CHAPEL HILL North Carolina has a week off before traveling to Rutgers. Coach Butch Davis sounds happy to have the break.
Davis says the Tar Heels will have to play better than they did in their 35-27 season-opening win over McNeese State on Saturday. North Carolina struggled with its offensive consistency and allowed the Cowboys to move the ball and control the clock all night.
It took Brandon Tate's school-record 397 all-purpose yards to help avoid the upset.
Davis said Sunday his team came out healthy from the game. He says the team will spend much of this week working to correct its mistakes before focusing much on Rutgers. The team has a light workout scheduled for Monday afternoon.
In saving the Heels' opener on Saturday, Tate put on a dazzling one-man show, scoring on an 82-yard punt return and putting North Carolina ahead for good with a 57-yard catch.
The Tar Heels showed little else in an unimpressive start to their second season under Davis. In a game suspended nearly two hours due to weather, they blew a 14-0 lead and had to rally from a third-quarter deficit against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent that outplayed them much of the way.
Tate, a senior, started with a 56-yard return on the opening kickoff and had a 54-yard run that helped set up the Tar Heels' second touchdown. He also had a 38-yard punt return in the first quarter, finishing with 106 yards rushing and 93 yards receiving to break the school record of 339 all-purpose yards set by Derrick Fenner in 1986.
The 397 yards were second-most in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
For all the preseason optimism that has abounded here, North Carolina had to rely almost solely on Tate's ability to weave through oncoming defenders or break free from would-be tacklers.
Brooks Foster also had a touchdown catch for North Carolina, which compiled most of its 384 yards in the final 20 minutes. Shaun Draughn and Greg Little ran for fourth-quarter touchdowns that helped the Tar Heels stay in front.
Derrick Fourroux and Mark Fontenot ran for scores to lead the Cowboys, who scored 20 unanswered points after the game resumed. But after Fourroux's 2-yard score for the 20-14 third-quarter lead, the Tar Heels answered by going to – who else? – Tate.
The Tar Heels came into the season as the popular choice to challenge Virginia Tech for the ACC's Coastal Division crown. But North Carolina went three-and-out on its first drive, lost a fumble on its second and went three-and-out on its third.
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