So that’s what the offense was supposed to look like, eh?
While the game had us all on the edge of our seat a little bit more than was necessary, it was fun to sit back and just watch a masterclass in progress in Kenan Stadium on Saturday. Not only was that Carolina’s best offensive performance of the season by far, it was arguably their best offensive performance in a long time. It’s their highest point output since 2017, and the highest against an ACC opponent since 2015. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t be enjoyed more because of the rolls that the Hokies were able to get on at various points.
There’s a lot to like and not like about Saturday, so let’s dig right in:
Carter & Williams, LLC: What else can you say about this duo? They accounted for 383 yards on the ground, caught another 60 yards, and had four touchdowns. Michael Carter averaged a staggering 12.6 yards per carry, while Javonte Williams only managed 8.5 yards. The offense never really had to worry because these two were always getting big pickups and never leaving Sam Howell behind the chains. The depleted Hokie defense had been propped up somewhat by their offense, but they hadn’t faced any sort of combination like this duo yet, and it showed. There were several plays in the second half where it looked like multiple members of the defense just quit trying to tackle either back, and after a couple of weeks of Williams stealing all the touchdowns Carter got his due. The Law Firm put the rest of the ACC on notice Saturday: you’re going to have to pick your poison with this team.
Phil Longo: Let’s give some love to the OC that a lot of folks worried was too stubborn to do what works well. Saying that he called a perfect game doesn’t do it justice. Seriously, look at this drive chart. Carolina had twelve drive totals. Eight ended in touchdowns. Three ended in punts, but each one of those drives saw a catch for a first down dropped by a wide open receiver (more on that in a second), and the other drive was technically a turnover on downs when the Tar Heels were just trying to wind down the clock, but saw the team take the ball at the 5:18 mark and wind all but one second off the clock. The drops are not the fault of the OC, and Longo did a great job just sticking with what works: running the Law Firm until VT would fall asleep and leave someone open for one on one coverage. He did a great job of having Howell throw short and move the chains, and Howell looked the most comfortable he has all season. If you were excited about what this offense could do by the end of the game, you have every reason to.
Offensive Line: Michael gave this group an A yesterday in his grades, and it’s well-deserved. Howell barely had any stress all day, only dealing with one sack that came after a dropped first down pass, otherwise he was able to easily make the best decision that led to his 18-23 performance. You also can’t have 399 yards on the ground rushing without some great work up front. This group was so good, the running backs literally could just take a second to wait for the hole to open up for them. I’d go back and throw some gifs on here so you can admire it, but really just go back and watch every offensive drive on the condensed game. Carter and Williams do some amazing work in the open field to avoid getting tackled by the secondary, but they barely had to work to get by the front line. Much love to the big guys!
Jay Bateman: This, to some extent, is being a little unfair to the DC but at the same time, when you go up 21-0 on a team there’s really no reason that they should keep coming back to make you sweat. Despite the dominance on offense, the defense surrendered 260 yards on the ground, 235 in the air, 45 points, and all of their three and outs came at the start of the game. Once VT got some momentum the defense provided very little resistance, and they were only able to get one sack all day through the rotating quarterbacks. You can at least explain away the second half in that the defense ended up on the field for a long time thanks to the field goal, onside kick, touchdown, three-and-out series in the third quarter that ultimately saw the Hokies pull to within four. At the same time there was no secret about what the Hokies were going to do, and the defense has to give the offense a little more support.
Dyami Brown & Michael Carter: How can guys that contributed four touchdowns end up here? Because they were also a big reason that this game was too close for comfort. Both players had easy passes at the sticks to keep drives going, and both had drops that turned those drives into three-and-outs, giving Virginia Tech the ball back and kept them in the game. Drops continue to be a problem for this team, and the feast or famine nature of Dyami Brown is annoying. Credit Sam Howell, though, for not panicking and giving those two chances to make amends in various ways. It’s also upset to be too mad at them when, you know, they score four touchdowns.
Jonathan Kim: Also a little tongue-in-cheek here as he saw his touchback streak stopped thanks to Dazz Newsome. Dazz was clearly getting some frustrations out after a rough first couple of weeks, and celebrated a little too hard after his second quarter score that put Carolina up 28-14. The 15-yarder was put on the kickoff, and while Kim has been an absolute weapon, he just didn’t have the leg to kick it 80 yards into the end zone. He was so upset he decided to take it out on the Virginia Tech returner. Seriously, I hope Dazz makes it up to Kim and the kickoff coverage team for making them have to work the first time this season.
As mentioned, let’s give some credit to Dazz Newsome for easily his best game of the season, getting credit for that rushing touchdown in the second, and catching another seven passes for a nice 69 yards and another touchdown. He was also an absolute beast blocking downfield for the Law Firm, as it seemed like every time you saw one of the backs in the secondary you saw Number 5 sealing off a Hokie defender. I get why he was chirping after that touchdown, it’s just a shame it cost Kim his touchback streak...Give Don Chapman and Cam’ron Kelly some props for being the leading tacklers Saturday, Kelly even coming in and getting a tackle for loss. The problem is that when your two leading tacklers are defensive backs, it means your linemen and backers are getting trucked...Jeremiah Gemmel drew raves from color commentator Dan Orlovsky during the game, and he seemed to be all over the field. He did seem to tire as the game went on, but he stepped into the spotlight that seemed to escape Chazz Surratt all day.