It felt good to watch a game that didn’t require you to sweat it out to the end. With the Tar Heels needing two wins to get to bowl eligibility and the rivalry game happening in Raleigh next weekend, you’d have been right to worry about Carolina coming out a little tight. Fortunately, any worries about that were erased immediately. The Tar Heels sent their seniors out in style, and now it all comes down to one game in Raleigh to extend their season.
It’s amazing that we’re almost at the end, so let’s see what shined, what stunk, and what deserved to be mentioned in the Tar Heels’ penultimate game of the 2019 regular season.
Sam Howell: On a cold, blustery, and rainy day in Chapel Hill, the minimum you were hoping for was that no one would get injured and that Howell wouldn’t be required to be on the field for long. You sure didn’t expect to see him go 10/13 for 152 yards and three touchdowns. That line doesn’t even really do justice to the true freshman as he spent most of the first half perfect and had an absurd rating until the drop later in the second quarter. He also had a 66 yard bomb to Dyami Brown that was just an absolute dime.
That was the first passing score of the day for Howell, and in the end he passed Mitch Trubisky as Carolina’s all-time TD tosser, and did it as a true freshman. He showed a quarterback run as well, which may come in handy if their opponent next week loads up to try and stop the Law Firm. There are few times fans get to watch a quarterback have a season as special as this one, and with Howell at Carolina for likely two more seasons, there’s a real chance that a most of the quarterback records will have Howell at the top of them.
The Law Firm: Carter, Williams, and Williams all had great days in their own way on Saturday. Antonio Williams got the offense off to a quick start by cashing in the fumble on only the game’s third play, a fitting result on his Senior Day. He would get 65 yards on the ground and had a 26-yard run to pad that total. Michael Carter ultimately had the best day of the firm by scoring three touchdowns and going for 159 yards. Carter was one of the lone offensive starters to come out for the second half, and he ended his day in a hurry.
So why was Javonte Williams a winner when he only had six carries for 27 yards? Because he only had six carries. It’s no secret that Williams had been hurting the last couple of weeks, and the staff was able to limit his carries and keep him fresh for next week. All three running backs are going strong and about to go up against a team that gave up over 400 yards of rushing to BC a few weeks ago.
First Team Defense: From Chazz Surratt recovering the fumble on the first play of the game thanks to tackle by Don Chapman, to the great coverage on the fake field goal and ultimate interception by Storm Duck, the starters on defense did not have to spend a lot of time on the field by limiting the possessions of the Bears. For a unit that had played an ungodly amount of snaps being able to stay off the field was huge. Combine their short day with the extra rest they got by playing the Thursday game the week prior, and they should be ready to give it one last push this weekend. They beat up an inferior opponent and didn't give them any chance to hang around, meaning it was an absolutely perfect day for them.
The Weather: If you made it to Kenan on Saturday and hung through the weather-be it because you bought a ticket, went as a student, are a member of the band or cheer squad- bless you. All of the seniors-and I’m speaking not only on the football team but the aforementioned other student groups-deserved their last game in Kenan to have better weather, but sometimes you just can’t control mother nature. It’s great that Carolina gets to celebrate selling out all six home games, but asking anyone to sit through three hours of that mess on Saturday is a lot of anyone, especially the week before Thanksgiving when a lot of folks need to be in good health to see families. In short, you can’t blame anyone for staying home for a game against that opponent, Senior Day or no. At least those celebrating their last home game got to enjoy an easy win, and it was over quickly for those who went.
No shutout: The game got to 56-0 in the third thanks to hard work by the bench players on offense, and the only other thing to claim was shutting their opponent. They were on a good track for that until the fourth quarter when Mercer switched quarterbacks and put together a pretty methodical drive of ten plays for 90 yards and a touchdown. It was good burn for a lot of players that haven’t seen the field this season, and that drive showed possibly why the first string had played so many downs so far.
Third Down Offense: Granted it really is picking nits at this point, but if there is one thing you would hoping would improve stat-wise going into next weekend it was the third down conversion numbers, but the Tar Heels were only 2-8 overall. That stat is heavily skewed, of course, because a lot of those failures came in the second half well after the game was decided, and the first string offense barely spent any time on the field. Still, a number that wasn’t great coming in for the Tar Heels will just get worse.
Josh Henderson may have just earned his partnership in the Law Firm on Saturday with his second half performance of 13 carries and 98 yards. He may not have scored, but he kept the clock moving and looked like he will be able to step right in next season when Antonio Williams graduates....Jake Bargas showed that the tight ends do indeed have the ability to leak out, get open, and catch short passes as he was responsible for a rare red zone score in the second...give it up for Raymond Vohasek and Javon Terry who were each able to record a sack...Another sign the defense was able to get a lot of rest? Eugene Asante was the leading tackler on the day with eight. The Freshman won’t be able to redshirt because of depth issues, but it was good to see him get some meaningful work for the first time this season...Noah Ruggles and Michael Rubino combined to hit all nine of their extra points, which for college kickers in the elements on Saturday is extraordinary.