Okay, so I shorted the offense a TD in my prediction. Sue me.
While the standard "this was an FCS school" disclaimer applies, the fact it is only an FCS school means hopefully the performance is top notch. That was the case at Kenan Stadium today as UNC took care of business early on jumping all over the Dukes with 21 unanswered points to start the game on the way to a 42-10 win, the first of the Everett Withers era.
On the offensive side QB Bryn Renner made his first ever start and he lived up the expectations. Renner set an ACC record for completion percentage going 22-23 for 277 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Renner looked comfortable running the offense to the point if you didn't know if it was his first start, you never would have guessed. Renner has long been hyped as being very athletic and an extremely accurate passer. Both of those were on display today. Renner did make one mistake throwing an INT on a pass he probably should have thrown differently. Outside of that he was nearly flawless. While the FCS disclaimer is in play, the fact Renner did what he wanted out there is a great sign moving forward. The way UNC's schedule unfolds, Renner will see the level of competition gradually increase which should continue to help him build his confidence.
Of course Renner passing the ball is one thing, he still needs someone to catch the ball and make plays. Dwight Jones went for 116 yards and two TDs including a beautiful 34 yard TD catch for the first score of the game. The running attack was equally effective with Ryan Houston and Gio Bernard combining for 25 carries, 123 yards and three TDs. Houston looked a tad rusty and got bottled up on a few plays which was surprising. Bernard on the other hand was impressive averaging 7.1 yards per carry on nine attempts. As expected UNC used Houston and Bernard in a fastball-changeup sort of way. However, if Bernard continues to do well I would be surprised if we didn't see him used more extensively.
On the defensive side of the front seven did not disappoint wreaking havoc in the JMU backfield. The Heels set the tone early in disrupting the Dukes' offense. UNC collected nine tackles for a loss and five sacks on the day. Quinton Coples picked up right where he left off last season with two TFLs and two sacks. On the day, JMU was limited to only 211 yards of total offense. The Dukes' first five possessions yielded exactly one first down. That was followed by three rather productive JMU drives that yielded 155 yards and 10 points. During that span, JMU had 132 yards passing and two passing plays over 40 yards. In other words, the JMU staff figured out they could pass the ball on the UNC secondary and did so. UNC did a good job stopping the run but as expected the secondary slipped a bit. The front seven did not which will lead many to ask why Withers and Art Kaufman don't lean on them more via more pressure.
In general it was a great start to the season with a lot to be happy about now and look forward to as the season progresses. With the shadow of the NCAA scandal quickly fading, it was nice to the players focused on football and delivering an impressive win to the home crowd.