UT honors Pittman with 44-14 victory against UNC
AUSTIN, Texas - Behind a solid defensive effort and a record-setting special teams performance by sophomore punt returner Nathan Vasher, No. 4 Texas rolled to a 44-14 victory against North Carolina. The emotional contest, which was dedicated to the late Cole Pittman, was played in front of the sixth-largest crowd in UT football history (83,106).
Following pregame warm-ups, the Pittman family was presented with a framed No. 44 jersey, a scrap book and an honorary T-Ring with the entire Longhorns team and coaching staff on hand. In memory of Pittman, UT is wearing a "CP" decal on its helmets this season and his locker in the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Complex has remained as it was on the day of his passing on Monday, Feb. 26. His No. 44 jersey also will not be worn by a Longhorns player until his eligibility would have been completed following the 2002 season.
The 30-point victory marked the 10th consecutive home win for the Longhorns, UT's longest home win streak since an 11-game run from 1982-84. The Horns scored at least 40 points for the ninth consecutive home game.
Junior DE Cory Redding opened the scoring in the first quarter when he capped a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown with a spectacular five-yard leap into the end zone over Tar Heel QB Ronald Curry. Junior QB Chris Simms pushed the lead to 14-0 with the first rushing touchdown of his career and freshman PK Dusty Mangum booted field goals of 24 and 49 yards to give the Longhorns a 20-14 halftime advantage.
Freshman RB Cedric Benson picked up the second rushing touchdown of his career when he scampered from seven yards out to cap a 12-play, 89-yard drive that chewed up 5:40 off the clock.
Mangum booted his third field goal of the afternoon, a career-long 51-yarder in the fourth quarter, to push the lead to 29-14. It was the fifth-longest field goal by a freshman in UT history. Twenty-seven seconds later, senior DT Maurice Gordon pulled down Curry in the end zone to give UT a commanding 31-14 advantage.
Already with six punt returns for 101 yards to that point, Vasher needed only 31 more yards to break the UT record of 131 set by Johnnie Johnson against Boston College in 1977. Vasher broke the record in style, returning a John Lafferty punt 44 yards for a touchdown to give the Longhorns a 38-14 advantage. It was UT's first punt return for a score since Mike Adams' 54-yarder against Syracuse on Sept. 18, 1993 (a 99-game span). Vasher, who also had returns of 59 and 31 yards in the contest, finished the day with a UT and Big 12 record eight returns for 153 yards.
After Robin scored the first rushing touchdown of his career with 36 seconds remaining in the game, QB Major Applewhite took a knee on the point-after attempt to keep the score at 44-14 in a tribute to Pittman.
Simms completed 17-of-35 passes (both career highs) for 167 yards, while Applewhite became UT's all-time leader in pass attempts with his two passes in the final quarter. He surpassed Pater Gardere's record of 1,025 attempts set from 1989-92.
On the ground, UT was led by sophomore Ivan Williams, who rushed for a career-high 75 yards on 10 carries and sophomore wideouts B.J. Johnson (five receptions for 55 yards) and Roy Williams (four receptions for 38 yards) paced the receiving corps.
The Texas defense, which posted three interceptions, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks in the victory, dominated the second half. The Longhorns limited North Carolina to 52 total yards, including negative five in the third quarter. The Tar Heels' QB tandem of Curry (5-of-20, 69 yards, two INTs) and Darian Durant (5-of-10, 47 yards, one INT) combined to complete 10-of-30 passes for only 116 yards on the afternoon.
UT was paced by senior S Ahmad Brooks, who registered nine tackles in the contest. Freshman LB Derrick Johnson added seven stops, three TFLs, two sacks and a pass breakup, while senior LB Everick Rawls posted seven tackles. Redding had three tackles, one sack and three QB pressures and senior CB Quentin Jammer registered four stops, two TFLs, an interception and three pass breakups.