The Tar Heels are coming off of a tough 28-27 loss at Wake Forest. They trailed the game 21-14 at halftime, but rallied to score 13 strait before ultimately falling by one point. They beat Elon in their opener, 62-0.
This is the second game of a two-game series between the Heels and Cards. Last year UNC won 14-7 in Chapel Hall as they held the Cards to 273 yards. This will be the sixth meeting between the two teams and the series is tied at three.
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and Charlie Strong both served on the Florida staff in 2003-04. Fedora was the offensive coordinator and Strong was the defensive coordinator for Ron Zook. Fedora was 0-2 against Louisville while the head coach at Southern Miss, including their 31-28 defeat in the 2010 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. He is in his first year at UNC after four at Southern Miss.
Junior quarterback Bryn Renner (6-3, 215) leads the way for the Tar Heels. In two games this year he has completed 37-of-60 passes for 507 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has 30 career touchdowns and with each passing week is getting more and more comfortable with Fedora’s spread offense.
Sophomore running back Giovani Bernard (5-10, 205) leads the UNC backfield. Now in his second year he looks to build on a very impressive rookie year where he was named first-team All-ACC and freshman All-American. As a freshman he rushed 239 times for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns, an average of 5.2 yards per carry and 96.4 yards per game. HIs 1,253 rushing yards led all freshmen. He also finished with 45 receptions for 362 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow sophomore A.J. Blue (6-2, 225) will also get carries. He has 145 rushing yards through the first two games, and had a career-high 106 against Wake Forest. He entered the season with just 171 rushing yards.
Senior wideout Erik Highsmith (6-3, 190) leads the receiving core, a group that must improve on a tough 2011 despite the loss of senior Dwight Jones. Last year Jones accounted for a third of their receiving yardage and scored just about half of their receiving touchdowns. Highsmith had 51 receptions for 726 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He has eight catches for 115 yards so far this year. He has 118 receptions in his career.
Sophomore tight end Eric Ebron (6-4, 235) ranks second on the team with 108 receiving yards.
UNC has a crazy experienced offensive line that protects Renner and produces a nice push for their running attack. They have 101 starts combined from their starters. They are led by offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (6-3, 295), who will be making his 38th career start on Saturday, which ranks first among active ACC linemen.
The defense is led by a pair of seniors in middle linebacker Kevin Reddick (6-3, 240) and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (6-3, 305). Reddick is a preseason All-American candidate and is on numerous awards lists. He recorded 71 tackles, 6.0 tackles for losses, a sack and a fumble recovery in 2011 despite facing numerous injuries.
Williams started every game a season ago in his first season at UNC. The junior college transfer had 54 tackles, including seven for losses, and one pick. He turned down the opportunity to go pro to finish out his career at North Carolina.
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