College Football: UNC’s Yates out six weeks
By Joedy McCreary
CHAPEL HILL ó T.J. Yates’ ankle is hurting. North Carolina’s psyche isn’t.
When the Tar Heels learned they would be without their quarterback for at least six weeks because he broke his left ankle, they didn’t have time to mope. Instead, they professed their confidence in backups Cameron Sexton and Mike Paulus while recognizing that they still have plenty to play for despite both the injury and a hard-to-swallow loss to Virginia Tech.
“Whenever you have something like that happen, you hate to say that you’ve just got to pick up and move on, but that’s what you’ve got to do,” linebacker Mark Paschal said Monday. “And I think a lot of the guys on the team came in and will work like usual. We’ll get prepared the best we can, the way we know how, and we’ll get ready for Saturday afternoon.”
Coach Butch Davis hasn’t yet decided whether the starter for this week’s visit to Miami will be the redshirt freshman Paulus or Sexton, a junior who started five games under ex-coach John Bunting in 2006 but hasn’t seen game action in more than a year.
“I don’t think that we’ll deviate our offense ó you are who you are,” Davis said. “We’ve got 10 other starters back, and we’ll do what they do. We’ll have to put a quarterback in that can do the things that help those guys be as good as possible.”
But whomever Davis picks will be inexperienced, and that puts more pressure on the remaining components of the offense who the coach said “are going to have to make plays and help those two guys.”
That includes a rushing offense that ranks ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and has once again struggled to generate much production. The Tar Heels had a season-low 103 yards rushing against the Hokies. Nearly half of that came on Greg Little’s 50-yard touchdown run.
“We definitely have to run the ball because of that,” left tackle Kyle Jolley said.
Yates, a sophomore, was hurt on a sack in the third quarter of last week’s 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech. He stayed on the field for one more play, then limped off and didn’t return.
He threw for 181 yards and a touchdown, and the Tar Heels led 10-3 when he was hurt. Initial X-rays didn’t show a fracture, and Yates watched the remainder of the game while sitting on a sideline training table. The school said the injury was found during an MRI Sunday.
Yates said North Carolina’s offense remains potent without him, and he vowed to remain involved.
“I’ve just got to continue to learn, definitely do as much treatment as I can (while) still getting in the film room,” said Yates, who was on crutches with his ankle in a protective boot.
Yates had surgery on his right, throwing shoulder at the end of last season and missed the Tar Heels’ spring workouts.