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North Carolina vs. McNeese State postgame notes and quotes

Posted Monday, September 1, 2008

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Chapel Hill, NC - With Saturday's victory over McNeese State, the Tar Heels have won back-to-back season openers for the first time since 1996-97. Butch Davis improved to 2-0 in openers at Carolina, and the Tar Heels moved to 4-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams in the last five years.

UNC senior wide receiver Brandon Tate

• Senior wide receiver Brandon Tate finished with a UNC single-game record 397 all-purpose yards, surpassing the 339 yards posted by tailback Derrick Fenner against Virginia in 1986. It is the second-most all-purpose yards in ACC history (Wake Forest's John Leach had 411 vs. Maryland in 1993).

• Leach set the ACC record with 51 plays (46 rushes, three receptions, one punt and one KO return). Tate had only 11 touches (three rushes, four receptions, three punt returns and one KO return).

• Tate had 93 receiving yards, 106 rushing yards, 142 punt return yards and 56 kick return yards.

• Tate is the first wide receiver to rush for 100 yards in a game in UNC history. He came into the game with 151 rushing yards in his first three seasons at UNC (20 in 2006, 131 in 2007).

• Tate set the UNC single-game record for highest average punt return (min. three) with 47.3 yards per return. The previous record was 41.7 by Charlie Justice vs. Georgia in 1948.

• Tate's 198 combined yards on punt and kickoff returns is the second-most in UNC history. He owns the record with 208 against Duke in 2006.

• En route to his record-setting performance, Tate posted his career long reception (57 yards), his career best punt return (82 yards) and matched his career long rush (54 yards). He scored two touchdowns - one via punt return and one via reception - and now has 13 TDs in his career.

• Tate put the Tar Heels on the board with his sixth career return touchdown in the first quarter (three punt, three kickoff). The 82-yard punt return was the longest of his career and matched the ninth longest in school history.

• Tate's go-ahead 57-yard touchdown reception from T.J. Yates in the third quarter was the sixth of his career. He finished with four catches for 93 yards on the night.

• Tate had three touches (all returns) in the first quarter for 176 yards (120 punt return, 56 kickoff return). He had four touches of more than 50 yards on the night.

UNC junior Hakeem Nicks

• Junior Hakeem Nicks caught six passes for 110 yards and now has at least one catch in 14 straight games dating to the final game of the 2006 season. He also has recorded a catch in 23 of his 24 career contests.

• Nicks had 100 yards receiving for the sixth time in his career. He had a 71-yard reception in the fourth quarter, his third career catch of 70 or more yards.

• Sophomore quarterback T.J. Yates was 15 for 26 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 16 career TD passes in 13 games.

• With a second quarter TD grab, senior Brooks Foster registered his fifth career receiving touchdown and his first since posting two scores against James Madison in last year's season opener.

• Senior safety Trimane Goddard made his sixth career interception in the first quarter.

• The Tar Heels used three first-time starters Saturday: junior cornerback Jordan Hemby and sophomore defensive end Darrius Massenburg on defense and senior left guard Bryon Bishop on offense.

• Sophomore Shaun Draughn saw his first career action at tailback and carried seven times for 30 yards. He scored on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the Tar Heels a 28-20 lead.

• True freshmen Casey Barth and Zach Brown both played in their first career game. Barth connected on five extra-point attempts but missed a 37-yard field goal. Brown saw action on special teams.

E.J. Wilson led Carolina with three tackles for losses of six yards.

• Linebacker Quan Sturdivant matched his career high with 11 tackles.

• The game was delayed at 6:52 p.m. due to lightning and rain. Play resumed at 8:40 p.m. following a 1:48 delay. The weather delay was the first at Kenan Stadium since the 2005 Wisconsin game.


North Carolina Head Coach Butch Davis
A great deal of tonight's credit has to go to McNeese State. They played better than us in a lot of phases. The only place they didn't play as well in was with Brandon Tate. Brandon had a phenomenal game. He played extraordinarily well on offense. He played extremely well on special teams. We talked about it going into the season. He is a special guy. The Chicago Bears have Devin Hester and every time he touches the field, he has a chance to change the complexion of a ballgame. We've talked to our team, when he walks on that field, we need to do everything we can to give him a chance to be as successful as possible.

We've clearly got to play better. We didn't accomplish very much offensively or defensively. We didn't establish anything. We have been slightly hardheaded. In retrospect, some of the big plays we got in the passing game were things that were there and they were there because of the nature of which they were playing defense.

