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Tar Heel season opener finally arrives

Posted Thursday, September 8, 2005

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Chapel Hill, NC - North Carolina’s season opener finally arrives on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Georgia Tech. The game will be televised regionally by ABC with kickoff slated for 3:36 p.m. The Tar Heels, who are entering their 115th football season, are the only team in the newly expanded Atlantic Coast Conference that did not play last weekend. Carolina started the week with a bye and will have another off week on October 15.

The Yellow Jackets (1-0, 0-0) are coming off a 23-14 win at 16th-ranked Auburn last Saturday evening. Georgia Tech ended Auburn’s 15-game win streak, the third longest in the nation. This is the latest Carolina has opened the season since 1991, when Mack Brown’s Tar Heels defeated Cincinnati at Kenan Stadium on Sept. 14. The last time Carolina began the year with a road game this late was 1977 when the Bill Dooley-coached Tar Heels fell to Kentucky, 10-7.

As a result of the late opener, Carolina began practice about a week later than most schools in the country. John Bunting called this preseason camp, “the best since I’ve been here,” and he and the rest of the team have reason for high expectations. The Tar Heels return nine starters on defense, six on offense and both the placekicker and punter. However, Carolina must replace record-setting quarterback Darian Durant and find a running back who can replace last season’s talented trio of Chad Scott, Jacque Lewis and Ronnie McGill. Scott and Lewis graduated and McGill is likely out until the middle of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Slated to fill the quarterback slot is senior Matt Baker, who has sat behind Durant for four seasons, patiently waiting his opportunity to lead the team.

Until McGill returns, Carolina will look to LSU transfer Barrington Edwards and several talented freshmen to fill the void at tailback. Edwards played on the Tigers national championship team in 2003 and sat out last season due to NCAA rules on transfers. Among the true freshmen expected to play, Cooter Arnold enters the opener No. 2 on the depth chart at tailback.

• Carolina is opening the season on the road for the first time since 2001, John Bunting’s first season as head coach. That year, Carolina lost to defending national champion Oklahoma in Norman, 41-27. The Tar Heels went on to drop their first three games of that season - all road games - before rebounding with eight wins, including a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
• Carolina has not opened the year on the road against a league opponent since beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem in 1992.
• Carolina enters 2005 with a 76-34-4 all-time record in season openers. In John Bunting’s four seasons, the Tar Heels are 1-3 in season openers. However, those three losses came to nationally-ranked Oklahoma in 2001, a Ben Roethlisberger-led Miami (Ohio) team in 2002 in which Carolina committed nine turnovers, and nationally-ranked Florida State in 2003. Last season, Carolina began the year with a 49-38 victory over William & Mary and went on to post a 6-6 record and play in the Continental Tire Bowl.

• Carolina and Georgia Tech are meeting for the 41st time in a series the Yellow Jackets lead, 20-17-3. Carolina ended a six-game losing streak to the Jackets last season with a 34-13 victory in Chapel Hill. In that game, true freshman Hilee Taylor electrified the Kenan Stadium crowd by sacking Reggie Ball, stripping away the football and running it back for a touchdown on the game’s final play. Carolina picked off three Ball passes, including two by cornerback Jacoby Watkins and held highly-touted Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson to just two catches.
• Carolina has not won at Georgia Tech since a 16-13 victory in 1997. Since then, the Tar Heels have lost three straight. Carolina did win in the city of Atlanta, but that came in the 2001 Peach Bowl over Auburn.
• Carolina is 14-11-1 against Georgia Tech since the Yellow Jackets entered the ACC in 1974.
• Georgia Tech, with 630 all-time victories, and North Carolina, with 619, are the two winningest programs in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are 20th on the NCAA all-time win list, while the Tar Heels are 24th.
• Six Tar Heels are from the state of Georgia, including offensive tackle Andre’ Barbour (Atlanta), safety Mahlon Carey (Marietta), defensive tackle Shelton Bynum (Ellenwood), wide receiver Dirk Engram (College Park), offensive guard Scott Lenahan (Marietta) and tailback Richie Rich (Marietta). Carey has started at tailback, safety and linebacker during his Carolina career.
• Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta served as the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator in 2001. The Tar Heel defense, led by first-round draft picks Julius Peppers and Ryan Sims, finished 15th nationally that season.

