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UNC 56, James Madison 28: Heels shake off first quarter shootout to down the Dukes

Neither team could stop the other for the first quarter. It was all UNC after that.

James Madison v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Tar Heels and Dukes combined for 1130 total yards in UNC’s home opener, and UNC was responsible for 635 of them. The first quarter looked like a shootout waiting to happen with both defenses giving up long drives for touchdowns. James Madison hung 21 of their 28 points on the Heels before the second quarter began, then UNC settled in and pulled away.

Mitch Trubisky was outstanding, completing 24 of his 27 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. The Tar Heel quarterback got through another game without a single interception. The ground game was also strong with Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan combining for five touchdowns between the two running backs. Hood ran for 106 yards and two scores while Logan made the most of his 41 yards on the ground with three touchdowns.

With no drives under 70 yards in the first quarter, UNC got on the board with a six-yard Logan run to tie the game at 7-7 after allowing the Dukes to march down the field for a nine-play, 82-yard score. On their second touchdown, Trubisky threw the deep ball to Ryan Switzer on the first play from scrimmage for a 75-yard score.

From there, the second quarter was all Heels. Carolina scored three times to go up 35-21 with one touchdown coming off a flea flicker throw to Ryan Switzer for a 71-yard touchdown. UNC kept right on rolling from there to eventually pull away and get reps for some backups like Nathan Elliott, who came in for Trubisky.

Yes, the Tar Heels gave up 209 rushing yards, and it looked like it might be 509 after the first quarter. The defense is banged up and already suspect. The offense, however, showed that they can absolutely look as strong as anyone predicted. That’ll make up for a lot of shortcomings defensively.

There were an absurd number of unsportsmanlike penalties called on Carolina in the game, some of which were basically invisible to anyone not on the field. On the plus side, UNC finally didn’t give up a safety for the first time in 2016. That’s cause for celebration.

UNC will get to enjoy the win and the incredibly strong play of their quarterback before looking ahead to the next huge challenge in Pittsburgh next week. The run defense will have to be better than we’ve seen, for sure, and hopefully the Heels will run into some better luck with injuries. Either way, this one was fun and watching this scoring play seems like a good way to pass time until the next one.