Doc is taking a little vacation this weekend so I will be your host this week for the GBU Report on Miami.
It wasn't a pretty game and it required the Heels to gut out a tough win despite making every effort to shoot themselves in their collective foot. Still, a win is a win is a win plus there is great value in toughing a game like this out. There is also value in not losing this game. UNC lost to Wake Forest after giving up a 93-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. In the game against Louisville, the Heels got close to taking the lead back and fell short. Another loss, late in the fourth quarter, would have been devastating to the psyche of this team and dropped UNC to 4-3. Since UNC isn't really playing for anything beyond the regular season, the danger of a death spiral was very real. The Tar Heels managed to avoid that which was great step forward facing the Duke and NC State in the next two weeks.
Gio Bernard: Bernard is as close to a permanent fixture in the "good" section as anyone can get. The Tar Heel running back followed up last week's 262 yards with 177 yards and two touchdowns against Miami. It also should be noted that Bernard, like the rest of the team, faced some tough sledding. There were some plays Bernard was not able to break the line of scrimmage. As the game wore on, Bernard found his spots and created yardage using his ridiculous speed and agility. Over the course of two games, Bernard has rushed for 439 yards which is only second in UNC history to Don McCauley's 463 yard total for consecutive games. If Bernard were to hit 174 yards next week versus Duke, he would match the school record for three consecutive games.
The Defense: Coming into the game, the defense was much maligned, particularly the secondary. While UNC did give up 201 yards on the ground(by design perhaps) the secondary kept Miami QB Stephen Morris and his backup Ryan Williams largely in check. Neither QB completed a pass longer than 23 yards and UNC snagged two interceptions. UNC also made two huge fourth down stops in the final six minutes to preserve a four point lead. For a unit that could not stop Wake Forest a month ago, this game was a nice confidence booster.
Tommy Hibbard: The Tar Heel punter had four punts for an average of 43.2 yards and a long of 54 yards. He also put three punts inside the 20 which helped UNC win the field position game. Update: As noted in the comments, Hubbard is the holder and therefore threw the pass to Eric Ebron for two points after the second touchdown. Solid day all the way around for Hibbard.
Two point conversions calls: It was a huge gamble but the two point conversion after UNC's second touchdown was a nice call and completely changed the complexion of the game. Had UNC opted for the PAT kick instead, it would have been 17-14 making matters easier for Miami at the end of the game. UNC left points on the field in this game but the one extra one they decided to grab ended up being really important.
Casey Barth: Through his UNC career Casey Barth has been a reliable kicker but Saturday in Miami was just not his day. Barth was 1-3 on FGs hitting a 48-yarder but missing from 33 and 43. There is some debate whether the 33-yard FG was actually good but the referees missed it. The ESPNU broadcast only gave one view of it and no replays so while it did look like it might be good, without the underneath camera angle it is impossible to tell. Still, 33 yards is not a FG Barth should struggle with and missing two deprived the Heels of six points which would have offered a little more breathing room in the fourth quarter.
UNC on the road: UNC is 4-0 at home scoring 62, 27, 66 and 48 points. On the road the offense has suffered. Granted the degree of difficulty on the road has been higher but UNC is clear prone to being completely out of sorts during road games. The Heels got off to slow starts at Wake Forest and Louisville resulting in halftime deficits. UNC managed to avoid a slow start but still played poorly at times. Hopefully playing eight miles from campus next week will feel like a home game and the Tar Heels will play that way.
Time management: With less than two minutes in the first half, UNC was able to move the ball to midfield then sputter. For an offense primed to move the ball quickly, UNC was a little deficient in scoring in the "hurry-up" offense. When it came time to burn clock, UNC did a fair job except for throwing passes on 2nd and 3rd down which effectively preserved Miami timeouts and saved the clock. If the point is to burn clock, the passes that are thrown need to be near locks to complete or there is a risk of handing the ball back with too much time and timeouts for the opposing team.
Penalties: Geez. If you thought last week's 15 penalties against Virginia Tech was a fluke, apparently it was not as the Heels matched last week's total. This Tar Heel team has a clear issue with committing every kind of penalty in the book. It would be one thing it was just false start or illegal procedure penalties given how the offense works. However the Heels are committing any and all kinds from pass interference to offsides and even an illegal substitution infraction on consecutive plays. Penalties are discipline and intelligence issues though there are some that result from being overly aggressive. UNC is suffering from more of the former. That is on the players but also on the coaches to get everyone on the same page.
Red zone offense: Whether we are talking about simply getting into the end zone or Bryn Renner forcing passes that turn into interceptions, UNC has some issues when working inside the 25 yard line. It is possible that is an unfortunate side effect of the spread offense which is predicated on creating space. In the red zone, there is far less in the way of space because the field is shortened up. Help from the secondary came come quicker inside the 25 yard line meaning there needs to be some adjustment made when the offense in towards the goal line.