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UNC 56, VT 45 - Player of the Game: Michael Carter

The senior running back sliced up some turkeys on his way to a career day

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Well, no surprise here, right? When you run for over 200 yards at 12.6 yards per carry, it pretty much doesn’t matter what the rest of the team did: you’re the player of the game. And Michael Carter did just that, putting up video game numbers against a pretty solid Virginia Tech front that had allowed just 3.5 yards per rush or so in its two games prior. As one half of what has to be the best running back duo in the country, Carter sliced up the Hokie defense at will with his trademark combination of patience, slipperiness, and speed (and he’s even faster this year than he has been) to the tune of 214 yards, pacing the Heels to a win where their offense just could not be stopped.

Both of Carter’s touchdowns were highlight-reel plays: the first a 16-yarder where he weaved through the entire defensive formation and ran around a couple of tackles, the second a 62-yarder on 1st and 25 to put the game away, where he reminded Tyler Matheny he was a walk-on by absolutely destroying his pursuit angle — prompting even Dan Orlovsky, the color analyst, to whoop “you’re not good enough!” But even minus the house calls, Carter was making big plays all day long, including a couple of long runs deep into the red zone to set up running scores by Javonte Williams and Dazz Newsome. The punch-counterpunch of UNC’s backfield worked perfectly, with Carter’s 17 carries mixing in seamlessly with Williams’ 20 for 169 (a POG-worthy performance itself if Carter hadn’t done what he did) to absolutely — there’s really no other way to say it — shred Virginia Tech’s defense.

Carter had a single lowlight on the day, which was a dropped swing pass on third down that would have given the Heels an easy first and led to one of just three failed drives on the day. He kept so many of the other drives going, though, and redeemed the drop with a catch for 15 yards a few drives later, so he's forgiven. His yards per carry average was the highest in school history, his yardage total was the most since Elijah Hood murdered NC State in 2015 (and Carter was splitting carries with Williams), and, to cap it all off, Michael Carter now leads the nation in rushing yards per attempt with 10.3 through three games. Pretty, pretty good. If he is this good through the entire year, UNC is going to be really tough to beat -- for anybody.

Some honorable mentions can go to Williams and Sam Howell, who was just about perfect through the air but didn't get quite as many touches as the running game did, and to Don Chapman on the defensive side for coming into his own and having a really good first half and fourth quarter in coverage and run support: it was a pity that a PBU he should have had turned into a fluke touchdown reception.