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UNC vs. Wake Forest: Three Things Learned

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The Tar Heels continue to learn how to win in the face of self-inflected adversity.

Wake Forest v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Veterans Day weekend came after the actual Veterans Day this year, thanks to November 11 falling on a Wednesday. To honor our nation’s veterans, Carolina and Wake Forest collectively put together an offensive explosion reminiscent of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s “shock and awe” campaign. The scoreboard was left in tatters, and both teams’ defensive season average stats were left in a burnt, charred pile.

UNC’s offense started falling behind the pace early in the second quarter and went into halftime with an 11-point deficit, with Wake Forest set to receive the second half kick-off. Things got bleaker still when the Deacs scored 10 unanswered points to drive their lead up to 21, but then, Sam Howell and the offense launched an offensive more devastating than Operation Linebacker II.

Carolina scored the next 35 points (unanswered!!!) and overwhelmed Wake Forest. An inconsequential late touchdown and two-point conversion affected the Vegas line, but not the outcome. It was job done for the Heels. Here are three things learned during this absolutely bonkers game, with a military theme for Veterans Day!

Dazz Newsome comes alive!

Did anyone else notice that we haven’t seen enough of Dazz’s baby-rock touchdown celebration this year?

Last season, Dazz Newsome caught ten touchdown passes, including two beauties in the Military Bowl win over Temple. There was some thought that Dazz would test the NFL Draft waters, but he ultimately came back for his senior year. His stats have not been the same this season, despite steady improvement from his quarterback. Dazz seems to be a victim to Carolina’s commitment to its devastating run game, and Dyami Brown’s impressive start to the season (eight touchdowns so far, including three against Virginia).

Sam Howell made a concerted effort to get the ball to his slot-playmaker early and often, and was rewarded with Dazz’s best performance of the season. Dazz was the first wideout to catch a pass, picking up a first down on 3rd & 3 during UNC’s first drive. On the second drive, he caught a slant pass and took it 75 yards to the house for a one-play drive touchdown.

Newsome’s second touchdown helped the Tar Heels temporarily regain the lead, in a dizzying, back-and-forth first half. He also caught passes in three of the five touchdown drives in the second half during Carolina’s furious gallop to victory. His line for the day was impressive (10 catches, 189 yards, 2 touchdowns) and if he can keep this up against Notre Dame and Miami, UNC has a fighting chance at making the ACC championship game.

When UNC’s defense finally had enough, the comeback was well and truly on

The first half was demoralizing. It was humiliating. Wake Forest statisticians were in an anxious panic with the amount of record book rewriting in store for them.

The Demon Deacons scored touchdowns in five of their seven drives in the first half, then scored ten points during their first two drives of the second half. Even if Sam Howell was perfect, the Tar Heels couldn’t keep up with the Deacs. Since turnovers against Wake are next to impossible, all was lost if the defense couldn’t get some stops.

With 4:43 left in the third quarter, Carolina’s defense gave the team hope, achieving their first three & out of the game. After a stalled series by the Tar Heel offense, the D stepped up again with another three & out! This time, the offense made good, and after a Michael Carter touchdown catch, the defense forced another punt after allowing Wake Forest to only gain 12 yards.

A surprise touchdown pass to tight end Garrett Walston was followed by another three & out, then the go-ahead touchdown run by Sam Howell. Finally, the hammer blow came, when Chazz Surratt sacked Wake Forest quarterback (and the next Deacon to appear on the Bachelor) Sam Hartman at the Wake 15-yard line. A Javonte Williams touchdown run with 2:39 left in the game made the rest of the proceedings academic.

The Tar Heel defense reminded me of Corporal Upham in “Saving Private Ryan.” He was the weakest member of Tom Hanks’s squad. He was bullied and picked on, both by American and German soldiers. But at the penultimate battle at Ramelle, after letting down his team over and over again, Upham finally had enough and killed the German soldier that he had kept alive during the entire movie, which kind of means Upham indirectly killed Tom Hanks.

When Upham let the rest of the German soldiers go, that was Carolina giving up the garbage time touchdown and two-point conversion.

Carolina Football is the F-4 Phantom

Tim McKay

A special Veterans Day shout-out goes to my dad, Colonel (USAF, retired) Tim McKay, who was a weapons system operator on the F-4 Phantom.

UNC’s football team reminds me a lot of the F-4. It was America’s premier fighter during the Vietnam era, despite some substantial design flaws that made it ill-suited to the war it was fighting in. Designed to intercept Soviet bombers at high altitude using new radar-guided missiles, it instead fought nimble MiG-21s in conditions that often negated its advantages. The F-4 had some foundational flaws.

It was so big and heavy, that designers had to incorporate dog-tooth leading edges on the wings and anhedral rear stabilizers to get it to fly right. But good God could it fly. With two massive J79 engines capable of Mach 2+ speed, and nine hardpoints that could carry 18,000 pounds of munitions (three times what a B-17 bomber could carry in WW2) the F-4 was a force to reckoned with.

McDonnell Douglas, the F-4’s design firm, famously said, “Anything given sufficient thrust will eventually fly.” Basically, you can get a boulder to fly if you strap a big enough engine to it. Which brings me back to Carolina’s football team. Sam Howell is the F-4’s engines, he powers the whole plane. At his disposal is a mouthwatering variety of lethal munitions (Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Khafre Brown, Emery Simmons, etc) to unleash on ACC defenses.

The defense right now is the F-4’s design flaws. But those can be overcome.

For UNC to have a chance against Notre Dame and Miami, the defense has to do what they did yesterday; just enough when it matters most. The offense proved that they can put up the points. They just can’t be expected to score on every drive. If the defense can get a few stops per half, and better yet, get some turnovers, Carolina’s record for the rest of the season could reflect the F-4’s record in Vietnam.