Special teams were the key to North Carolina’s 39-17 victory over Cincinnati in the 2013 Belk Bowl on Saturday.
Ryan Switzer — the game’s MVP — returned his NCAA-record-tying fifth punt return for a touchdown and T.J. Logan took back a kickoff 78 yards for a score as the Tar Heels surged to a 29-3 lead then survived a special teams mistake of their own to notch their first bowl win since 2010.
UNC finishes the season at 7-6, while Cincinnati closes out at 9-4.
The game turned in favor of the Tar Heels during a key first quarter sequence. With UNC up, 7-0, punter Tommy Hibbard nailed a 59-yard punt that pinned the Bearcats at their own six. Three plays later, Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay was sacked by Brandon Ellerbee and Kareem Martin for a safety to make the score, 9-0. The Bearcats free-kicked back to the Tar Heels and that’s when Logan weaved his way to a 78-yard kickoff return. Suddenly, it was 16-0 and the Bearcats were stunned.
UNC opened its lead to 36-10 before Cincinnati regained its composure. Receiver Shaq Washington moved over to quarterback and promptly ripped off a 52-yard run. Two plays later, he was in the end zone after a nifty 10-yard scamper and the score was 36-17 with the fourth quarter barely underway.
Things got more interesting when Leviticus Payne recovered a fumble by T.J. Thorpe on the ensuing kickoff. The Bearcats had a first and goal at the UNC five yard line with plenty of time left. Would UNC choke this one away?
Not this time. The Tar Heels held when Kay’s fourth-down pass fell off the hands of Washington in the corner of the end zone.
It was a flat performance by the Bearcats, who came into the game as winners of six of their last seven. UC will try to regroup next year, most likely with touted Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel taking over at quarterback.
North Carolina finished up the season on a hot note, winning six of its last seven games (the one loss was by two points to Duke). A 1-5 start prevented this talented team from reaching its potential, but Larry Fedora has to be happy with how things worked out in the end, winning his first bowl game as the Tar Heels head coach.
A very disturbing story has emerged out of Dallas, where former Texas A&M wide receiver Thomas Johnson sits in a Dallas County jail cell after allegedly admitting to hacking an unsuspecting jogger to death with a machete.
Just before 8 a.m. Monday, authorities say Johnson went to White Rock Creek Trail, a popular jogging trail in northeast Dallas, and randomly slashed a jogger to death. “It appears Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. Absolutely random,” Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin told the Dallas Morning News. “He just attacked him. … It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking.”
Johnson then walked away from the scene in search of a cell phone. An onlooker had already dialed 911, and when police arrived Johnson allegedly told them there was a man “laying down with a sword in his head and not moving.”
“I just committed capital murder,” Johnson said and then repeated, according to his arrest affidavit. The only motive police reported was that Johnson was angry at his situation in life at the time of the slaying.
The victim, an unidentified male between the age of 25 and 35, passed away at a nearby hospital.
Johnson, meanwhile, remains in a Dallas County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Johnson was a highly-regarded member of Kevin Sumlin‘s first recruiting class at Texas A&M. As a true freshman in 2012, the Dallas native caught 30 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown through the Aggies’ upset of then-No. 1 Alabama and then simply… disappeared. He went missing for three days in November 2012 before turning up back home in Dallas. His mother told the San Antonio Express-News last April Johnson would like to return to college football, but a return to the game never materialized.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.
“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”
That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.