Tate's Tar Heels career over after MRI reveals torn ACL and MCL

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina receiver Brandon Tate is out for the season because of a knee injury, ending his college career and leaving the No. 18 Tar Heels without a big-play threat and kick returner.

Coach Butch Davis said Monday that an MRI on Sunday night confirmed an earlier diagnosis of torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.

"You never know until you get the X-rays and MRIs," Davis said.

Tate injured his right knee while returning a punt in the first quarter of the 29-24 win against Notre Dame on Saturday. He walked off the field and into the locker room under his own power, and did not return, and the injury initially was announced as a sprain.

"I made a quick move to my left, moved to the right and saw a gold helmet hit my leg," Tate said. "I thought it was like a bruise or something, real sore on the inside part of my knee. The MRIs told me everything."

Tate scored five touchdowns this season and was leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with 163.7 all-purpose yards per game. He had 376 yards receiving, 143 yards rushing, 305 kickoff return yards and 158 punt return yards.

"If [he's] not the most explosive player in college football, he's really close," quarterback Cameron Sexton said. "To replace a kick returner, punt returner and receiver of his caliber, you just can't do it. But we're going to find somebody who's going to play really well in his place."

Now Davis is hunting for a replacement for his most versatile player beginning this week at Virginia, where the Tar Heels (5-1, 1-1 ACC) haven't won since 1981. But stepping in for Tate -- who finishes his career as the NCAA's all-time leader with 3,523 combined kick return yards -- might be too much for one person, Davis said.

"There won't be one guy this week," Davis said. "There may be one guy three weeks from now, or two guys two weeks from now, but it may take a committee of two, three, four, five guys that can come in and do some things for us."