With the new AD in town, a mediocre division opponent playing at your place, and with bowl eligibility and a top-25 ranking on the line, UNC laid an egg against Miami on Saturday. The team came out flat, looked woefully unprepared, and were blown off both sides of the football. And still they had the football on the last possession down six points on the Canes' side of the field.
This week's GBU report should probably be done in two parts: the first 2 1/2 quarters which found the Heels playing sloppy, undisciplined, and uninspired football and found itself down 14-0 before the offense ever got on the field before eventually falling behind 27-10, and the last 1 1/2 quarters where UNC got off its rear end and outscored Miami 14-3. But it's hard to say how much of the last quarter and a half was UNC getting itself together or how much was Miami playing ultra-conservative football to nurse a big lead.
The tricky thing about this game is that, from a numbers standpoint, UNC actually comes out looking pretty good. The Heels held Miami to only 311 total yards, which is one of the better defensive efforts of the year. UNC also controlled the time of possession and was only -1 in the turnover category, but what crucial turnovers the two fumbles were for Carolina. But numbers don't always tell the true story of the game.
Still, here is a look at the good, bad, and ugly from Saturday:
Gio Bernard: The redshirt freshman picked up 110 yards on 27 carries to break the 100-yard mark for the 5th straight game, the first time since 1984 that UNC has had a back rush for 100+ yards in five consecutive games. He now has 767 yards on the season.
Dwight Jones: Nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Should just have a permanent place in the "good" category each week.
Resiliency: I will say this for the Heels: even down 27-3, UNC never gave up and kept chipping away to make a game of it. One commentator tweeted that UNC looked "Bunting-esque" in the first half (and admittedly they did) but they kept fighting and that was refreshing to see.
Team Defense: It's time to wrap our collective minds around the fact that this team is just not very good, and that's a disappointment. There was supposed to be NFL-caliber talent and depth even after last year's studs graduated, but they are not playing to their potential.
Bryn Renner: Again, a situation where numbers do not tell the real story. Renner was a crisp 29-37 for 288 yards and two touchdowns, but he regressed in his decision making and reading defenses. He frequently checked down and missed open receivers, his timing was off, and he is holding on to the ball again rather than throwing it away. And still he completed 78% of his passes for nearly 300 yards and two TDs. Imagine when he gets it all together.
Offensive Line: Speaking of permanent residency in a category, the offensive line seems to be getting worse every week. They surrendered four sacks (though Renner contributed to that by not getting rid of the ball) and for the 137th time in a row, UNC cannot run between the tackles against a banged-up Miami defense that was playing 3rd-teamers at times. I think the defining moment for me was when, in an obvious passing situation, Miami rushed 3 and brought a single linebacker on a delayed blitz, and absolutely blew up the O-line for a sack. Rushing three. Simply wow.
Coaching and preparation: In the midterm report card post this week, I gave the coaching an A based on the fact that the team was tooling along and didn't seem to miss Butch Davis at all. But I tried to make clear that ranking was not based on their quality from week-to-week, but that they were performing as they had last year. On the field is a different story, as evidenced this week. Miami was well-prepared for Carolina, but the reverse cannot be said. And to return to a point made the past few weeks in this space, the Heels seem weak physically as compared to their opponents. The problem Carolina will face over the last five weeks is they will face a number of teams known for good coaching. The staff will need to step it up.
So, for the first time in Everett Withers' tenure, the Heels flat-out failed a key test. The key question is whether or not this was a blip or is it what we can expect for the rest of the season. Carolina now heads to Death Valley somewhat banged up and with Clemson playing very good football, and will then face a much-improved Wake team at home followed by a trip to Raleigh to play the Wolfpack before getting a bye week to heal. UNC needs to get back on track or the 5-1 start can quickly turn to 5-5 heading into the bye week.