No current North Carolina quarterback has ever started a college game. Senior Matt Baker is UNC’s most experienced signal caller and has played in just 12 games, mostly in relief of record-setting QB Darian Durant. Baker has completed 44 of 80 passes in his career for 623 yards and three touchdowns. He enters the season as the starter and will be backed up redshirt freshman Joey Bozich and sophomore walk-on Ben Johnson. Neither of the two back-ups has ever taken a snap. Baker has been sharp in fall practice, completing 24 of 36 attempts for 292 yards and one touchdown in two preseason scrimmages.

Sophomore Roger Heinz was set to be the No. 2 quarterback, but he began experiencing back pain in the offseason and had surgery in August. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Freshman Cam Sexton graduated from high school in December, then participated in Carolina’s bowl practices in Charlotte and spring workouts in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in spring practice, twisting his foot in the grass after scoring a touchdown untouched. He had surgery to repair the damage to his ankle and was expected to miss four months of action. Freshman Bobby Rome could also see some playing time.

Opening a season with such inexperience at quarterback is something new for the Tar Heels. Carolina has had a stretch of outstanding play for the last dozen years at this position—Jason Stanicek, Mike Thomas, Chris Keldorf, Oscar Davenport, Ronald Curry and Durant.

In fact, this will be the first time in 21 years that Carolina will enter a season without a quarterback who has ever started a college game. That’s discounting the 1996 season since Keldorf had been a starter at Palomar Junior College

Kevin Anthony had never started a game when he opened the 1984 season in that role. Either Rod Elkins or Scott Stankavage had started every game in 1983.

In fact, this will be only the third occasion in the last 30 seasons that the Tar Heels have not had a returning quarterback with any starting experience. That was also the case in 1980 and 1976. Chuck Sharpe had started five games before 1980, but was injured in pre-season practice that fall. That left an inexperienced Rod Elkins as the starter.

The graduation of Bill Paschall had left the quarterback job wide open in 1976. Freshman Matt Kupec became the starter at mid-season.

Anthony had only seen spot action in six games before his first start. He responded with an outstanding season, setting 10 school records, including marks for total offense and passing yardage.

But, Anthony had a big advantage over Baker. He had plenty of help in the backfield with a veteran fullback, Eddie Colson, and a pair of outstanding tailbacks, Ethan Horton and William Humes. Horton ran for 1,247 yards and was chosen ACC Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

North Carolina’s 2005 schedule has been ranked the most difficult in the country according to CBS Sportsline. Carolina’s non-conference schedule includes home games against Wisconsin on September 17 and Utah on October 1 and a road contest at Louisville on October 8. All three of those teams finished in the top 25 last season and Utah (No. 4) and Louisville (No. 6) were in the Top 10. Eight of UNC’s opponents went to a bowl game. In ACC competition, Carolina faces Miami, Virginia Tech, NC State and Georgia Tech on the road. Three of the final four games of the year are at home. Last season, the Tar Heels’ slate was the toughest in the country according to the Sagarin rankings.

Carolina returns nine starters on defense this year, not including defensive tackle Chase Page who started all 12 games in 2003. Page tore a tendon in his hand last August and missed the entire season. Page will slide into the spot left vacant by Jonas Seawright, who graduated and signed with the New York Giants. The only position Carolina needs to replace on defense is strong safety, where Gerald Sensabaugh played last year. Sensabaugh was selected by Jacksonville in the 2005 NFL Draft. Last season, Carolina’s defense improved as the season progressed and held Duke to 234 total yards in the regular season finale. That was the fewest allowed by a Tar Heel defense since the 2001 Peach Bowl victory over Auburn.

With the addition of Boston College to the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, the league will be divided into two separate divisions – Atlantic and Coastal. North Carolina will compete this season in the Coastal Division along with Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Duke. Carolina will play each of those teams every season, along with NC State from the Atlantic Division. In addition, Carolina will play two other teams from the Atlantic for a total of eight conference games. This year, Carolina plays Boston College and Maryland from the Atlantic Division.

• The Tar Heels have seen their rushing yards per game average increase in each of the last three seasons. After struggling in 2002 with just 102.5 rushing yards per game, Carolina improved to 150.4 in 2003 and 176.2 in 2004. Last year’s average was the highest since 1994.
• Carolina reversed two troubling trends last season, penalties and turnovers. The Tar Heels finished second in the league in fewest penalty yards (42.8 per game) and forced 15 turnovers, the most since 2001. Carolina had eight interceptions last season, a year after picking off a program-low two in 2004.

