The last time these two teams met, UNC put up 80 on Old Dominion, a school record. That was in 2013, but Carolina picked up right where they left off on Saturday, cruising to an 53-23 victory in a game that they led by 32 at halftime.
Chazz Surratt threw for 257 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two more, and Jordon Brown ran for a career best 125 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Heels.
Moving to 1-2, it’s UNC’s first win of the young season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After being blindsided by Cal then shredded by Lamar Jackson and Louisville, the reeling Carolina defense stepped up when they needed to, the offense had no trouble scoring, and the Tar Heels came away with an important victory in their first road game of the year.
UNC jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after a Freeman Jones field goal. UNC’s oft-maligned defense stymied Old Dominion on their first possession, forcing a three-and-out, and the lethal combination of Surratt and Brown tore apart the Monarchs as Surratt plowed in for a touchdown. A sneaky two-point conversion by placeholder Manny Miles made it 11-0. UNC gave up just 11 total yards in the first quarter after giving up 704 overall against Louisville.
Surratt scored his second rushing touchdown of the day early in the second quarter. In a dazzling display of athleticism, the redshirt freshman scampered away from the formidable ODU defensive rush, broke containment, and outran a mob of Monarchs on his way to the end zone.
Defensive tackle Tyler Powell, seeing his first action of 2017, blocked an Old Dominion field goal attempt on the next possession, a la Kennedy Meeks, giving the Heels the ball in Monarch territory. Jordon Brown then rushed for an easy 15 yard touchdown to make it 25-0 midway through the second.
But Old Dominion proved they had some fight in them as well. Monarchs kickoff specialist Isaiah Harper torched UNC for a 100 yard return on the ensuing kickoff to make it 25-7.
UNC’s rushing attack was too much, and the legs of Michael Carter quickly gave UNC the 32-7 lead. All afternoon, ODU proved to be entirely unable to slow down Carolina’s three-headed rushing attack of Surratt, Carter, and Brown. UNC tacked on another score before the break, Myles Dorn crushed any hopes at an ODU comeback with a clutch goal line strip late in the half, and the rout was officially on.
After Surratt threw his only touchdown of the day—a 28 yard bomb to Austin Proehl—midway through the third, Old Dominion’s Foreman Field emptied out. It was UNC’s first road game against a G5 opponent of many to come. In the next decade, they will travel to both Appalachian State and UNC Charlotte. Old Dominion came into the game having never beaten a P5 opponent, and that streak will remain.
It was an encouraging performance from a team that had been off to a poor start in 2017. UNC’s defense had been among the worst in the P5, but they didn’t show it on Saturday. The Monarchs threw a plethora of different looks at UNC, including playing three different quarterbacks in the first half alone, but couldn’t get anything going until the outcome had been decided.
It was a group effort defensively, but Carolina’s struggling duo of young corners in Patrice Rene and KJ Sails stepped up in a big way. They were players to watch coming into the game—you can read all about them here—and they delivered. Rene and Sails harassed ODU receivers and their performances were crucial in UNC’s defensive showing on Saturday.
After rushing for just 17 yards against Louisville, UNC calmly responded by gaining 254 rushing yards and running for six touchdowns on the day. They ran almost twice as often as they threw. It was as inspiring for UNC as it was demoralizing for ODU—the Monarchs, simply put, had no answers. The Tar Heels will need to continue that dominance on the ground next Saturday, as that team from Durham will pay a visit to Kenan Stadium to battle for the Victory Bell.