It was bound to happen, you know.
For six games, UNC has fought through the adversity of suspensions, withheld players, and injuries to remain competitive and even cobble together a four-game winning streak, most against some pretty good teams. And then the wheels came off against Miami.
Everything that had worked for the Heels the previous four weeks pretty much didn't happen Saturday night. Carolina had three turnovers, including two interceptions by T.J. Yates, who had only thrown one all season, and one by Anthony Elzy at the goal line that cost UNC at least a sure three points. UNC's previously strong running game generated less than 150 yards.
Meanwhile, the "bend don't break" defense broke as injuries took their toll on a squad already down two of this season's starters, with two more players injured to the point that often UNC was frequently playing three freshmen in the defensive backfield. The defense couldn't stop Miami on the ground or through the air, giving up nearly 450 yards of offense. The result was a thorough drubbing that will essentially cost the Heels a chance at the Coastal Division title barring unforeseen chaos among Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Miami.
With that said, here is this week's Good, Bad, and Ugly Report:
Johnny White and Shaun Draughn: UNC's two-headed running back monster combined for 156 yards on only 18 carries. White's 76-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty (and a shout-out to T.J. Yates for getting 60 yards down the field and trying to throw a block for White); the problem is his other 7 rushes yielded only 9 yards. White did not play most of the second half with a "stomach ailment", giving way to Draughn who tallied 71 yards on only 10 rushes, but by that point the Heels were down and trying to pass.
Zach Brown: While UNC certainly needs Quan Sturdivant to return for depth, Brown has made the most of his time as he had an eye-popping 14 tackles against the Canes. Glad he decided to show up since Bruce Carter and Kevin Reddick were missing in action.
Kicking game: You know the "Good" section is thin when the kickers make the list, but maybe this is what the staff saw when incumbent Grant Shallock was benched in favor of C.J. Feagles. Feagles had three punts for only a 41-yard average, but none of his punts was returnable. Meanwhile, Casey Barth connected on his one chance at a field goal but more important but the ball in the end zone on kickoffs and Miami did not break off a long return.
Injuries: Already down three key players (Zack Pianalto, Quan Sturdivant, and LeCount Fantroy), Carolina lost Da'Norris Searcy, Mywan Jackson, Anthony Elzy, and Johnny White during the game. Already thin because of the unpleasantness and injury, the attrition was just too much to overcome. [UPDATE: Backup DL Jordan Nix, who had seen significant time this season, did not play and TE Ryan Taylor, who was filling in for Pianalto, left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return, bringing the total number of Tar Heels out or injured during the game to nine. That's a huge number for any team, much less one already missing nine players for other reasons.]
Any receiver not named Dwight Jones: Remember last season when it was thought Erik Highsmith might make UNC fans forget another receiver who previously wore #88? Heck, remember the LSU game when Jhey Boyd looked like a stud? These receivers are just not getting it done. Give credit to Miami's defense, but this is an ongoing problem.
Freshmen defensive backs: The only reason this is not in the "Ugly" category is because you really can't ask but so much of these guys. When you're down to your 3rd and 4th-string D-backs, what are you going to do? These guys were out-played, out-athleted, out-hustled and made Miami's receivers look like all-Americans.
T.J. Yates: You can argue that he was due for a game like this statistically, but for the first time all season he made bad decisions, which he had not been doing prior. He had happy feet in the pocket and his two interceptions were forced throws. He was also throwing behind receivers and staring down his intended targets, which were things he did last year.
Offensive line: Part of the reason Yates had happy feet may have been because the Canes pretty much went through the Tar Heels' offensive line like tissue paper. The O-line gave up 5 sacks and only opened limited holes for the running backs. This group is not getting better week-to-week and it is past the halfway point of the season.
Defensive front seven: Part of this issue goes to defensive coordinator Everett Withers' apparent desire to never blitz (though to be fair, can you really run a corner or safety blitz with your 4th team freshman corners?) but the front seven put absolutely zero pressure on Jacory Harris, therefore not forcing him into bad decisions.
So, in a season held together with duct tape and twine, it was bound to come apart at some point. The William & Mary game couldn't come at a better time. UNC has the chance to get healthy and take a break from a difficult stretch before the schedule turns downright brutal in November.