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UNC vs. Miami: Three Things Learned

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The Coastal Division goes through Chapel Hill from now on

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

Tanya summarized the beat down Carolina put on Miami yesterday quite nicely. I don’t want to sound too hyperbolic, but this was the type of program-altering win (and loss for Miami) that will affect the Coastal division for years to come. Here are three things learned from a “salt the earth” win over the Hurricanes:

Carolina’s running backs were too much for Miami

Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler were effusive in their praise of Mack Brown’s team, particularly the running back duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. They said Carolina was sending a statement to Miami, the nation, and to top recruits across the country. I can’t argue with that. UNC’s star running backs ran riot over the Hurricanes, bursting for long yards, endless first downs, and some really physical hits over defenders in open space.

These two Tweets speak to the numbers the Gruesome Twosome compiled (544 combined yards rushing, 5 touchdowns):

This Tweet shows the terrible physical toll they made Miami pay:

If you’re a four or five star running back, you’ve gotta be beating down doors to get in this offense!

Defensive freshmen are sophomores now

When Jay Bateman made the concerted effort to get his star freshmen more game action after the bye week, there were some mistakes that needed ironing out, but the talent that oozed out of their pores and made this the Heels’ first top-15 class in a while was plain to see. Carolina’s defense reaped the rewards of getting their growing pains out against a Miami offense that had exactly what killed the Tar Heels all season. D’Eriq King was largely neutralized, and the Hurricanes put up points when the game was no longer in doubt.

Freshman nickelback Ja’Qurious Conley looked like a heat-seeking missile, making plays in open space and wrapping up slippery runners with power. He was good for six tackles (two for loss) and a sack. Freshman DL Clyde Pinder was a monster on the line. He also had a sack late in the game to tie it all up.

But special praise belongs to freshman cornerback Tony Grimes. He made a huge play in the second half, intercepting a pass to junior wideout Dee Wiggins. Grimes had complete awareness on the play. He turned his head to locate the ball as Wiggins turned his, saw the incoming underthrow, and decided to defend man instead of ball.

You can see Grimes turn his head back to Wiggins and wait until the ball reaches his hands or chest. First he tried to deflect the pass by sticking his hand straight up to prevent a catch. When Wiggins began bringing the ball in, Grimes simply outfought him for the ball, and in their tumble, wrestled it away for the interception.

Make no mistake. Tony Grimes, a youngster who should be graduating from high school in six months, will be an absolute monster whenever he leaves Chapel Hill. His effort on that play reminded me of the frog choking the stork that is trying to swallow him: Never give up!

Tar Heels primed for Orange Bowl bid

Provided nothing squirrelly happens next week and Notre Dame and Clemson both finish the season in the CFP top four, there’s every reason to believe that Mack Brown will bring the Tar Heels back to Miami on January 2, 2021. Even the most optimistic UNC homer would be hard pressed to believe that Carolina football would be perched this high so soon. After the 3-8 team in 2017 and Mack 2.0’s first team needing to win its last two games against Mercer and NCSU to become bowl eligible, the Tar Heels have made astounding progress.

This season, the Notre Dame loss is the only one that didn’t feel like an aberration. Next year, if Carolina can ensure that it beats the teams below them (*cough* Florida State, *cough* Virginia) Tar Heel fans can start to dream about matching up with Clemson for the ACC championship.

If you’re honest with yourself, when Mack Brown was announced as the new head coach, did you think this was even possible? And if you did, did you think it would happen so soon?

I did not. But I’m so, so glad to be wrong.