You can't blame UNC for having the blahs on Saturday.
The weather was miserable, the crowd was minuscule, and the opponent was less than inspiring. Even Nick Weiler missed a field goal. Deep into the 3rd quarter, the Tar Heels found themselves nursing a 20-14 lead. But then Mitch Trubisky happened.
Trubisky started the second half for a spark, according to Larry Fedora, and provided just that. His four touchdown passes jump-started the offense and Carolina eventually wore down the game Blue Hens for a deceptively comfortable 41-14 win.
On the scoreboard it was the easy win most expected, but defensive questions and the impending quarterback discussion after Trubisky's performance mean UNC will be facing as many questions as answers as the Tar Heels begin conference play next week. With that in mind, here is this week's GBU Report:
Mitch Trubisky: The sophomore quarterback was the story of the game, relieving a relatively ineffective Marquise Williams and going 17-20 for 312 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 39 yards. The only negatives in his game were two fumbles, one of which was lost, in a steady rain. Yes it was against an FCS defense, but it was a stellar performance.
Mack Hollins: Insert your own "Return of the Mack" joke here. Trubisky entered the game and immediately found Hollins for his first touchdown of the season, and followed that up with a 64-yard touchdown reception. He finished with a team-high 100 yards receiving.
Passing Defense: Of course Delaware was rushing the ball very well and only threw 10 times, but the Heels held the Hens to 24 total passing yards and came up with an interception. Any time you only give up 24 yards, that's noteworthy, regardless of the situation.
3rd Down Conversions: UNC was 10-13 on 3rd down. That means Carolina only made it to 4th down three times, all of which ended in field goal attempts. UNC did not attempt a punt in a game for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Rushing Offense: UNC attempted 35 rushes on the day, 20 by running backs and 15 by quarterbacks. Elijah Hood only got 14 carries and never seemed to get into his groove. Fedora likes to run his quarterbacks but it sure would be nice to see the deep establishment of a running game, especially when weather and field conditions seemed to support that.
Red Zone Offense: UNC only scored touchdowns on two of five trips into the red zone, continuing a disturbing season-long trend. This will have to improve for conference play.
Quarterback Controversy: If one can decipher Fedora's cryptic post-game comments, he essentially gave Williams the hook because he was making bad decisions. And frankly, his late-game performance last week notwithstanding, Williams has not shown the poise or decision-making prowess you would hope to see from a 5th-year senior. Though he was running hard on Saturday, Williams was not throwing well and UNC was determined to throw the ball.
It was not surprising to see Trubisky as the idea had been to get him some reps against the FCS teams on the schedule. Surely no one expected to perform nearly flawlessly in a situation where UNC was stuck in the muck of a rainy day. It will be interesting to see if Fedora shuts the QB talk down early in the week and confirms Williams as the starter. If not, it will insert a QB controversy into a week when UNC needs all its focus on a huge nemesis.
Rushing Defense: UNC gave up 279 yards rushing to a FCS team, including a pair of 100-yard rushers. Moreover, Carolina's defensive line was consistently blown off the ball by the Delaware offense, particularly at the edges. The holes were huge for most of the game, and only in the 4th quarter were the Tar Heels finally able to wear down the Blue Hen O-line and shut down the rushing attack. If you can't stop an FCS team like Delaware, what are the run-heavy ACC teams going to do to Carolina?
So on the positive side of the ledger, UNC is 3-1 for the first time since 2011 and is pretty much where everyone expected them to be before the season began. But now the Heels head to
the Twilight Zone Atlanta where they have not won since 1997 to face a wounded Georgia Tech team that has lost two straight games. Both Notre Dame and Duke handled the Tech offense with relative ease so hopefully there will be lessons to be gleaned for the Tar Heel defense. Meanwhile the Carolina offense may be facing the uncertainty of a quarterback carousel. How UNC handles the distractions will go a long way to breaking the Jacket jinx at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech is not a must-win for Carolina (certainly not facing the desperation level of the Jackets whose season would slip away with a third straight loss) but it would go a long way towards erasing the sting of the missed opportunity against SCAR earlier in the season.