For the second straight week, things are not always as they seem as the Tar Heels rolled to a 40-20 win over a game Middle Tennessee team. Still, the win was not as easy as it likely should have been, starting with the opening coin toss.
Carolina jumped out to a 23-0 lead against Middle Tennessee State, and then as Brian aptly described, not only took their foot off the gas but turned the engine off and tried to coast in on the way to a 40-20 win. The offense sputtered and spit, yet gained over 500 yards and scored 40 points. The much-maligned secondary picked off three passes and saved the team's bacon twice in the red zone, yet gave up 400 yards of total offense.
The end result is a win against a team good enough to clip an ACC team on occasion (see Georgia Tech last season) but not a win that makes you feel like the team is yet running on all cylinders. With that in mind, here is this week's GBU report:
Bryn Renner: The senior quarterback was an efficient 23-34 passing for 339 yards and a touchdown, plus another rushing touchdown. Renner looked much more confident with the vertical passing game opened up, although he did have his first interception in 140 attempts in the second quarter.
Forcing turnovers: The defensive secondary came up with three picks, including two that snuffed out MTSU scoring opportunities. In all, the Tar Heels forced the Raiders to cough up the ball four times.
Multiple receivers: In all, 12 Carolina players caught passes on Saturday, and 8 of those 12 caught at least one pass of 15 yards or more. Sean Tapley led the receivers with four grabs for a career-high 93 yards.
Offensive line: Yes this group is young but they gave up two sacks and five tackles for loss. Last year Renner was only sacked 13 times in 12 games; he has gone down 5 times in only two games thus far this season. And it's not like they were bowling anyone over in the rushing game either, as UNC only managed 158 yards on the ground. Not awful, but not great either.
3rd down defense: Carolina gave up a pretty stout 8-18 on 3rd down to MTSU. What's worse, 5 of the 8 conversions were greater than 5 yards, including a 3rd and 20 conversion and a touchdown on a 3rd and 9.
Coin flip foibles: By now, you have heard and read about UNC's game captains fouling up the coin toss after MTSU won the toss and deferred to the second half. While there is no excuse for that, it is interesting to note that Tre Boston was quoted as saying the referee was confusing them. Or, as Brian succinctly noted, Because Ron Cherry.
Still, a win is a win is a win, and UNC is in about the best spot they could hope for after these two games. Carolina gets a week off to prepare for Georgia Tech (not that it helped last year) and the Heels begin a crucial four-game stretch against wildly different opponents. After GT's Paul Johnson-ness, Carolina comes back the next week to to face its exact opposite, a spread offense in the legislatively-mandated Kobayashi Maru game against East Carolina. UNC then has to face a potentially offensively-challenged Virginia Tech squad on the road before facing a Miami team that may or may not still have its swag back by the middle of October. It will most likely not be boring, that's for sure.