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October 16, 2010

Heels snap Charlottesville losing streak with blowout

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Earlier in the week, several of North Carolina's players were having a locker-room disagreement on just how long it had been since the Tar Heels had won a game at Virginia.

"It'll be a little easier to remember now," UNC safety Deunta Williams said.

The Tar Heels finally ended their Scott Stadium losing streak with a 44-10 victory against the Cavaliers, UNC's first here since 1981.

It was the fourth win in a row for the Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 in the ACC), who had lost their last 14 straight games here.

Dwight Jones had a career day, with 198 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while UNC's defense once again went into shut-down mode in the second half.

Carolina's defense intercepted Virginia five times, including an end-zone pick by Matt Merletti on fourth down with 2 minutes to go.

The interception that really put the Tar Heels' Charlottesville losing streak to bed, though, was the one in the third quarter by linebacker Kevin Reddick, who took it 22 yards for a touchdown to make it 37-10.

"We kept the pressure on them," UNC coach Butch Davis said. "When you get off to an explosive start, I've seen teams relax. I was actually concerned that (Virginia) scored right before halftime. It was critically important for us to come out to start good in the third quarter."

UNC was the only team that did any second-half scoring.

Twice, the Tar Heels stopped the Cavaliers (2-4, 0-3) on fourth-and-goal in the second half, and one of UNC's three second-half interceptions was a grab at the UNC 3-yard line by Da'Norris Searcy to kill a Virginia scoring chance on the drive after Reddick's touchdown.

"Every time we'd come off the field, the next thing I knew we'd have the ball back," said UNC quarterback T.J. Yates, who threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

While the defense sealed the deal for Carolina, it was the UNC offense that sent the Cavaliers reeling early.

Carolina went on a 27-3 scoring binge to start the game, with Jones amassing 188 of his receiving yards before the six-minute mark of the second quarter.

"I call him Baby Moss," Williams said. "It's great to see guys shining like the stars we know they are."

Jones got things started by running in an 81-yard touchdown catch on Carolina's first play from scrimmage and scored again on a 20-yard strike with 1:17 left in the first quarter.

"I knew after that first play that I was going to have a good game," said Jones, whose previous career-high was 43 yards against ECU earlier this year. "Today I just really got in a zone."

Jones looked briefly to have scored his third touchdown of the half, but a replay review marked him down a foot short of the goal-line, setting up a 1-yard score from Yates to tight end Zack Pianalto.

The bad news was that Pianalto's curse of getting hurt every time he scores continued. For the third straight season, Pianalto suffered a serious injury in a game when he scored. This time, it was a fracture of his right fibula on the series after his touchdown.

The 27 points were the most in the first half for UNC this season, and their 44 overall were the most against Virginia since scoring 48 in 1997.

It was Carolina's second-largest margin of victory over Virginia in the ACC era and equaled the largest against any opponent in the Butch Davis era.

"The big plays we got offensively were probably the secret to the ball game," Davis said.

While the passing yards and turnovers were impressive, the only number that mattered to the Tar Heels after the game was zero: the number of years it's now been since they have won a game here.

"We didn't mention it all week long," Davis said. "But when the game is over … a lot of people have put on that blue helmet and that blue jersey and got their hearts broke. A lot of people are happy tonight."


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