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11/16/2012 12:50 AM EST
Renner leads Tar Heels past Virginia, 37-13
NORTH CAROLINA 37, VIRGINIA 13

By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- One minute, North Carolina was
clinging to a 20-13 lead, and Virginia was in position to tie
the game.



The next, the Tar Heels' maligned defense had a goal-line stand,
and the rout was about to be on.



Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter
after a goal-line stand preserved the Tar Heels' lead and North
Carolina ended Virginia's postseason hopes with a 37-13 victory
on a cold Thursday night at Scott Stadium.



"I told the team ... we can make these the best two weeks, or
the worst two weeks," defensive lineman Sylvester Williams said
of the final games in a season where the Tar Heels are
ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.



"Don't let Georgia Tech best us twice," Williams said he told
his defensive teammates, referring to last week's 68-50 home
loss to the Yellow Jackets on homecoming. "We never lost pride
because at the end of the day, when you're a good football team,
you've got to build off the losses. Sixty-eight points? That was
embarrassing, but we built off of it."



The game looked as if it might become a classic in the oldest
rivalry in the south, then turned quickly.



The Tar Heels (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) stopped Kevin
Parks for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1, then
drove 97 yards to Renner's 23-yard pass to a wide open Giovani
Bernard over the middle for the touchdown.



A 5-yard completion to Erik Highsmith on fourth-and-2 came on
the play just before the touchdown pass, and after Virginia
(4-7, 2-5) was forced to punt on the ensuing possession,
Renner's 20-yard TD pass to Highsmith finished it.



The Cavaliers had won two in a row after a six-game slide and
were hoping to win two more to qualify for a bowl game. They
shut down Bernard, the ACC's runaway rushing leader, but were
picked apart by Renner's precise passing.



"People really don't notice how well he plays sometimes, and he
did a great job tonight," Bernard said of his QB.



Renner finished 29 for 36 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
His favorite target on the night was freshman Quinshad Davis,
who caught 16 passes - tying the ACC record - for 178 yards.



"They play a lot of soft man and they gave us the opportunity to
get the ball the edge," Davis said. He caught several passes
near the line of scrimmage, then used a fake or a block to turn
the plays into sizeable gains.



But the defense was the Tar Heels' wild card coming in, and
responded, even in a short week.



"I guess we answered the question of whether those guys can
bounce back or not," coach Larry Fedora said.



Trailing 20-13, the Cavaliers drove to a first-and-goal at the
Tar Heels 8. A draw play by Michael Rocco gained 5 on first
down, and runs by Perry Jones and Kevin Parks gained a yard
each. Virginia went for the tie, and Parks was stuffed.



"They were hurt by what happened last week," Fedora said, "and
they have a lot of pride."



The Tar Heels followed with their big drive and, when Darius
Jennings got behind the secondary and Phillips Sims floated a
certain 81-yard touchdown pass into his hands on third-and-13,
Jennings juggled and dropped it. The Cavaliers punted, and five
plays later, Renner to Highsmith made it 34-13.



The tandem also teamed up on 9-yard touchdown pass to open the
scoring.



"It's tough," Rocco said of the way the game turned. "It was
tough on our defense when we didn't score, and a little bit
deflating. Football is like that sometimes. It can change so
quickly, and it happened for us today like that."



The Cavaliers squandered several chances, managing only a field
goal after Bernard fumbled a punt at his own 12 and Virginia
recovered, and Jennings' drop, and then when they came away with
nothing near the goal line.



Virginia trailed 14-3 early but closed to 14-10 on a nifty
third-down scramble by Sims, who avoided a sack, rolled right
and found Jennings in the end zone from 9 yards out. Sims also
had a 13-yard run on third-and-9 at the start of the drive, and
Parks powered for a yard to convert on fourth-and-1.



The Tar Heels answered by driving to the Cavaliers 15, where
Renner was sacked by Brent Urban for an 8-yard loss on
third-and-13. Thomas Moore tried a 40-yard field goal, but
missed wide right.



Sims' lone series had produced Virginia's lone touchdown to that
point, but in Virginia's quarterback rotation that coach Mike
London described this week as "random," the coaches sent Rocco
back out for the next series, and his first pass was picked off
by Tre Boston, who returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.



The Tar Heels' first two touchdowns came as Renner picked apart
a defense geared to stop the run.



He hit Davis for 25, 10 and 20 yards in a 91-play drive that
ended with his 9-yard touchdown pass to Highsmith, and he hit
Davis for 32 yards on the next drive. Davis also drew a 15-yard
pass interference call when cornerback Demetrious Nicholson
latched onto him from behind on a throw to the end zone.



That set up North Carolina at 3, and A.J. Blue ran it in on the
next play.



Renner was 19 for 23 in the half for 201 yards, and Davis had 10
catches for 130 yards.



---



Follow Hank on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr

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