Honestly, it was pretty much everything I thought it would be.
The defense played a tremendous game and performed as advertised for the most part forcing four turnovers and holding the Bulldogs in check most of the night with pressure in the backfield. The Citadel was able to get the only points they had from two fumbled punt returns which gave them the ball in UNC territory The Tar Heel defense actually held the Bulldogs right there but it was close enough for The Citadel to snag the six points. While we are talking about a game versus an overmatched opponent, this game can still answer some questions and one of those is whether the defensive linemen/linebackers would be cut loose to pressure the opposing backfield. The answer to that question is yes. Rick Steinbacher made the point that last season only Bruce Carter blitzed in most cases. In this game all of the linebacker as well as the defensive line did some blitzing. It is obvious that UNC has changed the defensive scheme to push the envelope where pressuring the opposing team is concerned.
The offense looked a little inconsistent taking at least one quarter to get itself going. It was clear, with the absence of Dwight Jones, that John Shoop was content to have T.J. Yates hit multiple receivers just to see what works. Yates ended up 9-20 for 114 yards, two TDs and one INT. Some of those incompletions were the fault of the receivers who dropped perfectly good passes. In other cases, passes that Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Tate may have caught last season were dropped. That sort of thing should improve in time. Overall the offense posted a respectable 375 yards of total offense. The bulk of that came from the running game which performed quite well. Shaun Draughan racked up 118 yards rushing to the tune of almost six yards per carry. Ryan Houston picked up 45 yards and was called on to punch the ball into the end zone when the Heels got close. Aside from the Yates INT and the meaningless one thrown by Braden Hansen on his first pass, the offense took care of the football. There are still issues to work on and getting Jones healthy is an important piece but the running game is a positive assuming the offensive line stays healthy. Speaking of which, Jonathan Cooper did sprain his ankle but is expected to be fine.
Special teams was a mixed bag. Casey Barth did mix an extra point but also nailed two FGs, one from 40 yards. The return game was passable. De'Norris Searcy broke one open for a 77-yard return for a touchdown off a punt however there were two major miscues that led directly to the Bulldog points. Kendric Burney had a blocker back into him causing the first fumble. Charles Brown simply muffed the punt he was set to return giving the ball back to The Citadel deep in UNC territory. Takes those two away and the Hansen INT, UNC should have had a +3 in the turnover margin department. However those mistakes ended up making it an even affair. Against The Citadel you can get away with those kinds of mistakes. Next week at UConn that kind of garbage will cost you the game.
Overall the Heels looked good especially on defense and in the running game. The passing game was not in rhythm and the return game was mistake prone. In other words the two areas we thought would be solid(defense and rushing offense) were exactly that. The area where UNC was breaking in new personnel(passing game and kick/punt returns) there is still work to do. The most important thing is UNC took care of business, ultimately dominated a clearly inferior opponent and appeared to be in a good position going into a four game stretch against quality opponents.