Kenan Memorial Stadium/Chapel Hill –– UNC got off to a slow start but eventually clobbered FCS opponent The Citadel 40-6.

The Tar Heels, led by Shaun Draughn’s 118 yards on the ground, ran over the Bulldogs with 261 yards rushing, the most rushing yards in the Butch Davis era and the most since the Duke game in 2004.

“It didn’t even feel like I had that many yards,” Draughn said after the game.

Backup running back Ryan Houston added 45 yards on six carries and scored two touchdowns on the ground. Houston provided tough inside running to complement Draugn’s speed and appears to have improved his own speed this offseason.

But Carolina’s defense was the most impressive unit of the night. The Heels allowed only 30 yards rushing — the fewest yards allowed on the ground since 2005 — and the defensive line smothered quarterback Bart Blanchard, who threw three costly interceptions — two of which were picked off by junior defensive back Deunta Williams, who dropped a few other poorly thrown balls.

“I should’ve had four [interceptions],” Williams said. “I actually had a dream about having three picks today, and I was telling some of the guys about it; it almost came true.”

“North Carolina’s front four and linebackers [are] as good as anybody in the country,” The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said. “That group is as good as Florida, the national champs last year.”

While the defense and the running game did their part, the passing game struggled minus two touchdown passes from T.J. Yates to Johnny White and Greg Little. Little scored his first receiving touchdown since 2007 in spectacular fashion, shredding about three tackles, but he finished with only 31 yards receiving. Yates finished 9-for-22 for 114 yards. Dropped balls were a problem throughout the game.

“We didn’t play as well in the passing game as, certainly, we’re going to need to,” Davis said. “It didn’t come as a total surprise, playing as many young wide receivers.”

Punt returns turned into another area of concern even after junior Da’Norris Searcy returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown on his third return attempt of his career. Kendric Burney muffed a punt return late in the game, setting up for The Citadel to break the shutout.

Some other notes:

  • Freshman A.J. Blue saw several snaps behind center and showed quick bursts to the outside. It should be interesting to see if Davis decides to develop Blue into a running back or a quarterback.
  • Bruce Carter may or may not have deflected another punt in the first half. The press box debated over whether he got a fingertip on one; he blocked five kicks last season.
  • Carolina’s defense is as good as advertised. The Heels swarm to the ball and were excellent in pass coverage.
  • Davis said after the game the Heels played about 70 guys, including 11 true freshmen. Defensive end Donte Paige-Moss impressed me the most with his pass rushing ability. He forced a fourth down after chasing down The Citadel’s quarterback from the opposite side of the field.
  • The Citadel’s All-American receiver Andre Roberts had a quiet night. Only 30 yards receiving on 10 receptions.
  • Freshman Braden Hanson stepped in for Yates late in the game. Hanson is listed as second on the depth chart tied with Mike Paulus but seems to have earned more playing time than Paulus, who struggled last season when Yates was injured.

Butch Davis’ postgame comments can be downloaded below.