The Tar Heels entered Saturday’s meeting with Miami at Hard Rock Stadium needing a win to stay in the Coastal race following the 34-3 embarrassment to Virginia Tech amid Hurricane Matthew. What the Tar Heels showed Saturday afternoon was maybe their most complete team effort in a game that now has them sitting in good position in the ever-changing Coastal Division picture. Here are a few positives and negatives that led Carolina to a 20-13 win on South Beach:
(:56) There is an epidemic going on in football right now in regards to blocked field goals and extra points. Miami kicker Michael Badgley’s last kick prior to this one was a blocked extra point against Florida State late in the fourth quarter. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Tar Heels suffered the same fate against the ‘Noles. Fortunately, Carolina was able to overcome that while Miami was not. The Tar Heels blocked yet another field goal on Saturday, joining the trend that is plaguing both the NFL and College Football.
(1:34) Austin Proehl came into the season as a player who could potentially have a big impact in this Carolina offense with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, and he has proven all of his believers right through these first seven games. Here Proehl shows why he is the Tar Heels’ most sure-handed receiver while getting leveled by a Hurricane defender.
(2:26) Nick Weiler had never made a field goal of 50+ yards outside of practice and the Spring Game. In his two trips to the state of Florida in 2016 he is 2-for-2 in kicks from that range.
(2:44) Des Lawrence may have come into the season with the preseason All-ACC accolades, but we all knew that his cornerback partner M.J. Stewart was also a stud. Stewart, along with the rest of the Tar Heel secondary, held Miami wide receivers to six receptions on the day.
(3:10) Looking for weird stat lines? Here’s one. Ryan Switzer had nine receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown. Those nine catches were good enough to jump Switzer in front of Quinshad Davis as the all-time leading receiver in Carolina football history.
(3:52) The Tar Heels defensive line had their best performance of the season in the rain-soaked game versus Virginia Tech, but Saturday has definitely surpassed that. The Tar Heels run defense was stout all day, holding Miami to 139 yards on the ground. This stop of Mark Walton would prove to be critical as the Hurricanes had to settle for a field goal instead of closing back within three.
(4:40) I think I dream about these moments almost every night, but it’s rare that I actually get to live them. Malik Carney made the play of the game running around the Miami left tackle for the strip sack on Brad Kaaya. Jeremiah Clarke’s decision to not fall on the ball, and instead try to pick it up nearly made the play meaningless. I get that Clarke wants to insert his name into the Piesman Trophy conversation, but for future reference...FALL ON THE BALL.
(5:58) No one will say that this was Elijah Hood’s best game or that he has had the season expected of him. One thing that can’t be questioned is his value to the team. Hood ices the game with a grown man 13-yard gain for a first down.
I must also add that Mitch Trubisky had another phenomenal game going 33-for-46 for 299 and two touchdowns, running for another 47 and once again looking in complete control of this offense. I won’t revisit the Heisman talk because, whether he’s in the race or not, he is one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
I really have few negative things to say about the Carolina team this week. Typically, I am hyper critical of all the errors that are made, mainly because this is a veteran team that has made mistakes you hope never happens at this stage in Larry Fedora’s program.
The injury to Mack Hollins (3:02) is a deep cut to the heart. Hollins is hurt on a play that has made his career at UNC. During his time at Carolina, Hollins has turned himself into one of the nation’s premier deep ball threats, while being a leader on special teams. It’s unfortunate that his injury would occur on a deep ball. Had Mitch not underthrown the ball, Mack is likely still playing for North Carolina this season. Obviously, this is no one’s fault, it’s just a bad break for a guy who has given everything to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I will miss seeing him in that uniform.
The other glaring issue from the Miami game was the amount of penalties the Tar Heels committed, 11 to be exact. Seven of which came in the pre-snap variety. This has been an issue over the entire season and it’s likely going to catch up to the Tar Heels soon, if it hasn’t already. Back-to-back false starts by Bentley Spain and R.J. Prince derailed the Tar Heels’ opening drive, leading them to settle for a field goal.
Center Lucas Crowley later had a false start inside the 10, which fortunately didn’t cost the Heels a touchdown, but still made things more tense than they needed to be. I recognize that UNC has had injuries on the line with Caleb Peterson, Tommy Hatton, and John Ferranto missing extended time, but there’s still no excuse for this many penalties to be committed. Hopefully, the line can get back to full strength and regain focus in the final five games.
The most impressive part of the game for me was the Tar Heels’ ability to win a game where they didn’t score in the second half. Never would I have thought that the Carolina defense would A) hold Miami to three points in the first half or B) win a game when going scoreless after halftime. Doing both is a great vote of confidence for this unit heading into the end of October and into November. The balanced play calling of 43 runs and 46 passes finally met the standards of THB staff writer Jake Lawrence, and we should all celebrate that.
What also should be celebrated is Virginia Tech’s loss at Syracuse that has the Heels a half game up in the Coastal, still needing one more loss for the Hokies. Next up, Carolina travels to Charlottesville for the South’s Oldest Rivalry and greatest collection of Sperry’s.