A win is a win.
Had UNC lost this game it may have made getting to a bowl game difficult, especially if the Heels end up with only seven wins. Before delving into the particulars of this game I prefer to glean from this game what it means in terms of the program itself. Two years ago UNC loses this game. Heck, last season the Heels would have gone prevent on UConn's last drive and the Huskies would have rolled down the field. Not this season. There is a element of progress despite the issues with the offense. UNC has gone from losing the close ones to stealing the tough games they have no business winning. What happened in East Hartford was UNC scrapping for a way to win despite the game going the wrong way for three quarters. The margin of error is there to allow for that as is the experience.
Saying the defense won this game is an understatement. The offense was completely worthless for three quarters so the defense had to make plays to keep the Heels in striking distance until points could be procured. The Tar Heel defense, led by Charles Brown who forced two turnovers, Marvin Austin and Quan Sturdivant with constant pressure limited UConn to 196 yards of offense and ten points. The lone Husky touchdown came off a fluke INT that placed UConn deep in UNC territory. From there they managed to post a 10-0 lead but that was it. In short the defense made plays all game long but particularly at the end by forcing a game winning safety with 1:32 left in the game then ending the subsequent UConn drive(via an onside kick) with a sack. When UNC needed a huge stop the defense obliged. I think there is little doubt at this point that the Tar Heel defense is everything we thought they were. Also, credit to the coaching staff for turning them loose instead of sitting back in a prevent and hoping for the best.
The offense gave just enough to get out of East Hartford with the win but mostly UNC was inept when they had the football. The first half was atrocious with T.J. Yates being sacked four times and the Heels managing very little offense. The third quarter was not much better and it seemed as though UNC could do nothing right. Much attention will be focused on the offensive line missing two starters due to injury with left the OL profoundly less experience than before. Even then it was not looking all that promising save the play of Jonathan Cooper and Alan Pelc. Shaun Draughn could not find room to run and was stifled throughout the contest. The UConn defensive line had their way with UNC's offensive line early and often. Also plaguing the Heels were stupid penalties including back-to-back flags that forced UNC to convert a 3rd and 18. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around UNC was still stifled on offense. According to Yates they basically starting tossing crap against the wall to see what, if anything, would work. Despite the struggled, when it counted most the offense got the job done and the defense finished it off with the safety.
Ultimately this game illustrated a great deal about UNC's toughness and character. There will be games in which the offense struggles this season. The offensive line is simply too unpredictale and inconsistent. That leaves UNC putting everything on the defense hoping for the best. In this case it worked, almost to perfection. The defensive unit did the lion's share of the work in leaving the door ajar for a struggling offense. For my money this is a huge departure from where UNC was three years ago. Instead of making the same mistakes over and over, the Heels were willing to make whatever changes on the fly to rally. The win ended up being a huge struggle but the important thing to note is UNC actually won despite less than ideal conditions. A definite step in the right directions for the program as well as this season.