I guess Vegas knew after all.
There were some eyebrows raised when the Vegas lines (for entertainment purposes only, of course) opened last week with Miami as a 14 to 17-point favorite over a Carolina team that had won two games in a row and was seeming to get it together a little bit. That was an even bigger line than the Tar Heels had faced in heading to Notre Dame to face a top-5 Irish team. As it turns out, UNC +17 was a sucker bet as Carolina laid an egg against the Canes.
The defense did what it always does, which is give up big plays and tackle poorly but also generated a little something in the form of a fumble recovery for a touchdown. This time it was the offense who didn't bother to show, as the Heels couldn't move the ball with any sort of consistency and the special teams put on a derp-fest for good measure. As a result, Carolina mustered little resistance in a 47-20 rout.
It was particularly disheartening because even in defeat, UNC had played with intensity (with the notable exception of the ECU game) but Miami ran over, around, and through Carolina. It is hard to describe this as anything other than a huge step backwards for a team that has shown improvement in the second half of the season over the past two years.
With that in mind, here is this week's GBU Report:
Tommy Hibbard: It says something when you lead the Good section with your punter, but that is about the summation of UNC's day. Hibbard continues to be among the league's best punters, putting three kicks inside the 20 and allowing only one to even be attempted to be returned.
Penalties: If you're looking for a bright spot, UNC's ongoing improvement in penalties is certainly worth a look. Carolina was only flagged five times for 28 yards. That's much, much better than earlier in the season when penalties were crippling.
Marquise Williams: After a couple of weeks of Herculean effort, the junior quarterback came crashing back to earth with a pedestrian game. Williams was 22-32 for 191 yards and an interception, but rushed 14 times for a net of only four yards, although that did include six sacks but also two touchdowns. Williams was never in sync, meaning the offense was never in sync.
Rushing defense: Miami gashed the Heels for 295 yards on the ground, which is more than the entire UNC offensive unity gained. Duke Johnson alone tallied 177 yards and three touchdowns, including a 90-yard TD run, which was the longest touchdown run from scrimmage ever allowed by a Carolina defense.
Offensive line: After a couple of weeks of seeming improvement, the O-line took yet another big step backwards. Not only could the line not open holes for the running game, this group gave up a season-high six sacks.
Special teams: Ugh. First there was a miscommunication on the punt team that led to a snap over Hibbard's head and out of the end zone, costing Carolina a safety. Then a poor snap on an extra point resulted in a missed kick and Nick Weiler being yanked for Thomas Moore on the remaining two extra points. And there were two key penalties on punt returns that cost UNC yardage.
If there is a silver lining to UNC's poor showing against the Canes, it's that it doesn't really derail UNC's drive towards bowl eligibility. Going into the game, UNC held its Coastal Division destiny in its hands but I don't think anyone thought UNC would win out and take the division title. The more immediate goal is to win two of the last three - essentially hold serve at home with two of the final three games at Kenan - and make a bowl game. The Heels head into a bye week with a chance to get healthy and get ready for the final season push.