Battered but as yet unbowed

September 26, 1976

Bill Dooley spent about five seconds of last week reading the, ah, scouting report on Northwestern Quarterback Steve Breitbeil. Flipping to page 15 of the Wildcats' press brochure, the North Carolina coach learned that Breitbeil had "...completed 12 of 30 passes in junior varsity action last season...passed for 1,436 yards and completed 58% of his passes during his junior and senior high school seasons...ran for 837 yards and scored 12 touchdowns."

Well, said Dooley, tossing aside the brochure, so much for that. The way things have been falling for the Tar Heels this season, any other method of gathering football intelligence on a rival would seem almost out of character.

There is, for instance, North Carolina's own unique quarterback situation, one which helped the Tar Heels' preseason rating to fall somewhere between Prairie View A&M and the Little Sisters of the Poor. After a spate of twisted knees and broken bones, the starting job went to Bernie Menapace, who at one point in the fall was listed as the No. 6 signal caller and at another—just two weeks before the opener—as the No. 2 free safety. No matter. Menapace, a six-foot, 190-pound sophomore who injured himself last season, says, "I've been preparing for this job for three years and I've been a quarterback for eight. So I'm not exactly new to the job."

Menapace was dropped to No. 6 because he elected to skip spring practice in order to play baseball, which he does moderately well. Injuries to Johnny Stratton (broken wrist), P. J. Gay (knee) and John Elam (knee), and the relative inexperience of Matt Kupec and junior college transfer Clyde Christensen quickly moved him up to the starting role.

North Carolina's chances of rebounding from a 3-7-1 record appeared even more bleak when Tailback Mike Voight, who had run for more than 1,000 yards in each of the two previous seasons, came out of fall drills with an injured Achilles tendon. Limping but undaunted, Voight, known to his teammates as Space Cowboy, predicted that this season he would be riding high, gaining a mile, or 160 yards a game.

"I'm the Great White Hope for the Heisman Trophy," says Voight. "If a Southern white gentleman like Mr. Carter can win the nomination for the Presidency of the United States, then surely that improves the chances of a Southern white running back from North Carolina winning the Heisman Trophy. I have a good chance. Of course, I have a better chance of dating Raquel Welch." (In answer to a questionnaire in which he was asked to name his favorite person in history, Voight wrote: "The girl who sat on my right in History 21.")

On that note, North Carolina opened its season a six-point underdog to Miami of Ohio. That's when the strange happenings began. The first was what is now known as the no-huddle play. For some reason, Miami of Ohio called defensive strategy with its back to the offense. With this in mind, Dooley devised a plan. It unfolded like this:

North Carolina trailed 3-0 late in the second quarter. Menapace, after running a sweep, faked a limp going back to where the officials had spotted the ball. His teammates set up far to the left of the ball. Miami, its back to the ball, was calling its defensive alignment.

Suddenly swooping down, Menapace shoveled the ball with one hand to Wing-back Mel Collins, who raced 69 yards untouched down the left sideline to score. North Carolina went on to whip the Redskins, a team that had been in almost everyone's Top 20, 14-10.

Next came Florida, ranked No. 17, and a 16-point favorite. Held to just 72 yards the week before, Voight ran for 142 and one touchdown. Menapace passed for another score and ran for a third. With North Carolina leading 24-21, Florida drove to the Tar Heels' three. Three seconds remained when Gator Quarterback Jimmy Fisher passed out-of-bounds to stop the clock. Except that Fisher, apparently dazed on the previous play, didn't realize it was fourth down. Now the Tar Heels were 2-0.

Last Saturday Northwestern came to Chapel Hill, N.C. after an opening loss to Purdue. Flu had so decimated the Wildcats that at the beginning of the week Head Coach Johnny Pont assigned himself the role of Menapace on the preparation team in workouts.

Said Pete Shaw, a Northwestern co-captain and an All-America candidate at strong safety, "It's not very humorous but the coach is quicker than some of our players."

Pont, 48, 5'8" and 181 pounds, and an All-America halfback at Miami of Ohio, finished the week with a black eye, a sore ankle and a pulled groin muscle. And he was without his starting quarterback, Randy Dean, the second-best passer in the Big Ten last season, who had advanced from the flu to a light case of pneumonia.

Offensively, the game was no contest. With Breitbeil making his first start as a college quarterback, and beset by a couple of fumbles, four pass interceptions and an assortment of penalties, Northwestern only twice managed to nudge beyond the 50-yard line, and briefly each time. What the Wildcats needed was a 70-yard field-goal kicker.

North Carolina was better on offense but not much. Twice in the first quarter the Tar Heels turned short Northwestern punts into drives that carried to the five, but their only score was a 21-yard field goal by Tom Biddle. On their third drive of the quarter they were stalled on the Wildcats' 14.

Northwestern's two fumbles set up two more Tar Heel scores in the third period. After Biddle missed a field goal from the 34-yard line, the Wildcats ran one play and then fumbled the ball to Bobby Cale on the 24. Six plays later, with North Carolina stalled at the eight, Biddle kicked a 25-yard field goal. On the first play after the kickoff, Northwestern fumbled again and Bill Perdue covered the ball at the 28. This time the Tar Heels went all the way, with Menapace getting the last yard on a keeper over the middle. That made the score 12-0, and there it stayed after a Menapace pass for a two-point conversion sailed out of the end zone.

The fourth quarter went something like this: Biddle missed a field goal; on the next play Cale intercepted a Breitbeil pass; an attempted field goal by North Carolina freshman Jeff Arnold was blocked; on the next play Buddy Curry intercepted a Breitbeil pass; North Carolina punted.

"They should have scored 68 points," said Johnny Pont. "But our defense was superb. And with those officials the South could have won the Civil War."

"Well," said Dooley, "we should have scored 40-something. We'll have to work on that."

This week the Tar Heels play Army at West Point. You have to worry for the Cadets.


Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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