Going into the game against Boston College, it would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that the game would be pretty easy as Boston College was coming off an unimpressive performance against Texas State, had a brand new head coach, and a transfer quarterback. The Tar Heels brought in experience and arguably better talent, so there was a reason why the line had swelled to two touchdowns by the time the ball was in the air.
The problem with that, of course, is that the team on the other side of the ball had been off for three weeks and essentially had to approach this game as another season opener instead of being able to build off the success of their game against Syracuse. Boston College had a rhythm, tape on Sam Howell, and that transfer quarterback had more poise than the Tar Heels expected. It added up to a game that was much closer than it should have been. However, it was still a win, and there was a lot to be happy about. Let’s take a look at what shined and what didn’t in Carolina’s 26-22 win in Chestnut Hill.
Running Backs: If you don’t know, now you know: Michael Carter and Javonte Williams are a pair of beasts. The two combined for 178 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and added three catches for 62 yards which included this amazing touchdown.
Credit Howell for having the presence to know exactly where the line of scrimmage was and to see Javonte wide open once BC closed to try and tackle him. Howell has yet to be able to consistently hit his downfield passes as defenders are now wise to his ability down there, and the abilities of Carter and Williams to make defenses pay was a huge reason the Tar Heels won the game Saturday. Those two in the backfield really do make it to where defenses have to pick their poison. So much so that, as Akil mentioned yesterday, they should have been used even better than they were and the score may not have been so close.
Trey Morrison: A once-deep defensive backfield has thinned out considerably, to the point where Morrison is now the safety tasked with being the last line of defense. He stepped up big, collecting a huge pass break up, gaining six solo tackles and, oh yeah, had the play that sealed the game. The rare Pick 2! Stats being what they are, it doesn’t go down as an interception, but as everyone watching was puckering up, Morrison ensured the offense wouldn’t have to sweat it out.
Chazz Surratt: Led the team in tackles with 8, had one of the three elusive Carolina sacks on the day, and as you can see in that clip above was a big reason that Morrison was able to intercept the two point attempt as he was in Phil Jurkovec’s face the entire time, rushing the throw right into the waiting hands of Trey. He also recovered the onside kick that allowed victory formation. Surratt has picked up where he left off, and seemed to be spending a lot of time in the BC backfield on Saturday. It was only the poise of Jurkovec that kept the sack stat from being higher. It’d be easy for him to have fallen back to earth with the pre-season accolades, but so far he’s living up to the hype.
Special Teams: Ugh. Last year, I predicted that Special Teams would cost Carolina at least two wins, a prediction that basically came true thanks to multiple missed field goals against Virginia Tech and App State. Brown realized there needed to be some work in this area, as he switched out coaches and brought in a grad transfer who supposedly could hit from long distance. And yet, you had a mistaken fair catch at the four that ultimately led to one of the two BC touchdowns on the day, and there was yet another missed field goal that could have sealed the game. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and as the competition starts to dial up, this unit needs to start getting it together or they will turn what could be a special season into a pedestrian one.
Offensive Line: Look, just because Sam Howell has a backup now doesn’t mean we should be letting him get killed. Akil, again, went into detail on this, but Howell was sacked four times on Saturday and there were several times that Howell barely escaped adding to that number thanks to his ability to run. BC also was able to get their first touchdown thanks to that pressure and a fumble recovery deep in UNC territory. Howell wants to throw deep and part of the problem is that BC just kept sending pressure, not giving him time to get it down the field. After two games, teams realize that the best way to get under Howell’s skin is to just send a ton of pressure, and if the OL can’t figure out how to stop it the sophomore is going to be hurt before the season is up.
Wide Receivers: The only actual receiver to break 50 yards all day was Dyami Brown, as the longest reception came via the Javonte Williams short toss for the touchdown. This group isn’t doing a lot to help their quarterback, clearly not coming back to get open to where Howell can get the pass to them. Without seeing an all-22 it’s tough to know if the issue was BC’s coverage or pressure, but with this group Howell shouldn’t have to be holding the ball for as long as he is. The Tar Heels had a lot of success with the shorter passes, the aforementioned Williams play as well as passes to Beau Corrales and Garrett Walston. Toe Groves, Dazz Newsome, and Dyami Brown all may need to start cutting their routes a little shorter so they can start getting involved more.
Tomari and Tomon Fox were also beasts on Saturday, getting 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and combined for ten total tackles. The defense as a whole once again played ahead of the offense, as the only touchdown they were really responsible for was the fourth quarter score that led to the two point attempt...Sam Howell played a much better game than the one against Syracuse, as it’s tough to blame him for his interception. He still had the two passing touchdowns and pulled off that amazing play to Javonte. The hope is that now that the team can be in the rhythm of the season next week will show another improvement...Hey, as rough as special teams has been, a shoutout to Jonathan Kim who is 11-11 on kickoffs creating a touchback. It’s a shame he doesn’t have the accuracy to take the field goal job, but not handing the other squad good field position and saving wear and tear of having to defend a kickoff is huge.