The Tar Heels finished second in the ACC in total offense a year ago, averaging 390.7 yards per game, and had arguably the most balanced offensive attack in the league. Carolina was second in passing yards per game (214.4) and fourth in rushing yards per game (176.2). North Carolina (6.0) and Virginia (6.1) were the only two schools in the ACC to average at least six yards per offensive play. Carolina returns five starters from last year’s offense, including three offensive linemen and two receivers. The Tar Heels must replace All- America center Jason Brown, record-setting quarterback Darian Durant and tailbacks Chad Scott and Jacque Lewis.

Senior linebacker Doug Justice has earned Academic All-ACC honors three times at Carolina from 2002-04. The Port Orange, Fla., native is one of the most experienced linebackers on the team with 20 career starts and 190 tackles. He was named a captain for last year’s Miami game and responded with his best effort of the season, earning the game’s defensive MVP honors from the coaching staff. No player in Carolina history has ever earned Academic All-ACC honors four times. Justice, place-kicker Clint Gwaltney (1989-91), defensive lineman Alex Simakas (1988-90), defensive back Steve Hendrickson (1982-84) and center Rick Donnalley (1978-80) are the only Tar Heels to be honored three times. Justice is an active member in the community, participating in Carolina Football’s visits to the UNC Children’s Hospital, reading books to elementary school students and building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Last summer, he was an intern in the UNC Athletic Department marketing office.

North Carolina has 20 scholarship seniors on the 2005 team, the most ever under John Bunting in his five seasons as head coach. The previous high was 14 in 2001 when the Tar Heels went 8-5 and won the Peach Bowl over Auburn. Bunting has noted often that the 2001 team was the perfect team to coach with a majority of senior starters and many talented juniors, including All-America defensive end Julius Peppers. Here is a look at the last five senior classes and some of the top players in that class.
• 2001 - 14 seniors (Curry, Thornton, Monk, Bailey, Metts)
• 2002 - 10 seniors (Aiken, Hilton, Borders)
• 2003 - 13 seniors (Blizzard, Reid)
• 2004 - 13 seniors (Brown, Durant, Scott, Lewis)
• 2005 - 20 seniors (Page, Pollock, Richardson, Baker)

Senior wide receiver Jarwarski Pollock needs just 18 catches to match Na Brown (1995-98) as Carolina’s all-time leading receiver. Pollock enters the 2005 season fourth at UNC with 147 catches for 1,617 yards and seven touchdowns. He trails only Leon Johnson (151), Corey Holliday (155) and Na Brown (165) in the Carolina record book. Pollock established the single-season receiving record in 2003 with 71 receptions and is averaging 4.2 catches per game in his career. Pollock has caught at least three passes in 25 of his 35 career games, including a career-high 11 against NC State in 2003.

North Carolina’s offensive line has become one of the top units in the league under the tutelage of coach Hal Hunter who arrived in 2002. Last season, the offensive line paved the way for Carolina’s improved running attack as the Tar Heels gained over 175 yards per contest and ranked second in the ACC in total offense. Carolina also was second in the league in sacks allowed with just 21 in 12 games. The starting offensive line includes senior tackles Brian Chacos and Skip Seagraves, senior guard Kyle Ralph and sophomore sensation Charlston Gray. Ralph earned second-team All-ACC honors last year and is a leading candidate for all-conference honors this season. Gray was named a first-team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News and may be the most athletic player on the line. Underrated Brian Chacos did not allow a sack during the regular season a year ago and Skip Seagraves is returning for a sixth year of eligibility. At center, sophomore Ben Lemming, who played in eight games as a reserve tackle in 2004, and Steven Bell are battling for the start. Seagraves (26), Ralph (17), Chacos (12) and Gray (7) have a combined 62 starts at Carolina.

In addition to the heroics of rookies Connor Barth vs. Miami, Khalif Mitchell vs. NC State and Hilee Taylor vs. Georgia Tech, several other fresh-faced Tar Heels saw their first collegiate action in 2004. In fact, 13 true freshman played for the first time last season, the most at Carolina in more than a decade. Carolina played 12 true freshmen in 2003 and has played 25 in the last two seasons. In the four years prior to 2003, Carolina played a total of just 22 freshmen. From 1994-99 an average of 4.2 true freshmen saw action. Since the 2000 season, the averaged as jumped to 8.4 and under head coach John Bunting (2001-04), the average is 9.5 per season.

After playing host to ACC newcomers Miami and Virginia Tech last year, North Carolina will pay a visit to both Miami and Blacksburg in 2005. The last time Carolina set foot in the South Beach area for a regular season game was 1961 when the Hurricanes shut out the Tar Heels 10-0. Carolina played at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium in the 1995 Carquest Bowl, beating Arkansas 20-10. Although the two schools have met on 27 occasions, Carolina and Virginia Tech have only played in Blacksburg one time, a 39-21 Tar Heel victory in 1930.