They were playing a lot of eight-man front, trying to give you bad plays in the running game and they succeeded. We kept trying to be hardheaded in establishing the run and get some momentum in the beginning of the season. Certainly it's a coaches responsibility, it's my responsibility as a head coach to make sure we execute and we play better. We were very fortunate.

I told our players a couple of weeks ago it's the media's job, it's the alumni's job, it's the fans job to deal with predictions and expectations. It's the coaches' job and the players' job to deal with reality. You have to look yourself in the face tonight and find out what it's going to take to play much better next week.

On Brandon Tate
Brandon Tate could probably play for every team I've coached for the last 34 years. He is a great kid. You love the way he approaches it. There's a lot of guys who don't like to return kicks and punts. He is electrifying. He makes guys miss. You need guys like that that can change field position and change the complexion of the game.

On the Rain Delay
The toughest thing was not really knowing the first 30-45 minutes how long the delay was going to be. We took it like it was a halftime. We tried to make some adjustments. Then we found out it was going to be extensive and exhaustive so we told them to just go to their locker, sit down, put their iPods back on and pretend like it's pregame. It's no excuse, because both teams had to deal with it. To say that we came out flat after being up 14-0 would be a little bit of a cop out because they had to do the same thing.

On trying to establish the run
We wanted so much to establish the running game. Let's try to be balanced. Let's try not to go out there and throw the ball all the time even if they are in some eight-man fronts. They gave us enough bad plays that it put us behind schedule. They played well. Some of the plays that we did in the second half when we started throwing the ball better and it opened the running game. I think Shaun certainly benefited from the fact that we started completing the ball on the perimeter.

On T.J. Yates
I think he came out of the game totally healthy. He made some big throws down the field. The play that he made to Hakeem that set up the touchdown, that was a gigantic throw. It was probably as good a deep throw as he's had in the two years I've been here. I think he was probably a little nervous today. He made have put a little undue pressure on himself. a

North Carolina Player Quotes
Greg Little
On Brandon Tate
"He stepped up and kept us in the game; and that's the way a senior leader has to play. He just played unbelievable."

On Tate's 397 yards
"That's stepping up to the plate and that's playing big. I mean, that's record numbers. When you come out and play like that, sky's the limit. He can do it anytime when he touches the ball and I felt like he made the most of every opportunity he had."

On the rain delay
"We don't want to use an excuse for the delay. They had the same rain delay that we had and I felt like we just got to come out the same way we left off. We've got to come out in that same emotional way, as excited as we were when we started the game, and we've got to come back out that same way."

Brandon Tate
On getting tackled to short the ACC record
"I just saw the goal line and the dude just made a great tackle, hit my feet, and then my feet collided with the other one. My eyes got real big, but when he hit my feet I just crumbled over; I was mad."

On Coach's reaction after the game
"He gave me the game ball for all the plays I made and he congratulated me in front of the whole team."

On the offense
"We came out kind of flat, but Coach told me that every chance I get to make a play, go out there and make it. On the first punt return I almost ran that one back. So, I told my teammates, you just do your job and I'll run one back; and that's what happened."

T.J. Yates
On his pass to Hakeem Nicks
"It was long. I just dropped back - I had all day back there - and just let Hakeem run back by that safety and he make a great play catching the ball."

On Brandon Tate's performance
"Unbelievable; absolutely unbelievable. He did it all. He ran the ball, kick returned, caught the ball; he did pretty much anything. I don't know what he didn't do. Throw a pass, but he probably could have if we let him do it. He's one of the main reasons why we won this game because we struggled a little bit. He gave special teams a big spark along with our offense. He did a great job."

McNeese State Head Coach Matt Viator
"I'm proud of our kids. I'll tell you what, there are a lot of guys out here who played really hard, extremely hard. I thought the biggest keys to the game were field position, and we got tortured on field position. We never get any field position all night. I thought that, plus their big plays...I mean 87 (Brandon Tate) is, I don't know, it seemed like he made all the plays. Offensively, we just didn't make enough plays. I felt like we had guys who were open and you know, so close. We just didn't make enough plays, but hey, our kids played hard, and we're proud of them. They just played hard. They kept battling, and I'm very proud of them...our kids have a lot of confidence to go get more. I just felt our kids competed hard."

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North Carolina vs. McNeese State postgame notes and quotes
Butch Davis improved to 2-0 in openers at Carolina.
Photo by Gene Galin

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