Carter’s block party keys UNC upset of Connecticut

Published 2:55 am Sunday, October 5, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL — Bruce Carter threw a block party on Saturday night.
A week after coming up with his second career punt block late in the fourth quarter of the Tar Heels’ 28-24 comeback win over Miami, Carter blocked three second quarter punts, including one that was recovered in the end zone by Matt Merletti to help North Carolina stun No. 24 Connecticut 38-12 in front of nearly 60,000 fans at Kenan Stadium.
Carter’s three blocked punts in a game are a new UNC single-game record. He also tied the Heels’ single season record with his fourth blocked kick of the season (all coming in the last five quarters).
North Carolina’s victory over Connecticut is its first over a ranked non-conference opponent since 1997.
Despite the lopsided score, Connecticut was the first on the scoreboard Saturday night.
Huskies running back Donald Brown, who entered the contest leading the nation in rushing with 906 yards, carried six times for 34 yards on the opening drive, before Connecticut settled for a 26-yard field goal by Tony Ciaravino at the 7:01 mark of the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
However, the Tar Heels responded with a field of their own on the ensuing drive as Casey Barth connected on his first collegiate field goal, splitting the uprights from 31 yards out to make it 3-3.
On Connecticut’s next drive, sophomore quarterback Zach Frazer, making his first collegiate start in place of injured starter Tyler Lorenzen (out six weeks with a broken foot), attempted a pass to tight end Martin Bedard but was intercepted by Paschal, who returned it 23 yards to the UConn 15-yard line.
Three plays later, UNC tailback Ryan Houston blasted his way into the end zone from one yard out to give North Carolina a 10-3 lead with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
It’s lead that UNC wouldn’t relinquish.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Carter came up with his second punt block of the game. The sophomore burst through the middle of the Huskies’ punt unit and for the second week came up with a punt block, to set the Heels up at the UConn 19-yard line.
However, the Huskies couldn’t capitalize as junior quarterback Cameron Sexton was intercepted at the three-yard line by Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard.
On the Huskies’ next possession, they were forced to go three-and-out and lined up to punt from their own 5-yard line. But once again, the UConn punt team failed to block Carter, who broke free and blocked his third kick of the game. The ball trickled to the right side of the end zone, where Merletti pounced on it to give UNC a 17-3 lead with 5:08 left in the first half.
The Huskies attempted to cut into the lead late in the first half as they drove inside the UNC 15-yard line in the waning seconds of the second quarter, but Tar Heels safety Trimane Goddard stepped in front of a Frazer pass at the three-yard line for his third interception in many weeks, preserving North Carolina’s 17-3 halftime lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, UConn drove the length of the field before settling for another Ciaravino field goal to cut the lead to 17-6 with 10:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Once again,UNC had an answer.
With 6:04 left in the third stanza, sophomore tailback Shaun Draughn followed the lead block of right tackle Garrett Reynolds and raced 39 yard down the right hash marks into the end zone to extend North Carolina’s lead to 24-6.
Less than two minutes later, the Tar Heels’ defense officially made it a rout as defensive tackle Marvin Austin intercepted Frazer for a third time and rumbled 23 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-6.
UNC tacked on another touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter as quarterback Cameron Sexton hooked with Hakeem Nicks on a 15-yard scoring strike.
In a losing effort, Brown became the nation’s first 1,000-yard rusher on a five-yard dart in the fourth quarter. He went over the 100-yard mark for the sixth consecutive contest, finishing with 161 yards on 33 carries to remain college football’s top rusher. The junior tailback also scored a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown run to tie Michigan State’s Javon Ringer for the national lead with 12 rushing touchdowns.
UNC’s offense was led by Draughn, who finished with a career-high 109 yards on 19 carries. He was the first UNC running back to reach the 100-yard plateau this season. Sexton, making his first start of the season in place of injured starter T.J. Yates, finished the contest completing 9-of-16 passes for 117 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Nicks was the leading receiver with three receptions for 55 yards and a score.
The Tar Heels improved to 4-1 on the season in handing Connecticut (5-1) its first loss of the year.
UNC will be back in action next week, when plays host to Notre Dame. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.