Heels pile it on — Vandals endure heavy rain of touchdowns at UNC
For the Idaho Vandals football team, humiliation came with an $800,000 paycheck and a heavy downpour Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
The winless Vandals departed North Carolina with soggy uniforms and their fifth consecutive loss, a 66-0 licking from the ACC Tar Heels.
After a competitive home loss at the hands of Wyoming a week ago, coach Robb Akey hastily recognized the positives. The sixth-year head coach failed to muster up anything of the sort Saturday.
“We didn’t do a lot of good things today,” Akey said. “I think we made every mistake you can make in a college football game.”
The first mistake, hopping on the bus headed for Kenan Memorial Stadium. The second, blown coverage just a minute and a half into the game when Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner heaved a 36-yard touchdown pass off of a flea flicker play to Sean Tapley, who outsprinted safeties Gary Walker and Bradley Njoku to the end zone. The third, everything that happened subsequently for four quarters.
32,000 fans were said to be in attendance on a damp Saturday in Chapel Hill, but as the rain came down harder and the Tar Heels scored touchdowns more frequently, tens of thousands fled from what would turn out to be Idaho’s most significant margin of defeat since 2008, when it was clobbered by Arizona 70-0. The Vandals hadn’t been shutout in 54 games, the last time being four years ago in Tucson.
The positive thing is the games over. We didn’t start well. We didn›t play well. Carolina played a hell of a game, and we didn’t,” Akey said after the game.
Four minutes following the initial UNC score, Idaho’s misfortune was evident once again. Renner completed to tight end Eric Ebron, but it was Walker who would poke the ball away, into the end zone where wide receiver Erik Highsmith fell on the loose ball.
The Tar Heels, thanks to two more first quarter touchdowns, led 28-0 after a monster first quarter.
For UNC, records were set for most points in a game and biggest point margin.
“It says this team is very capable of doing some special things. If we keep preparing the way we’re preparing the last couple weeks and we keep playing with a lot of energy, then we can do some really, really good things,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said.
UNC progressively let off the gas, scoring four times in the first quarter, three times in the second, twice in the third and once in the fourth. Renner didn’t let up when exploiting the Vandal secondary though, which was as porous as it’s been all season.
The big play was a factor once again, as three UNC touchdown passes were from at least 35 yards out. Not to mention Giovani Bernard’s 68-yard touchdown run when the sophomore tailback evaded two tackle attempts and took his second touchdown of the afternoon to the house.
Bernard’s efficiency was immaculate. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native finished with two touches and two touchdowns.
“I didn’t realize I only had two carries. It’s something that I pride myself on — whenever I touch the ball, I’ve got to do something special,” Bernard told the media following the game. “Nowadays, there are players out there who one time and they’re going 90 yards. I want to pride myself on being able to make something special out of every touch.”
While the Tar Heels had every intention of scoring on every offensive possession, it was all Idaho could do to avoid mistakes. Starting quarterback Dominique Blackman was picked off four times, Idaho lost one fumble and two of Bobby Cowan’s eight punts were blocked.
The Vandals’ first-year starting quarterback completed 54 percent of his passes, a season-low for Blackman. Renner on the other hand, was 14 of 19 with 231 yards and three touchdown passes. UNC back-up Marquise Williams was the Tar Heels’ third-leading rusher with 61 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Williams was 3 of 7 with 57 passing yards and another touchdown.
A win in next week’s Homecoming clash against New Mexico State will be more realistic for the Vandals.
“We all feel not real good right now. Nobody tries to go do what just took place. It didn’t execute well. It didn’t happen well. We got this game over with,” Akey said. “I’m looking forward to going and playing New Mexico State, finally get to play a conference game.”
The Aggies are in a similar boat as Idaho. Neither has beaten an FBS opponent this season and both are doing anything and everything possible to become attractive if and when they announce football independence in the near future.
Theo Lawson can be reached at email@example.com