(Saturday, October 25th)
Final Score: North Carolina 45, (23) Boston College 24
Chapel Hill, NC (Sports Network) - Hakeem Nicks had eight catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for another as North Carolina trounced No. 23 Boston College, 45-24, at rain-soaked Kenan Stadium.
Cam Sexton completed 19-of-30 passes for 238 yards and three scores for North Carolina (6-2, 2-2 ACC), which rebounded nicely from a heartbreaking 16-13 overtime loss at Virginia last week. Trimane Goddard returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, and Kendric Burney's pick and 37-yard return set up another for the Tar Heels.
Chris Crane continued to struggle as Matt Ryan's replacement under center, as he was picked off three times for the second straight week for the Eagles (5-2, 2-2), who had won four straight. Crane completed 28-of-42 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns as Boston College suffered a loss that will undoubtedly drop it from the top-25 just a week after cracking the list.
Kevin Akins had a 13-yard fumble return for a touchdown for Boston College, which led 10-0 after the first quarter only to be outscored 45-14 over the final three in the loss.
North Carolina held just a 24-17 lead entering the second half, but Crane and the struggling BC offense handed the Tar Heels 14 points, ending any hopes of an Eagles win.
Burney's interception at the BC 38 and his ensuing 37-yard return, which included several broken tackles, set the Tar Heels offense up at the BC one- yard-line. Ryan Houston dove into the end zone from one yard out, extending the Tar Heels lead to 31-17 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Then Goddard perfectly read Crane's eyes on the first play of the fourth quarter. On 2nd-and-10 at the BC 43 Crane threw to his right, and Goddard stepped in front of the receiver for the pick and sprinted 51 yards for the touchdown. The score gave North Carolina a commanding 38-17 lead with 14:50 to play.
Nicks added a 12-yard touchdown run for a 45-17 lead later in the quarter, and Crane's four-yard TD pass to Ifeanyi Momah capped the scoring with 2:04 left in regulation.
"I think fantastic would maybe describe it," said Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis of Nicks' play on Saturday. "He is one of the unique, special guys I have seen that the bigger the moment, the bigger the stage, the better he plays. He is such a fierce warrior."
North Carolina outgained BC 352-244, but the big difference in the game was the turnover battle, which Crane handed to the Tar Heels.
"We've got some things that, obviously, that we need to work on," said Eagles head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. "We can't turn the ball over: three interceptions today, and really two of them were for touchdowns. We just have to be smarter with the football."
Boston College opened the game with a 12-play, 58-yard drive, but stalled at the North Carolina 18. Steve Aponavicius' 35-yard field goal try bounced off the right upright and in for a 3-0 BC lead with 7:53 left in the first.
Eagles defensive tackle Ron Brace sacked Sexton from behind at the Tar Heels 20 on the next drive, forcing the ball out in the process. Akins scooped it up and ran 13 yards for the easy touchdown, handing BC a 10-0 lead with 6:18 remaining.
North Carolina exploded for 24 points in the second quarter to take control. Nicks broke a few tackles on his 26-yard touchdown catch in the first minute of the quarter to get the Tar Heels on the board, and Casey Barth's 32-yard field goal tied the game at 10-10 with 8:57 left in the half.
Crane threw his first pick of the day near midfield, and the Tar Heels took advantage. Nicks broke open on a deep pattern for a 40-yard touchdown reception, putting North Carolina on top with 2:17 to play in the second quarter.
BC responded with a six-play, 67-yard drive, capped by Justin Jarvis' nine- yard TD catch, which tied the game at 17-17 with just 54 seconds left. It was more than enough time for Nicks to strike again, though.
This time Nicks found an opening on a crossing pattern, made the grab, and turned on a dime towards the right corner of the end zone. The 43-yard catch- and-run put the Tar Heels ahead by seven at the break.
North Carolina has 17 interceptions on the season. The Tar Heels entered play Saturday tied with Iowa and Tennessee for the most in the country with 14. North Carolina has returned five INT's for scores...The interception was the fifth of the season for Goddard...North Carolina leads the series 3-2. This was the first meeting between the schools since 2005...Shaun Draughn rushed for 64 yards on 18 carries for the Tar Heels.
10/25 16:51:25 ET