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September 8, 2012WINSTON-SALEM -- North Carolina stood just minutes away from starting its season 2-0, but the Tar Heels backed off a successful running game and then self-destructed on defense.
Wake Forest (2-0) seized the chance and drove from its own 7-yard line to score the winning touchdown with two minutes and nine seconds remaining in the game.
Penalties and the inability to locate Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro and cover him throughout the day, especially on the Deacons' winning drive, cost the Tar Heels' dearly.
Campanaro finished with 13 catches for 164 yards.
"We had a face-mask [penalty] that started off on the beginning of the drive," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "It was on third down, which was tough. Then from that point on, they hit everything they threw.
"We weren't anywhere close to anybody. I don't know what the answer is there. We knew [Campanaro] was a good football player. Tonight we made him look like an All-American. Maybe he will be."
UNC is 1-1, heading into next week's game at Louisville.
On Saturday, game officials delayed the kickoff for one-hour and seven-minutes because of the threat of severe weather. Once the game finally began, the Tar Heels' defense remained in a delay for the remainder of the first half. Wake Forest took a 21-14 halftime lead as the Carolina defense looked incapable of defending the Deacons.
Wake quarterback Tanner Price shredded UNC's defense in the opening half by completing 16 of 20 attempts for 194 yards. Campanaro caught nine passes for 108 yards in the first half. He finished the game 27-of-38 for 327 yards and one interception.
Meanwhile, A.J. Blue started at running back for UNC, replacing Giovani Bernard. Bernard did not play because of an injury UNC still has not explained.
"I really thought he was going to be able to go today," Fedora said. "I don't think he is that far away."
Blue and Romar Morris played more than well enough to win the game. Blue ran for 106 yards on 19 carries, while Morris ran 14 times for 70 yards. They each scored a touchdown.
And if Carolina had not stopped going to them when it had a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels might well have won this game. But instead UNC would stop the clock trying to throw when Blue and Morris were getting 4 and 5 yards per carry.
"I definitely thought we could have run the ball a little bit more," Blue said.
Wake Forest had two chances at a field goal at the end of the first half, which would have increased its lead to 10 points. But the Deacons missed both times.
In the second half, the Tar Heels fought back, tying the score at 21 and then adding two field goals by Casey Barth to take a 27-21 lead with 12:50 left in the second half.
But the inability to score touchdowns, settling for 3 points each time cost Carolina the game in the end.
"We had a couple of drives in the red zone late in the game," Renner said. "The defense put it in our hands, but we didn't make enough plays to win.
"It's tough to come away with field goals," Renner said. "We need to capitalize and score touchdowns. Obviously it would have won the game for us today had we done that."
Carolina's pass rush got close to Price on many occasions throughout the afternoon, but rarely finished the deal. Price made some remarkable escapes and then completed passes on top of his evasive moves.
"As a defense, we did not play up to our ability," defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. "We didn't get enough pressure on Price at all. We had one sack and that was it.
"As a defense, we want more," Williams said. "Tonight we didn't get the job done. But I can promise you one thing: North Carolina will work as hard as they can this week and come out next week ready to play."