EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — North
Carolina needed to make a big defensive stop, and wound up getting some
help from Connecticut's Dan Ryan.
The Huskies' senior tackle was
flagged for holding defensive end Robert Quinn in the end zone with
1:32 left in the game Saturday, giving the No. 19 Tar Heels a safety
and a 12-10 comeback win over the Huskies.
"I had him beat around the corner," Quinn said. "I was just out there trying to make a play, and then I saw the flag."
The play capped a 12-point fourth
quarter for North Carolina (2-0). Casey Barth started the comeback with
a 22-yard field goal, and T.J. Yates led the team on a 13-play drive
that ended with his 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zack Pianalto
with 2:36 left.
Pianalto hurt his leg jumping up and
down after the score and had to be taken from the field in an air cast,
another bizarre moment from a game that ended in crazy fashion.
After the safety, UConn recovered the onside kick but couldn't get into field-goal range.
"I told the chancellor, 'That's why you don't see any 100-year-old football coaches,'" said North Carolina coach Butch Davis.
The Tar Heels are 3-0 against the Huskies, while UConn has just one win in 14 games against Top 25 opponents.
UConn (1-1) was playing without its
best defensive player, injured linebacker Scott Lutrus, and lost
starting quarterback Zack Frazer to a knee injury late in the third
The Huskies' stifling defense held
North Carolina scoreless and with just 134 yards of offense through
three quarters. They sacked Yates six times and intercepted him twice.
A 47-yard field goal from Dave
Teggart at the halftime buzzer gave UConn a 3-0 lead. The Huskies
seemed poised for an upset after cornerback Robert McClain batted
Yates' pass into the hands of Twyon Martin at the Tar Heels 26 late in
the third quarter.
UConn tailback Jordan Todman dragged several defenders the final four yards for the score, putting the Huskies up 10-0.
"We slugged it out for the whole
game," said UConn coach Randy Edsall. "We just couldn't make that play
when we needed to, and that's the bottom line."
Yates, who completed 23 of 32 passes
for 233 yards and two interceptions, found his groove in the fourth
quarter. He led the Tar Heels on a 78-yard drive that ended with
Barth's field goal, and when UNC got the ball back, he marched 78-yards
again, eating up 6:36 before finding Pianalto in the end zone from
"We were just making adjustments on
the run, throwing formations we hadn't even practiced all week," Yates
said. "[We'd] pick things up, draw something in the dirt, see if that
works, try something new out and see if that works. Once that was
working, we just kept at it and kept at it and moved the ball down the
The Huskies held North Carolina to
just 65 yards in the first half, and pressured Yates all day, sacking
him six times. But North Carolina's defense held UConn to 196 yards,
and dominated the Huskies in the fourth quarter.
UConn got the ball at the 20 after
the tying touchdown, but a snap over backup quarterback Cody Endres'
head on second down put the ball at the 8-yard line.
Endres scrambled away from the pass
rush on third down, and completed a 16-yard pass to Todman that would
have given the Huskies a fourth-and-6. But there was the flag in the
end zone, and the safety that gave North Carolina the lead.
"I didn't even know that was a
rule," said Tar Heels cornerback Charles Brown Jr. "I heard the coaches
screaming, 'Safety, safety safety,' so I started jumping up and down [yelling] 'Safety, safety.'"
Ryan said he's not going to let the call, or the negative attention, ruin his season.
"Nobody wants to be the guy sitting
in this chair right now having to answer these questions," he said. "I
would rather be in the locker room celebrating with my team.
Unfortunately, it did not work out that way today. This one game is not
going to end our season, so we just have to get back out there and keep