Anybody can beat UConn by playing better than the Huskies. It takes a rare team to put together practically no offense, stumble through three scoreless quarters, and then put the game away with a fortunate Connecticut holding penalty for a safety. And that team is your North Carolina Tar Heels.
Or at least it's most of the Tar Heels. I'm not entirely convinced the offensive line didn't miss the flight north. They sure didn't play like it; T.J. Yates was sacked six times and surrounded by navy jersies on most every play. Shaun Draughn had fourteen carries for a whopping 21 yards and never had a carry longer than four. It wasn't until a late fourth quarter drive that the running game had any purchase at all, when Ryan Houston had six of his seven carries to power UNC to the goal line. And even that scoring drive didn't come without a price, as Zach Pianalto was lost for the game celebrating his touchdown reception.
For everything Carolina's offense wasn't, the Tar Heels defense outperformed, however. They held the Huskies passing game, which racked up 210 yards on them last season to a scant 134. They had four sacks, contained the running game nicely and forced a critical interception into the hands of Charles Brown in the red zone to prevent a certain score. (Brown also had a fumble recovery in UNC territory.) And of course, they pushed the Huskies back from their own 20 to the end zone where Dan Ryan could commit the holding penalty that gave the Heels the win.
I'd like to convince myself that UConn's defense is unusually strong, but Ohio managed to rack up better numbers on the ground. This leads UNC with more than a few problems heading into East Carolina next week; a better offensive line performance, a better running game, and better hands on the receivers, would all be nice. Otherwise, we could be looking at a long, slow season, like much of the rest of the conference it appears.