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Tar Heel Hangover: Breaking through.

Is this a sign of things to come?

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.

A fantastic third quarter was enough to pull out the season’s first victory in the delayed home opener. The penalties and mistakes were kept to a minimum, which led to the close victory.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

My hat’s off for using the unscheduled off week to get healthy, organized, and rested. The scoring run in the third quarter and the solid play down the stretch was refreshing to view as a fan. It also may have been in large part due to the players being refreshed.

The challenge as a coaching staff is to play next week as though this week was a bye, on five days off. Perhaps it is a conditioning program that is not quite working. Perhaps it is a recruiting haul that does not quite fill the coffers to the level necessary for a Power 5 season. Whatever the case, the staff must find a way to replicate this level of second half energy in the coming weeks.

There is also a quarterback decision coming. Nathan Elliott went 22 of 31 for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers.

Watching the game was somewhat less impressive. Elliott clearly made some great plays and kept drives moving at key points. His accuracy on down field throws, however, combined with him getting quickly flustered in the pocket, felt more like game management than game control.

Excluding receiver sweeps, sneaks, and sacks, there were just over 30 running plays for the game. This number is going to have to increase to keep the pressure off Elliott and maintain the opportunity for success..

Lying In Bed, I Wish I Could Change . . .

The killer instinct, or lack thereof. I am not ready to link the nearly blown second half lead versus Pitt with the complete effort abandonment versus East Carolina. I am, however, ready to note that taking the foot off the gas will be costly versus more talented teams.

Last week, I noted that the game could be a penalty filled affair. I thought that the team with the fewest penalties could well come out ahead. As it turns out, this was a cleanly played game. Both teams accepted only 5 penalties for a total of 45 yards. For the heels, with a narrow margin of error, this has to continue. Of the five penalties, I believe most if not all came during the second half when it was time to put the hammer down.

Looking Forward: Miami Hurricanes on Thursday night.

According to the four letter, the Heels have less than a ten percent chance of winning on Thursday.

A win will require outstanding execution and perhaps even better discipline. There will need to be key first downs through the air. Most importantly, however, there will have to be a significant time of possession advantage and a win in the turnover battle.

I will be carefully monitoring the number of pure running plays. Anything over 40 means that the Tar Heels are asserting their will, moving the ball, and controlling the clock. Anything less, and the hopes of victory are not high.

Final Thoughts

After a difficult start to the season, the Heels are 1-0 in the division. Getting to 2-0 is unlikely, but there is hope.