Embattled Heels try to end streak

On the subject of

University of North Carolina

football, Virginia quarterback Marc

Verica is like a lot of people. “I don’t think I’ve followed it as

closely as some people might have,” said Verica of the suspensions

that have wracked Carolina’s roster. “Really, the extent to my

awareness of it is whatever reads across the ticker on ESPN. I

might catch something here or there.

“I’m not exactly sure who’s playing and who’s not [or] how many

weeks this guy is going to be out. I have too much on my plate that

I need to focus on and worry about.” By Friday, Virginia had

learned that running back Ryan Houston had been cleared for today’s

6 p.m. kickoff at Scott Stadium. Houston was the leading rusher on

a Tar Heels team that finished 8-5 in 2009. Earlier in the week,

Carolina announced the dismissal of defensive tackle Marvin Austin

and confirmed that defensive end Robert Quinn and wide receiver

Greg Little had been ruled ineligible by the

NCAA. Safety Deunta Williams was

suspended for the first four games of the season and cornerback

Kendrick Burney will see his six-game suspension expire next week.

The

NCAA has been investigating the

Carolina

football program for improper

benefits and academic fraud, but the Tar Heels (3-2 overall, 1-0

ACC) have managed to persevere. They go to Charlottesville with a

three-game winning streak while Virginia (2-3, 0-1) will be looking

to stop a two-game skid. The Cavaliers enter the game as a 6

sup>1/sub>2-point underdog against a Carolina team that

hasn’t won at Scott Stadium since 1981. “I’d be lying if I said I

wasn’t familiar with [the streak]; I get asked about it all the

time,” said Verica, who quarterbacked the Cavaliers to a 16-13

overtime victory over then-No. 18 Carolina in 2008. A touchdown run

by Cedric Peerman tied the score with 47 seconds remaining in

regulation, and an overtime touchdown run by Peerman prompted the

UVa students to storm the field. “I definitely have good memories

of that game,” Verica said. “It was one we won in pretty dramatic

fashion. At the same time, you have to understand that game truly

has no bearing or effect on this week.” Virginia’s winning streak

over Carolina in Charlottesville has reached 14 games, four times

when the Tar Heels were ranked and on multiple occasions when UNC

was favored. Since 2002, UVa has beaten the Tar Heels seven times

in eight meetings, including three times in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I’m

not privileged to the entire history,” said coach Butch Davis, who

is 0-3 against Virginia since coming to Carolina. “Some years you

don’t win because you don’t have enough talent. Some years you

don’t win because you make mistakes or whatever.” Even with the

departures, Carolina doesn’t lack for talent. When 2009 sack leader

Quinn was unable to play, the Tar Heels replaced him with 6-foot-4,

235-pound Donte Paige-Moss, a former Parade All-American. While

Carolina certainly has an advantage in four- and five-star

recruits, Virginia will be unveiling a Parade All-American of its

own today when 6-foot-6, 350-pound freshman Morgan Moses makes his

first start. An injury to starting left offensive tackle Landon

Bradley has caused a reshuffling of UVa’s offensive line, with

right tackle Oday Aboushi moving to the left side and Moses taking

Aboushi’s spot on the right side. UVa is also without top tight end

Joe Torchia, who was lost two weeks ago to a season-ending shoulder

injury. The Cavaliers have been plagued by poor starts, not only

during their current losing streak but for an entire month. Their

total offense in the first quarter of Games 1-5 has been 132, 57,

44, 17 and 32 yards. “It’s not like we’re coming out there without

a sense of urgency and we’re not ready to play a

college

football game,” Verica said. “It’s a

matter of execution. When you come out in the first quarter and

you’re just going three-and-out and three-and-out, it puts you in a

hole.” And, this season, the Tar Heels have been making the most of

their opportunities. “When you have people that are attacking your

football family, sometimes you just

circle up and say, ‘Listen we are the only ones that care about

you, the ones that are inside the room, inside the family,”

first-year UVa head coach Mike London said. “Butch has done a nice

job of rallying his troops.” The latest

NCAA decisions were not unexpected,

Davis conceded. “I think, in some respects, some things haven’t

changed because [Austin, Quinn and Little] weren’t able to play in

the previous five games,” Davis said. “As painful as this was and

as disappointing as this was, it does move us closer to closure.”

KEYS TO THE GAME By Doug Doughty | The Roanoke Times A supportive

fan base. When a 2-1 Virginia team played host to Florida State on

Oct. 2, fewer than 50,000 seats filled the stadium. Maybe the

students were turned off by a noon kickoff and reports of an early

blowout, but the Cavaliers got their preferred 6 p.m. kickoff for

this one. Limit turnovers. Virginia was better last week at Georgia

Tech, where Verica did not yield an interception, but wide receiver

Dontrelle Inman had a crucial fumble to start the second half.

Carolina hasn’t had a turnover in its last two games.. Have Verica

match T.J. Yates. Virginia’s quarterback play has been inferior in

the last two games, when Verica’s opposing QBs have been ACC

preseason player of the year Christian Ponder and 2009 All-ACC pick

Josh Nesbitt. UNC’s Yates is having his best season but, like

Verica, is a career journeyman.