There were plenty of areas to nitpick after North Carolina’s 43-41 six-overtime loss to Virginia Tech. One area of the game that was difficult to criticize, however, was the quarterback position.
True freshman Sam Howell just continues to improve with each week. On Saturday, he threw for 348 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions on 26/49 passing. That fifth touchdown, an 8-yard dart to Beau Corrales during the second overtime, tied the single-game record for touchdown passes at UNC. He also broke the school’s freshman record for passing touchdowns in a season...in the seventh game of the year.
For the third time this season, Howell was awarded ACC quarterback of the week honors. No other QB in the conference has more than one. Howell’s performance against Virginia Tech was also the third time in four weeks that he’s eclipsed 300 yards.
On the year, Howell has thrown for 1,892 yards and 20 touchdowns with just three interceptions. It was thought that he would mostly be a game manager in his first season but the coaching staff has turned him loose more than expected. Howell’s ability to avoid critical errors is something rarely seen from players with his youth. His progression to this point certainly bodes well for the future of Carolina football.
This coming Saturday, the Tar Heels will welcome the Duke Blue Devils to Kenan Stadium in a game that has major implications in terms of Carolina’s bowl eligibility hopes and positioning in the ACC Coastal. The play-calling against the Hokies seemed to alienate the running game at times, so it’ll be interesting to see if OC Phil Longo pulls back on his usage of Howell at all. No matter what, though, if the freshman quarterback continues to play like this, the Heels should have a good chance at defeating the Blue Devils and returning the Victory Bell to Chapel Hill.