Carolina and Louisville are meeting this season for just the fifth time and the series is tied 2-2. The last time Carolina played at Louisville was in 1995, when the Tar Heels pulled off a dramatic 17-10 victory. Mike Thomas hit Octavus Barnes for a 35-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left to play to win the game on a Thursday night game before an ESPN national audience. Carolina dominated statistically, but was thwarted by turnovers and a myriad of other mistakes. UNC lost five fumbles – the main reason the game remained in doubt even though Carolina outgained Louisville, 406-159.

Last season, Carolina was one of the top teams in the league inside the red zone, scoring 87.8 percent of the time when inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Tar Heels finished second in the league in red zone efficiency. UNC converted on 39 of 44 opportunities, scoring 27 touchdowns and kicking 12 field goals.

Head coach John Bunting filled two coaching vacancies during the offseason with the addition of linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, a former all-conference linebacker at North Carolina, and wide receivers coach Dave Brock. Bunting also adjusted the responsibilities of feveral assistants and promoted John Gutekunst to assistant head coach, Marvin Sanders to defensive coordinator and Andre’ Powell to special teams coordinator.

Gutekunst will tutor the tight ends and Kenny Browning will shift to defensive tackles, a position he oversaw at Carolina from 1994-2000.

Brad Lawing, the defensive line coach in each of the last two seasons, will continue to coach the defensive ends.

Thigpen was hired from Illinois where he coached for two years and had been asked to remain on Ron Zook’s Illini staff. He was the cornerbacks coach in 2003 and the linebackers coach in 2004. A four-year letterwinner at North Carolina from 1989-92, Thigpen was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker, earning first-team honors in 1991. He was co-captain of the 1992 team that went 9-3 and beat Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl, the first of seven straight bowl games for the Tar Heels in the 1990s.

Brock comes to Carolina from Temple where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons. Under Brock’s direction, Temple’s spread offense was one of the most exciting in the Big East. Last season, Temple ranked third in the Big East, generating 173.0 yards on the ground per game. The Owls also passed for 2,428 yards, the fourth-most in program history, and averaged 393.7 total yards per game.

John Bunting is in his fifth season at North Carolina and 10th overall as a college coach. Bunting’s overall coaching record is 57-44-2, including an 19-30-0 record at UNC and a 38-14-2 record at Glassboro State from 1988-92. Bunting is the first Tar Heel alum and first former Carolina letterwinner to coach UNC since Jim Tatum in 1956

Head Coach John Bunting
Offensive Coordinator/QBs Gary Tranquill
Wide Receivers Dave Brock
Asst. Head Coach/Tight Ends John Gutekunst
Offensive Line Hal Hunter
Running Backs/Special Teams Coord. Andre’ Powell
Defensive Coordinator/DBs Marvin Sanders
Defensive Tackles Ken Browning
Defensive Ends/Recruiting Coord. Brad Lawing
Linebackers Tommy Thigpen
Strength & Conditioning Jeff Connors
Graduate Asst. (Offense) Nick Schiralli
Graduate Asst. (Defense) Todd McComb
Assistant A.D. (Operations) Rick Steinbacher
Assistant A.D. (Student-Athlete Development) Corey Holliday
Video Chris Allen
Director/Sports Medicine Dr. Tim Taft
Team Doctor Dr. Mario Ciocca
Head Trainer Scott Oliaro
Assistant Trainer Dean Crowell
Equipment Mgr./Business Ops. Dominic Morelli
Assistant Equipment Mgr. Jason Freeman

0 - Number of starts by a quarterback on the 2005 roster.

1 - Carolina’s schedule ranking by CBS North Carolina and Georgia Tech have the most difficult schedules in the country, according to their formula. Carolina opens the season at Georgia Tech on Sept. 10.

2 - Number of football players (Jesse Holley, Brooks Foster) who also played for the 2005 National Championship men’s basketball team.

3 - Number of times senior linebacker Doug Justice has earned Academic All-ACC honors.

4 - Starters returning on the Carolina offensive line, including guard/tackle Skip Seagraves, who missed most of last season, but was awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

4 - Number of Carolina alums in the NFL Pro Bowl last year - TE Alge Crumpler, CB Dre’ Bly, FB William Henderson, DE Julius Peppers. Only Miami had more.

6 - Number of teams in each division of the newly aligned Atlantic Coast Conference. Carolina will play in the Coastal Division.

