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Off the cuff: Was that game really just a pregame show for Ohio State at Southern Cal? My Lord, we got more insightful analysis and coverage of that game than we did the Carolina game.

I'm not fond of Thursday night games but the Tar Heels are 4-2 on Thursdays and they do get national exposure. It's the only game on. I wonder how many were still watching midway through the third quarter however as Carolina had opened up a 31-6 lead.

That was a long game. The first half lasted more than an hour and a half and then halftime, which I always thought was supposed to be 20 minutes, was actually 25 minutes.

The announcers - Chris Fowler, Craig James and Jesse Palmer - seemed to lose interest in the game. They talked about everything under the sun, sometimes not even talking about plays on the field. It also appears they have Carolina basketball on their minds - focus, people, focus.

One time, when it appeared that Brooks Foster had kept a punt out of the end zone to down it at the one yard line, the announcers talked about how great a play it was, showing it on replay. When Rutgers took over at the 20 because the official evidently thought Foster's foot was in the end zone, they never explained why. They were too busy promoting some Nascar event.

During a time-consuming, nice drive by the Tar Heels, ESPN decided it was more important to talk live with Brandon Jacobs of the NY Giants. Jacobs did not go to either UNC or Rutgers but they had lots of questions that had nothing to do with the game. Three announcers trying to get equal time is too much to begin with before adding Jacobs to the mix.

Did it appear to you that the announcers, while not openly rooting for Rutgers, were kind of broadcasting the game from the Rutgers' perspective. For instance, instead of saying "Touchdown Carolina," one of them would say, "That was a bad play by Rutgers."

I hope Carolina fans never act like Rutgers fans did on national TV. They left in droves midway through the third quarter. They booed, they showed the thumbs down to the cameras and they mockingly slashed their throats. On the other hand, it was nice to see the Carolina players showing respect for the UNC fans in attendance by running down in from of them and celebrating with them at the end of the game.

Quarterback play was a big difference in this game as Rutgers' QBs threw four interceptions and UNC's Yates seemed poised and threw the deep ball well. Plus, the Heels did not turn the ball over once the entire game.

Carolina looked big, strong, athletic and fast on both offense and especially defense. The interception return by Carter may be one of the best in UNC history. The Tar Heels hit hard, played hard and seemed focused and disciplined. That's a sign the program is moving in the right direction.

A problem area to look out for is snaps on field goals and extra points. Snapper Lowell Dyer was snapping almost behind the holder but he did look good on the last extra point and last two field goals. I guess he got a lot of practice. Another problem may be containing running quarterbacks. When the backup QB came in, the Heels had trouble keeping him inside the tackles.

Some have said this is the best win for Carolina this century and that may be true. The last time the Heels started the season at 2-0 was 2000 under Carl Torbush when Carolina beat Tulsa and Wake.

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Heels 44, Scarlet Knights 12
North Carolina picks off Rutgers for key road victory

North Carolina intercepted four Rutgers passes, returning one for a touchdown, while UNC's T.J. Yates threw three TDs to lead the Tar Heels to a 44-12 victory in New Jersey.

It was the first time Carolina has won a road game outside the state of North Carolina since a victory at Arizona State in 2002, a span of 20 away games. The victory also moves the Heels to 2-0 to start the season, the first time they've done that since the year 2000.

The Tar Heels got behind early 3-0 on a long first drive by the Scarlet Knights. But Carolina came back early in the second quarter following a interception by Charles Brown to tie it on a 43-yard field goal by freshman Jay Wooten.

Following a punt, the Tar Heels went on a 51-yard, five-play drive that ended with a third-down, nine-yard touchdown pass from Yates to Hakeem Nicks to make it 10-3.

With five minutes left in the first half, Rutgers added a second field goal to pull to within four at 10-6.

But just seconds later, Yates hooked up with a wide-open Brandon Tate on a 69-yard pass play to give the Heels a 17-6 halftime lead.

Carolina broke it open in the first few minutes of the second half. The Heels got good field position following a punt. A drive, highlighted by a 26-yard run around the right side by Greg Little, ended on a 12-yard reverse play by Tate to make it 24-6.

Two minutes later, the Heels were on the board again. UNC's Bruce Carter intercepted a Mike Teel pass and adeptly ran 66 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. The rout was on at 31-6.

By the end of the third quarter, Carolina had extended its lead to 38-6 on an 11-yard TD pass from Yates to Nicks to cap a 62-yard drive.

In the fourth quarter, Rutgers finally scored but missed the two-point conversion and UNC's Wooten tacked on a pair of field goals.

The offensive statistics for each team were close but the four interceptions killed Rutgers' drives, and Carolina appeared to be the more physical team, especially on third-down plays. The UNC offense was eight of 16 on third-down conversions while the UNC defense kept Rutgers from converting a third-down play all game long as the Scarlet Knights were zero of 9 on third down.

On Sept. 20, the Tar Heels open conference play at home against Virginia Tech, which was voted the preseason division favorite.

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As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. While he didn't predict a championship this season, he did have those same feelings. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. He recently completed writing about UNC's baseball season and will write an analysis after each UNC football game.

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