Torbush less than flattering of TU offense

Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-Carl Torbush wasn't too surprised his defense limited Tulsa to 233 yards in North Carolina's season opener, considering that unit is projected as the team's strong suit.

But the coach warned Tuesday against prematurely comparing the talented Tar Heels' defense to the swarming units from 1995-97 that were at or near the top of the nation statistically.

"I think we have a chance to be very good, but it's way too early to tell," Torbush said. "Ask me that question in four or five weeks after we have a chance to do it week-by-week."

The North Carolina defense was impressive in Saturday's 30-9 victory over Tulsa, limiting the Golden Hurricane to 19 yards rushing and 2-for-15 on third down conversions. The Tar Heels also forced 10 punts.

The rushing total was the lowest allowed by the Tar Heels since giving up 1 yard against Louisville on Nov. 9, 1996 _ a span of 39 games.

"It's hard to throw out a lot of compliments right now because I think Tulsa was OK. But we're getting ready to play some better football teams," Torbush said. No. 2 Florida State and Marshall follow this weekend's game with Wake Forest.

North Carolina's defense began to improve late last season, a dismal 3-8 year. Pressure was put on that unit since the offense was in disarray because of injuries.

"We realized that, `OK defense, we're got to stick together no matter what happens, no matter what the offense does. We've still got to play up to our abilities,'" said tackle Ryan Sims, who had two tackles for loss against Tulsa. "We had a great defensive team and we just wanted to show that."

The Tar Heels closed last season without allowing a TD in 11 straight quarters. That streak ended early in the fourth quarter Saturday when cornerback Errol Hood slipped and fell on a long scoring pass.

Torbush said his 2000 defense has a nice mix of age, with five seniors, and youth like sophomore corner Michael Waddell, which creates hunger.

"I do feel like they've got the right frame of mind, and we do have some upperclassmen that take a great deal of pride in what they need to get done that wasn't done last year," Torbush said. "That's one reason I don't think you'll see a letdown by this defense. I don't think players like Brandon Spoon will let that happen."

In addition, one of the unit's best players _ end Julius Peppers _ had a mediocre game Saturday with just two tackles.

"I thought Julius played OK for what we think Julius should play," Torbush said. "Julius didn't have as many hits on the quarterback as we would have liked. He knows that and you'll see him improve a great deal. Going into the ball game I'm not sure he wasn't feeling pressure."

Torbush said he never mentions previous defenses that helped bolt the Tar Heels into the top 10. The 1996 defense allowed only 10 points a game, while the '97 unit allowed an average of 13.0. Seventeen players from those defensive teams are now in the NFL.

"You don't have to tell them. They see the pictures, they read the paper, they know," Torbush said of his present players. "We don't even bring that up. That's not fair to them. They are the defense of 2000 and what they become is what they do this year."

On offense, Torbush said freshmen Willie Parker, Brandon Russell and Andre' Williams are still battling for the tailback job. While the three ran hard against Tulsa, they combined for only 44 yards on 22 carries.

"We want a starting tailback, but right now somebody's got to grab it," Torbush said. "It's that simple. To do that, somebody has to have a big game."