8 - Number of interceptions Carolina had in 2004. That was the most since 2001 (8).

13 - Number of true freshmen who played last season, the most in over a decade.

19 - Consecutive years that a Tar Heel has played for one of the two Super Bowl teams.

20 - Number of scholarship seniors returning in 2005. That is the most ever under head coach John Bunting.

20 - Carolina is one of only four teams in the country to have played in 20 bowl games, 20 NCAA men’s basketball tournaments and 20 NCAA baseball tournaments.

25 - Carolina is one of 25 schools in the country to have played in 25 bowl games.

42 - Length of Connor Barth’s game-winning field goal to beat fourth-ranked Miami last year. It was the highest ranked team Carolina has ever defeated.

Pos. No. Player Notes
WR 5 Jarwarski Pollock Has led the team in receptions in each of the last two seasons
LT 75 Skip Seagraves Returns for his sixth-season after injuring foot in 2004
LG 77 Charlston Gray First-Team Freshman All-America in 2004
C 70 Steven Bell Versatile player who can also play guard
63 Ben Lemming Moved from tackle to center in the spring
RG 78 Kyle Ralph Preseason first-team All-ACC, on the Lombardi Watch List
RT 65 Brian Chacos Developing into one of the premier offensive linemen in the ACC
TE 86 Jon Hamlett Best receiving tight end on the team
QB 7 Matt Baker Making his first career start against Georgia Tech
TB 32 Barrington Edwards LSU transfer who has not played in a game since 2003
20 Cooter Arnold True freshmen who was on NC all-state team on offense and defense
FB 40 Rikki Cook Bruising back who can also catch the ball out of the backfield
WR 9 Jesse Holley Became big-play receiver over latter part of 2004
WR 2 Mike Mason Had disappointing season in 2004 with 19 catches
Pos. No. Player Notes
DE 42 Brian Rackley Tied for second on the team with three sacks in 2004
DT 95 Chase Page Returns for fifth year after injuring hand in 2004
DT 74 Kyndraus Guy Second-year starter
DE 80 Tommy Davis Had career-high 48 tackles and 7.5 tackles for losses in 2004
LB 52 Jeff Longhany Made 36 tackles and had six tackles for losses in 2004
LB 53 Doug Justice Has made 20 career starts at UNC
LB 8 Tommy Richardson Team leader who had 67 tackles in 2004
CB 16 Jacoby Watkins Had two interceptions against Georgia Tech last season
SS 23 Mahlon Carey Experienced player who has also played running back and linebacker
31 Trimane Goddard Sophomore who played well on special teams in 2004
FS 27 Kareen Taylor Scored on a 64-yard interception return vs. Duke
CB 13 Cedrick Holt Started final 10 games of 2004
Pos. No. Player Notes
PK 10 Connor Barth Booted 42-yard game-winning field goal against Miami in 2004
P 45 David Wooldridge Ranked fifth in the ACC with a 41.7-yard average in 2004

Date: Saturday, September 10, 2005
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium
Capacity: 55,000
Surface: Natural grass
Rankings: Neither team is ranked
TV: ABC regional
Commentators: Gary Thorne, play-by-play; Ed Cunningham, color analyst; Billy Ray Brown, sideline Radio: Tar Heel Sports Radio Network, a division of Learfield Communications. Woody Durham (play-byplay), Rick Steinbacher (color analyst) and Lee Pace (sideline) provide the call. Jones Angell will host the broadcast.
Website: A live broadcast is available on UNC’s official athletic website,
North Carolina:
Georgia Tech:
Series: Georgia Tech leads, 20-17-3
Last Meeting: North Carolina 34, Georgia Tech 13 on September 18, 2004 in Chapel Hill.
Current Streak: Carolina, 1 game
Last Georgia Tech win: 2003
Carolina’s last win in Atlanta: 1997, 16-13
Sept. 10 at Georgia Tech 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Sept. 17 Wisconsin 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 24 at NC State TBA
Oct. 1 Utah TBA
Oct. 8 at Louisville TBA
Oct. 22 Virginia TBA
Oct. 29 at Miami TBA
Nov. 5 Boston College TBA
Nov. 12 Maryland TBA
Nov. 19 Duke TBA
Nov. 26 at Virginia Tech TBA
Sept. 3 at Auburn W, 23-14
Sept. 10 North Carolina 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 17 Connecticut 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 6 NC State 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Duke
Oct. 22 at Miami
Oct. 29 Clemson
Nov. 5 Wake Forest
Nov. 12 at Virginia
Nov. 26 Georgia

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