If you were able to navigate your viewing device to Stadium TV on Saturday afternoon, you were treated to a nice, clean, efficient, and pleasant 53-23 North Carolina win in Norfolk. Nice, clean, efficient, and pleasant wouldn’t characterize the viewing experience, but one assumes the C-USA affiliates will get some HD cameras before the Heels’ future trips to Charlotte and Georgia State.
The Heels were extremely tidy (minus two big miscues) in the first half, and laid off the gas big time in the second. Supposedly, Larry Fedora thought it would be bad form to hang 80 on Old Dominion again.
Chazz Surratt is the quarterback of the future— and of the present.
The Denver (N.C., not Colorado, Stadium TV) product took another step in his development, and did not share snaps with Brandon Harris until the garbage-est of garbage time. Despite at times still looking like a freshman, Surratt led an efficient attack in the first half and made a couple of highlight plays.
- The seam route to Carl Tucker was the definition of trusting your receiver to make a play. Even though he threw it into triple coverage, it was the correct read as there were no eyes on the receiver. For what he lacks in arm strength, the touch to get it between the second and third levels was impressive.
- The 3rd down scramble to get into the end zone to go up 18-0 was a thing of beauty. He was flushed after his initial read, and tiptoed the sideline before surprising me (and others) with a quick burst to reach the goal line largely untouched.
Moving forward, you still want Surratt to hang in the pocket and go through progressions a little better, but you can’t argue with 16/24 for 257 yards (10.1 YPP).
The Heels might have some untapped depth in the secondary.
While the young secondary has not been Vic Koenning-era bad thus far, it hasn’t been great. Myles Dorn was out of position on a few plays, and Old Dominion hit (and missed) some deep shots against coverage busts.
There were some positives from unexpected sources, though. Junior safety J.K. Britt was in on a few plays, recovering a fumble, laying the wood on at least two occasions, and looked quite good.
Redshirt freshman Myles Wolfolk got his first extended look (mostly in the nickel), and acquitted himself well with a second quarter interception. If Wolfolk can handle the slot, it frees up M.J. Stewart to lock down one side of the field. That would be a huge development.
With Daniel Jones and Duke coming to town next week, the secondary still needs to make massive steps forward. But there is strength in numbers, and hopefully the Heels found a couple of new bodies.
The injury bug continues to bite.
It just feels like one of those seasons, doesn’t it? The offensive line, already missing leaders Bentley Spain and Cam Dillard, briefly lost its only other upperclassman, Khaliel Rodgers, on the fourth play of the game. Fortunately, he was able to return and played well.
Andre Smith didn’t make the trip to Norfolk, and the linebackers had their best game of the young season. Clearly, there’s a level of competition adjustment to be made, but Cayson Collins was a beast in his first extended look of the season, and Jonathan Smith was fine replacing Andre at the Mike.
Thomas Jackson’s knee injury looked grisly. Apparently, veteran leaders on the 2017 Tar Heels roster need to be bubble wrapped. The future is now with Dazz Newsome and Roscoe Johnson at A-back.
There’s not much to take away from this game, the Heels quickly and efficiently dispatched an inferior opponent. Doing so on the road was a nice touch, and hopefully the confidence boost from a win will pay dividends with key games against Duke and Georgia Tech on the horizon.