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November 21, 2009

Heels force six turnovers to upend Eagles

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Deunta Williams could only laugh.

The North Carolina safety has long lamented that no matter how many turnovers he racks up, he never gets to the end zone.

But after Williams returned his third interception of the day to the Boston College 1-yard line to set up the game-sealing score in the Tar Heels 31-13 defeat, Williams only complaints were joking ones.

"I thought this was the time," Williams said. "I need a touchdown. I really do."

Carolina (8-3, 4-3 in the ACC) needed every one of Williams' interceptions, plus the three other turnovers they took from Boston College (7-4, 4-3), to ruin the Eagles' chances at going undefeated at home.

And on top of everything else, it was Williams' 21st birthday.

"A lot of birthday gifts in the air today," UNC coach Butch Davis said.

Even non-birthday boys got plenty of chances at takeaways in a game where the offenses combined for 10 turnovers.

The difference was that North Carolina's defense picked up right where it left off a week earlier, getting on the scoreboard instead of just keeping opponents off of it.

"A lot of those guys playing on defense were offensive players in high school," Davis said. "These guys, they instantly convert to offense (on a turnover)."

The Carolina defense's first score came when Marvin Austin forced a fumble by Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie, which Cam Thomas picked up and returned 20 yards for a touchdown with six minutes to go in the first quarter.

Two plays later, the UNC defense got on the board again when Kendric Burney intercepted Shinskie and went 29 yards for a touchdown.

It was Burney's fourth interception and second touchdown in the past two games, and it put Carolina up by three touchdowns less than 10 minutes into the game.

"We scored on the first drive and the next time we get the ball back, we're up 21-0," UNC quarterback T.J. Yates said. "They pretty much won us this game. We're not really holding up our end of the bargain on offense."

The Tar Heels went 70 yards on their game-opening touchdown drive - capped by the first of two touchdowns by tailback Ryan Houston - but managed just 47 yards the rest of the half and turned the ball over three times, setting up all of Boston College's first-half scoring.

So instead of a potential blowout, Carolina had just a 21-13 lead at the half.

Things weren't any better in the second half, when Yates threw a terrible interception to Roderick Rollins in the end zone late in the third quarter when a score would have gone a long way to relieving the pressure on UNC's defense.

It was Yates' third interception of the game, which became irrelevant when Williams intercepted Shinskie again four plays later.

"It was an ugly day for quarterbacks out there," Yates said.

It didn't help that UNC lost Houston for most of the second half thanks to a thigh bruise he suffered in the second quarter. But he did return to punch in the touchdown from less than a yard out when Williams' interception return came up short.

"If I'm on a stretcher, I can go in for one yard," Houston said.

Carolina's defense was all over Shinskie, who was 12 for 28 passing for 101 yards and four picks, sacking him three times and putting him under constant pressure.

While Montel Harris found some success on the ground, rushing for 132 yards, the Eagles couldn't move the ball effectively on Carolina, which held BC without a first down on 13 third-down conversion attempts.

The Tar Heels also didn't allow the Eagles to cross midfield in the second half, despite the UNC offense's ineffectiveness.

"We just wanted to go out and put the fire out each and every time," Austin said.

Sometimes that created a spark or two. Even if none of them got Williams into the end zone for the birthday touchdown he wanted so badly.

For Williams, it was enough that the Tar Heels have nine interceptions in their last two games, and are winners of four straight ACC game with the chance to make it five in the season finale.

"That's the most important thing," he said, "keeping this streak going."


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