Nicks shines in return to Charlotte

Published 6:32 pm Sunday, December 28, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE - Hakeem Nicks had quite a homecoming on Saturday afternoon.
While the Tar Heels came up short in their bid to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the former Charlotte Independence receiver had himself an afternoon to remember in North Carolina’s 31-30 loss to West Virginia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Nicks had a record-setting afternoon as he hauled in eight passes for a career-high 217 yards and three touchdowns, establishing more than a dozen records along the way.
Nicks scored on catches of 73, 66 and 25 yards during the opening half and set a new Meineke Car Care Bowl record with 181 yards receiving in the first half alone.
Nicks’ day started with a spectacular grab on a deep pass from T.J. Yates, as the ball bounced off the pads of Mountaineers’ defensive back Ellis Lankster and landed in Nicks’ hands at the West Virginia 21-yard line. Hicks then rumbled in for the 73-yard touchdown, carrying West Virginia safety Quinton Andrews the final 10 yards into the end zone.
The touchdown reception was his 10th of the season, breaking the previous school record of nine set by Marcus Wall in 1994.
Nicks continued to etch his name into UNC’s record books late in the first quarter.
Fourteen seconds after West Virginia took a 14-7 lead, Nicks hauled in a throw from wide receiver Cooter Arnold on a reverse pass and darted down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown. The touchdown reception was the 20th of his career, breaking the Tar Heels’ record for career touchdown receptions previously held by Octavus Barnes.
Nicks, who entered the contest as the Tar Heels’ all-time leader in career receiving yards (2,623) also surpassed Jarwarski Pollock (178 receptions) as North Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions, finishing his junior season with a total of 181.
With Saturday’s brilliant performance, Nicks became just the third wide receiver in school history to surpass 200 yards receiving in a single game, joining Randy Marriott (247 vs. Georgia Tech in 1987) and Octavus Barnes (211 vs. Ohio in 1995).
All told, Nicks became the sole owner of Carolina records for career receptions, career touchdown receptions, single-season touchdown receptions, bowl game receiving yards and bowl game receiving touchdowns – all in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s contest.
Nicks finishes the 2008 season with 68 catches for an ACC-best 1,222 yards and 12 touchdown receptions and now holds a total of 14 UNC receiving records.
Nicks also established Meineke Car Care Bowl records for receiving yards, longest pass reception and touchdown receptions.
Afterwards, speculation began about Nicks’ future. Was this his last hoorah? Would he back at UNC?
Though he’s got one year of eligibility remaining, Nicks said he’s still not sure whether he will enter the NFL draft or return for his senior year.
One guy who won’t be sad to see Nicks leave is West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who was in awe of Nicks’ play following the contest.