Talk about flipping the script.
A year ago, UNC went to Miami in the middle of a five-game stretch against division opponents and looked a hot mess, falling behind 44-6 before going on to a 47-20 defeat. One year later, it was the Hurricanes undisciplined and in disarray, under an interim coach, who found themselves down 45-0 to the Tar Heels on the way to a resounding 59-21 loss.
For the second straight week, Carolina lit up the scoreboard and trounced a division opponent in a game that wasn't as close as the score appeared. The Tar Heels did not put up the yardage numbers like they did against Duke but were even more dominant in all three phases of the game. And UNC showed its offensive versatility, pounding the Canes for a season-high 298 yards rushing after throwing for over 500 yards the previous week.
It was Senior Day in Kenan Stadium, and seniors certainly shined, from Marquise Williams' four touchdowns to Quinshad Davis adding to his UNC records, and from Jeff Schoettmer's interception return to Landon Turner's decision to return for his final year paying off. This group of seniors had an 8-win season and a share of the Coastal Division title as freshmen, but the program's transgressions before they arrived kept them from playing in Charlotte. Now they have a chance to potentially play for Charlotte and a whole lot more.
With that in mind, here is this week's edition of the GBU Report:
Marquise Williams: The numbers weren't as gaudy as last week but the results were no less effective: 101 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only 12 attempts, and another 105 yards passing on an efficient 11-16 line with another touchdown through the air. Early in the game when UNC's offense was struggling to get into gear, Williams' legs provided the jump start.
Elijah Hood: UNC's featured back churned out 132 yards and a touchdown on only 17 carries, good for nearly 8 yards a clip. On a day when UNC was grinding it out on the ground, the sophomore showed why he is one of the league's best.
Ryan Switzer: The junior speedster returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, the seventh of his career. He is now one short of tying the NCAA career record for return touchdowns.
Rushing defense: A week after Duke ran all over Carolina, the defense responded by holding Miami to 99 total yards on the ground and keeping talented runner Joe Yearby in check.
3rd and 4th-down conversions: Even though the stats say Miami only converted 5-15 third downs, they also converted all three of their fourth down attempts for an effective rate of over 50%. More important, of the five the Canes converted, four were more than six yards, meaning if Carolina got Miami into 3rd and medium or 3rd and long, there was a solid chance it would get converted. The competition only gets harder from here so if UNC wants to compete at the top-15 level, they are going to have to get off the field on third down, especially on middle and long distances.
Dropping "Da U": OK, this is my "get off my lawn" complaint, but twice during the game after scores, UNC players mocked Miami by making the "U" hand gesture and then turning it upside down. Marquise Williams did it first, with a little bit of extra mustard in taking it to his crotch.
North Carolina leads Miami, 31-0, at the half with the help of Marquise Williams, who then drops the "U." https://t.co/f1YZlVBVSi— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 14, 2015
Then after his punt return touchdown, Ryan Switzer did it again.
The gestures didn't go unnoticed, by the way.
Dude from NC didn't score against UM & drop the U as a celebration, he did not & I refuse to believe it..— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) November 14, 2015
I had to do it to them bro https://t.co/krWgV6UcNY— Marquise Williams (@1MjWilliams2) November 15, 2015
On the one hand, college kids are college kids and there had been plenty of yapping by Miami players because that's what Miami players do. But I would prefer that players act like they've been there before and let the scoreboard do all the talking, especially since the game was getting a little chippy in the second quarter. But to everyone's credit, there was no more taunting and the game did not turn ugly in the second half.
UNC's coaches and players have talked about not consciously making a statement to the College Football Playoff committee, which barely snuck in a 8-1 Carolina team into last week's rankings at #23, despite being #17 in the media and coaches polls. But with an ACC-record 125 points in back-to-back games against bowl-eligible teams, the Tar Heels are becoming harder to ignore, even though the national types still want to hold their August loss to 3-7 South Carolina against them. Not to mention UNC went 7-0 at home for only the second time in program history.
From a program standpoint, UNC has finally broken through the 8-win glass ceiling that has defined Carolina football for the better part of two decades. The magic number to clinch the Coastal Division berth in Charlotte is down to one, as the Heels either need one more win or a Pitt loss. And yet for all the progress of the season, UNC still faces a brutal finish to the year as they next travel to Blacksburg for what is sure to be an emotional day as Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer coaches his final home game, then Carolina ends the regular season in Raleigh as no doubt the Wolfpack will play their Super Bowl with a desire to spoil any of UNC's success. Pitt, meanwhile, ends at home with Louisville and Miami, and the Panthers will likely be favored in both. In other words, if UNC is going to make it to Charlotte, they will still have to earn it.
As for now, Carolina will bask in the glow of another big win and a big step forward for the program, knowing there are still miles to go to achieve their next big goal.