By Rick Brewer, UNC SID Emeritus
Statisticians and the Carolina sports information staff spent a good deal of time searching for records after the high-scoring game with Georgia Tech here two weeks ago.
In going through the Tar Heel media guide they paid close attention to the 1993 Maryland game. But not even the game against the Yellow Jackets could match the offensive shootout between Carolina and the Terps two decades ago.
Certainly several records were broken two weeks ago. Carolina has never been in a game that finished with a combined 118 points. The previous high was the 101 in the Tar Heels' 59-42 victory over Maryland in 1993.
However, the Tech game, with a combined total of 1,085 total yards, could not match the 1,166 gained by Carolina and the Terps. The Tar Heels finished that game with 714 total yards, still the school record. Carolina had 497 against Tech.
Carolina displayed tremendous balance in the Maryland game, rushing for 344 yards and passing for 370 more.
No one goes into any game expecting that much offense. This was especially true for the Maryland game. The Terps had played just one game and the Tar Heels were 2-0.
But Maryland would eventually finish second in the ACC and 16th in the nation in total offense, averaging 439.6 yards a game. Carolina was third in the league and 17th nationally at 438.0
Terp quarterback Scott Milanovich led the conference in total offense. The Tar Heels' Jason Stanicek was fifth. Stanicek's numbers could have been even better except Mike Thomas played at least a quarter of the time each week at quarterback. Plus, Carolina had a powerful running attack, finishing seventh in the country in rushing. Tailbacks Curtis and Leon Johnson each ran for over 1,000 yards.
Both starting quarterbacks were at their best when they faced off in that 1993 game. Milanovich had a career day, completing 34 of 50 passes for 405 yards and five touchdowns. Stanicek hit 14 of 17 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Stanicek also had seven carries for 36 yards, including a four-yard run for the Tar Heels' first touchdown.
"I know most fans like to see a lot offense," said Carolina Coach Mack Brown afterwards. "So do I. I would just prefer for us to be accounting for most of it. But, you've got to give Maryland credit. Milanovich played as well against us as any quarterback in my time at Carolina. And (Jermaine) Lewis is a terrific receiver.
"Corey Holliday and Bucky Brooks showed they are, too. And for what we ask our quarterback to do, Stanicek was super."
Maryland grabbed an early lead on a 34-yard pass from Milanovich to Lewis. But, the Tar heels then scored three straight touchdowns. Stanicek threw 68 yards to tight end Greg DeLong, setting up his own touchdown run. Leon Johnson scored on a 57-yard run and Stanicek threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brooks. Carolina led the rest of the way.
Before halftime Stanicek added a 56-yard touchdown pass to Holliday and Curtis Johnson bolted 90 yards up the middle on a 90-yard scoring run. That's still Carolina's second longest run from scrimmage in history and the longest for a touchdown. A Tripp Pignetti field goal gave the Tar Heels a 38-21 lead after two quarters.
Carolina's second half scores came on a one-yard plunge by Leon Johnson, a 47-yard pass from Thomas to Brooks and a 37-yard run by Curtis Johnson.
Curtis Johnson finished with 168 yards on 17 carries and Leon ran 16 times for 101 yards. Based on this game and the previous ones against Southern Cal and Ohio University, it was becoming obvious the combination of the two Johnsons could offset the loss of all-star tailback Natrone Means.
Holiday ended the game with seven catches for 149 yards and Brooks had five receptions for 115 yards.
Maryland's Lewis, meanwhile, had nine catches 250 yards. In addition to his early 34-yard touchdown reception, he had another scoring catch of 67 yards.
Carolina set a school record by averaging 9.27 yards per play. That figure was 7.2 in the Georgia Tech game.
Brown shook his head as he glanced at the final statistics.
"These numbers are amazing," he said. "But the guys who are going to get overlooked are the offensive linemen. Unfortunately, that's the case too often. I'm anxious to watch the game film and see how good they really were."
He was talking about a unit of tackles Curtis Parker and Ethan Albright, guards Shawn Hocker and Scott Falise and center Pat Conneely.
There was a different kind of headshaking elsewhere in Kenan Fieldhouse. Carl Torbush, Carolina's defensive coordinator, was at a loss. The Tar Heels had entered the season with only three returning defensive starters. But the new starters all had seen experience in backup roles in 1992.
Carolina would end the year second in the ACC and 21st nationally in total defense. Seven defenders would be first, second or third-team All-ACC selections at season's end.
"It's hard to believe we could do such a great job against Southern Cal two weeks ago and then have such problems today," Torbush said. "Milanovich was as hot as any quarterback we've played in a long time."
He then managed a smile.
"Of course, we were scoring so much that he had plenty of possessions" he said. "I'm not happy with how we played defensively, but I sure am glad we weren't facing our own offense today."