Football: LSU escapes North Carolina, 30-24

Sunday, 5 September 2010

ATLANTA — A day after losing 13 players — including six starters — because of NCAA violations, the Tar Heels ran out of gas on the last play of the game against the LSU Tigers, losing 30-24 on Saturday night in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

After LSU scurried out to an early 30-10 halftime lead, North Carolina stormed back with two late touchdowns and then recovered an onside kick to make things interesting.

The Tiger defense clamped down and sealed the game, not once, but twice.

True freshman cornerback Tyrann Mathieu blindsided quarterback T.J. Yates on fourth down to force a fumble with less than two minutes left, but junior running back Steven Ridley coughed up the football to keep the Tar Heels’ heartbeat at a murmur.

North Carolina marched down the field to the LSU 6-yard line, but Yates threw an incomplete pass to tight end Zack Pianalto as time expired to give LSU the victory.

LSU capitalized on a rusty Tar Heel offense to start the game, which was without star wide receiver Greg Little, by forcing two early turnovers.

Ironically, the Tar Heels outgained the Tigers and had two fewer turnovers. But the two turnovers, one by running back Johnny White and one by Yates, set the tone for the next three and a half quarters.

The Tar Heel defense only allowed a 6-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Russell Shepard off the two turnovers in the first quarter, but unraveled in the second quarter by allowing 23 unanswered points.

Following Shepard’s touchdown catch, North Carolina answered early in the second quarter when Yates dumped a pass off to fullback Devon Ramsey for a 9-yard score to tie the score at 7-7.

On the Tar Heels’ ensuing possession, Yates connected with receiver Jheranie Boyd on a 75-yard pass play, which set up a 20-yard field goal by Connor Barth.

Shepard struck again with his second score of the night on a 50-yard rushing touchdown to put the Tigers back on top, 14-10.

The Tiger defense came up big by forcing a safety when center Jonathan Cooper wildly snapped the ball over Yates and out of the end zone.

After an 87-yard punt return touchdown by junior cornerback Patrick Peterson gave LSU a 23-10 lead, quarterback Jordan Jefferson added to that margin with a 51-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Rueben Randle.

LSU was held in check for the entire second half as the Tar Heels mounted a comeback.

North Carolina ended its scoring drought early in the fourth quarter as Yates and Boyd hooked up again on a 97-yard bomb. The pass play was the longest play from scrimmage in Tar Heel history.

A 14-yard touchdown reception by Erik Highsmith brought North Carolina within six with less than three minutes to play.

The Tigers return to the road next Saturday to start SEC play against Vanderbilt.



Game Notes

The 30 points LSU scored in the first half is the most scored since the 35 points put up in the 2008 Chik-Fil-A Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Peterson set a school record with 244 return yards in the first half. Nick Turner of Mississippi State holds the SEC record with 267 return yards, a feat he accomplished in 2003 against Tennessee.

Junior guard Will Blackwell broke his foot, according to Miles. Miles also added "he will be back," but set no timetable for Blackwell's return.

Shepard’s two touchdowns doubled his previous career total of two. He entered tonight’s game with a pair of rushing touchdowns from last season.

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Contact Sean Isabella at sisabella@lsureveille.com

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