How about that? Less than a month ago, it looked like all was lost. You have the loss to UVa followed by the 2nd half debacle versus FSU leaving UNC 0-3 in the ACC and 4-3 overall facing down a trip to Blacksburg on a Thursday night. Three games later UNC is now 7-3 and eligible to go bowling. The Heels have won three straight game and been fairly impressive on defense doing it while scraping up just enough offense to get the job done.
Coming into this game, UNC had the hottest defense in the ACC having shuttered Virginia Tech and Duke on successive weeks. Against Miami, the Heels were far less effective in actually stopping the Hurricanes from moving the football, especially in the 2nd half. The difference? Kendric Burney. UNC picked off Jacory Harris four times. Burney had his hands on three of them resulting in 14 points. The first was your plain vanilla pick six by Burney. The 2nd was one of the strangest plays I have ever seen. Burney intercepts Harris and starts back up field. Around the UNC 45 he fumbles the ball to Melvin Williams who runs the rest of the way and just as he breaks the plane of the goal line, a Miami defender catches up and knocks the ball away. It was so bizarre, I was fairly certain replay would overturn it but that was not the case. Ultimately it was the difference maker since it stopped Miami from scoring on that drive. Miami came down in expedient fashion to get the TD back so the points end up being huge. The Tar Heel defense had a little more bend to it against the Hurricanes but was opportunistic with the plus-4 in the turnover margin.
And it was good thing the defense was putting points up because the offense continues to be hit and miss. T.J. Yates got off to a rough start, settled down for a couple of good drives but was still Mr. Inaccuracy with some of his passes. Despite that, Yates did rack up 213 yards passing on 17-31. He also did not throw an INT which was huge. Yates hit Greg Little on a slant for the first TD as UNC relied more on the pass because Miami was stuffing Ryan Houston at the line. Houston had issues getting the rushing game rolling until late in the contest when the offensive line stepped up and gave Houston room to get some key first downs to milk the clock. Houston ran 24 times for 83 yards showing again this week that he does not mind carrying a heavy load.
If there is one complaint about the offense it is the leaving of points on the field at times. Casey Barth had another four FG game and like last week against Duke, it seems like UNC bogs down in the red zone when they should scoring TDs. You got the feeling that not getting a TD or two on those drives was going to come back and bite the Heels. As it turns out the defensive TDs covered the gap but it would be nice to grab those points when down in the other team's end.
And speaking of Casey Barth. What a turnaround. Earlier this season, he could not be trusted to kick even a 30 yard FG. Against FSU, Butch Davis went for it on fourth and three in reasonable FG range because Barth could not be trusted. Now, Barth is almost as reliable as his brother. After starting the season 4-7 which included missing a pair of FGs in the 30s, Barth has made 13 straight FGs. Nine of those have been over 30 yards and three over 40 yards. Barth tied a career high against Miami with a 42 yard FG. Needless to say, Miami is sick and tired of UNC kickers named Barth.
So ends an incredible weekend for UNC. Starting with the Harrison Barnes commitment on Friday for basketball and capped off with a 2nd straight win over a ranked team. We also got Roy Williams interviewed during the game which is bonus marketing for the Heels. I also expect UNC will move back into the Top 25 having beaten their 2nd ranked team of this season and knocking on the door of nine wins if they can close out Boston College and NCSU. Next week will be tough and honestly I am not sure I will be too broken up should UNC come up short at Chestnut Hill. The game versus NCSU is the one. After hearing 41-10 for a year nothing would be sweeter than beat NCSU at Carter-Finley to register what would at least be the eighth win of the season while simultaneously rendering the Wolfpack season completely worthless in every way.