CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Had Utah been able to count Eric Weddle's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, things may have been different in Saturday's 31-17 loss at North Carolina.

A roughing-the-passer call on teammate Casey Evans, though, wound up nullifying the score. The Tar Heels and quarterback Matt Baker capitalized on the renewed possession and soon turned what would have been a 21-17 deficit into a 24-14 advantage.

"It was a huge swing with that roughing the passer," Weddle said. "We were right in it. Momentum got it and they rolled with it and made plays."

The call, however, was a bit controversial — at least to the Utes.

Evans didn't think the penalty was warranted and was "shocked" when the penalty flag was thrown.

"I can't say for certain until I see it on tape, but as it happened I thought it was a legal hit," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose initial opinion was that it was a "bang-bang play" where the ball was released and Baker was hit right after.

Regardless of the verdict, the call was made and proved to be a turning point in the game. Evans, who made nine tackles and intercepted a pass, isn't dwelling on it. The junior safety noted that Whittingham often says "If you give a ref an opportunity to make a call, he's probably going to make the call."

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And how.

"I should have been smarter," Evans said. "I guess I shouldn't have hit him. I was just playing my game, being aggressive. There's nothing I can do about it. I've just got to move on and get ready for Colorado State."


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com