Despite playing against the refs also.
I will reserve gratutious outrage over the late game officiating for another post.
There is one thing I can say for certain about this Tar Heel team is they posess that talent for playing tough when matters are bleak and making the necessary plays to win games. That is really it pure and simple. UNC has a decent defense at best. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen recorded a career high in passing yards and it seems like every team UNC has faced this season has been able to move the football to some degree. What tends to happen even amid an opposing team's ability to get yards is UNC will have someone on the defense step up and make an individual play which stops a drive, usually via a point scoring turnover. In this case UNC got the INT returned for a TD by Quan Sturdivant and a forced fumble by Aleric Williams which also led to an offensive touchdown. It was plays like this that held Notre Dame in check during the 2nd half and had it not been for another maddening running into the kicker penalty which kept the only TD drive ND had in the 2nd half alive. At some point those plays are not going to be there and UNC will need to play defense that stops an opposing offense from grinding yards but for now I will take it anyway they can get.
And what can you say about an offense that lost Brandon Tate but still managed to find ways to put the ball in the end zone. Cam Sexton continues to play well. It is obvious the offensive game plan is setup to have him pass the ball on short routes and on ocassion test the limits of the opposing secondary downfield. Sexton does a great job of getting the ball on short passes to Hakeem Nicks and also Brooks Foster. Sexton did struggle early coming out 3-10. After that he was 15-22 and hit almost all his passes down the stretch save the incorrectly overturned one to Foster. To a certain degree Sexton is not TJ Yates but he is out there playing mistake free football(another INT free game) and making plays.
The running game continues to show improvement. Shaun Draughan going for 92 yards on 17 carries is good. Not earth shattering but good, especially when he is able to pop off big runs from time to time. Ryan Houston's presence as the bruising back has been key to scoring in some tight spots on the goal line, even if it means rolling over an opposing player to get into the endzone. Greg Little, at this point, is an island. I am not sure what Butch Davis and John Shoop have in mind but depending on what happens with Brandon Tate's knee, a receiving position might be in Little's future.
Overall, the importance of this win cannot be underscored. Yes Notre Dame is in the midst of a decade plus being rather mediocre but this was still a 4-1 team that rolled into Chapel Hill that obviously had enough moxy to hit UNC in the mouth to start the game, open a lead and knock the Heels off balance for most of the first half. I also think this game emphasizes that UNC is very much a 2nd half team and the coaches are doing a great job of keeping a young team focused despite the adversity along with making all the necessary adjustments to shift the momentum of the game. Granted getting INTs and fumbles is about players making plays but I continue to be impressed with how well UNC plays as a team. There is a similarity between the resilency shown by the football team and the same quality the basketball exerted last winter. This team is showing a level of maturity beyong their years in their ability to rally and win.
Their next trick? Trying to win somewhere UNC has not won since 1981.