But
he saw some positives on his venture into the Blue Ridge foothills.
"I was disappointed that we didn't come
away with the win, but very encouraged at the same time, especially when
you look at the number of players we played and the youth and
inexperience," Holtz said. "What was frustrating about the game was that
we made some youthful mistakes that got us beat.
"We tried to force the ball into
coverage and they ran it back for a touchdown. We had three uncontested
deep balls that they completed. Virginia Tech is a great program. It was
a great atmosphere and it was a great opportunity for us to go up there
and compete. There were a lot of things I was encouraged about but a lot
of room for growth as well."
The Pirates faced Virginia Tech without
a quarterback who had ever thrown a pass in a college varsity game but
found a possible leader as junior Patrick Pinkney completed 14 of 25 for
115 yards without an interception in relief of Brett Clay, who started
in Kass' absence and managed to connect on just 2 of 6 passes for 4
yards. Clay threw the interception that put the Hokies ahead to stay
late in the first half.
Holtz named Pinkney ECU's No. 1
quarterback at the outset of the North Carolina game week.
"I was real pleased with Patrick
Pinkney in terms of the poise he showed and I thought he did a real nice
job of managing the game," said the Pirates coach. "I always look into a
quarterback's eyes to see if I'm looking to the back of his head or if
he is into it. He was definitely into it."
Kass returned to practice on Sunday
from a one-game suspension for DUI but Holtz said the sophomore who
completed 10 of 19 passes for 138 yards in last year's PapaJohns.com
Bowl has dropped to the bottom of the depth chart.
"He is available to play but he will
work his way up from the bottom," Holtz said of Kass. "Right now this is
Patrick Pinkney's job and he deserves it. I was impressed with the way
he played and protected the ball. He gave a spark of enthusiasm to our
offense and I think that is what our young football team needs right
now. When (Kass) made the decision he did, he gave up the spot and
(Pinkney) did a nice job of stepping up and taking it."
Pinkney took his first college varsity
snap on ECU's fourth possession after the Pirates had failed to get a
first down on their first three series with Clay at the controls. ECU
responded by driving 52 yards for a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead with
14:23 left in the half. Converted freshman receiver Dwayne Harris also
saw time at quarterback on the scoring series.
"I was just trying to be coachable,
take it one play at a time and not let my teammates down," Pinkney said.
"When your name is called, you've got to be ready to play. You've got to
execute the offense. You can't turn the ball over. You've got to do your
Pinkney should be even better prepared
this week than when he faced a Hokies unit that returned eight starters
from Division I-A's best defense in 2006.
Davis is 0-2 as a head coach at Miami
against ECU. The Pirates stunned the Hurricanes 31-6 at the Orange Bowl
in 1996 and rallied for a 27-23 win in Raleigh in 1999 after that game
was moved from Greenville following flooding from Hurricane Floyd.
"Coach Davis is an excellent football
coach," Holtz said. "He's brought in an awfully lot of excitement and
enthusiasm into a program. Anytime there's change, there's excitement
and enthusiasm but I think with someone like Coach Davis comes along
with his history, with his past, with his tradition, he's going to bring
in another level of excitement.
"I think these players have bought in.
He's doing a great job with his football team. They're extremely
talented. What he's doing, he's bringing them together and he has them
playing together as a team. James Madison is an excellent program and
they beat 'em rather soundly there at home in the opening ball game.
"They have a very good defensive
football team. They run to the ball extremely well. They're big and
they're physical. Like I said, I know they have talent because they're
in the top ten in recruiting classes every year. They have an awfully
lot of talent and you're starting to see that right now."
Like ECU, the Tar Heels had a newcomer
at quarterback in their first game. T.J. Yates only played one season on
the prep level at Pope High in Marietta, GA, but accumulated some big
numbers as he completed 160 of 289 passes for 2,305 yards and 17
touchdowns. He also rushed for 292 yards and seven scores. He redshirted
in Chapel Hill last year but was 10 for 15 in the spring game for 163
yards and three touchdowns.
Yates got a preview of the defense he
will face this week while waiting to make his college debut.
"We watched a little of their game in
the hotel on Saturday," Yates said. "They have a really good defense and
they played Virginia Tech really hard."
The Heels dodged a potential pothole in
week one but will leave the supportive environment of Kenan Stadium to
take on the Pirates. Davis has been to Greenville as a Miami assistant
in the 1980's.
"Their fans do a great job of getting
behind their football team," Davis said of the environment at
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, which will be sold out on Saturday. "That
obviously will add an additional challenge to a young team — being able
to handle the crowd noise and going on the road."