The question all week facing the 2011 version of Tar Heel football was whether the three straight weeks of flat football culminating in the debacle at Clemson would send the season over the brink into oblivion. The answer, at least for today anyway, is not yet.
With the 2011 season sitting on the precipice, the Heels came out with perhaps their best performance to date throttling Wake Forest 49-24. Obviously the real boost for UNC in this game was the number of times Wake Forest turned the ball over. Essentially Wake QB Tanner Price had the same kind of day Bryn Renner had in Death Valley a week ago. A fumble and three interceptions by Price and another INT by Michael Campanaro hamstrung the Demon Deacon offense and gave the Heels plenty of chances to score. It is important to remember that while an opposing team might turn the ball over like they are allergic to it, the offense still needs to convert those mistakes into points. The Tar Heel offense did that in one its most efficient and dominant performances of the season.
Bryn Renner has had an interesting journey during his first for year as a starter. He was hot early, then settled into the happy middle before struggling mightily against Clemson. Much like the team as a whole, Renner faced a game where he could have continued to regress as a player. Instead Renner came up huge against Wake Forest going 21-28 for 338 yards and three TDs. If last week was an example of Renner's inexperience, this week was a peek into what this kid can be once he pull it all together. When Renner is on his game to this degree it works out really well for Dwight Jones who had 138 yards and Erik Highsmith with two TDs and 87 yards. In addition to the very solid passing attack RB Gio Bernard shook off his ailments of last week and turned in 154 yards rushing and three TDs. Bernard now sits just 35 yards from the 1000 yard mark for the season. Overall the offensive performance was as good as you could ask for as attested to by 49 points and 562 yards of total offense.
Defensively, UNC got turnovers which is partly the work of the defense and partly errors on the part of Wake Forest. However, given all the troubles UNC has had stopping teams Virginia figures out at a later date, I will take getting stops anyway they come. At this point it is painfully obvious this defense is what it is. They will continue to have problems covering receivers in the secondary and the front seven will continued to be restrained. This is the Everett Withers defense whether we like it or not. Still, it is nice to see the defense turn the tide of the game even if it is via turnovers which are fool's gold to some extent since you really cannot always depend on getting them. It should be noted the UNC defense only gave up 210 yards passing. Obviously the turnovers cut some drives short but perusing the play-by-play reveals the Heels only gave up two pass plays over 20 yards. Price threw one for 24 yards on the first possession and another came with the reserves in on Wake's last possession. In the middle Wake Forest did not complete any long passes and most of the ones they did complete were for single digit yards. Some of that could be the way Wake's offense is designed but in the end UNC bottled up Wake offense which was a pleasant surprise to say the least.
With the win, UNC is bowl eligible and facing a much different outlook than a week ago. Everett Withers gets credit for not allowing this team to fall of the face of the earth. The Heels came out ready to play, executed well on offense, got some stops on defense and won a huge game. Now UNC heads to NC State who got ripped by FSU 34-0 today. With UNC coming off its best performance of the season, the question is whether they can continue to at that same level and finally end the drought versus the Wolfpack.