Yes, this column is normally winners, losers, and honorable mentions, but beating a top 10 team on the road means everyone was a winner. Thus, much like Akil’s position grades from yesterday, we’re going all-in on the rosy picture and basking in perhaps the biggest win in modern UNC football history, and certainly the biggest in recent memory.
Much like the Military Bowl win against Temple last year, the Tar Heels controlled the ball from start to finish and put on a complete game. This time, however, it was on the biggest stage possible: network TV in a prime spot with only the Army/Navy game as competition, and with the top crew in college football calling the game. Lets stop with the platitudes and just get right down to the list.
Winners. Nothing but Winners.
Michael Carter & Javonte Williams: Either running back putting up the numbers they did on their own would be worthy of discussion across college football. But for one to have a 236 yard game, only to have it eclipsed by seventy-two yards to put up a combined 544 on the ground between them, is historic. Literally. There has never been a pair in FBS history that has put up more yards on the ground than these two. The pair traded highlights, leaving Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit in awe as they just piled up the yards. First Javonte Williams scores two TD’s near the goal line, then Michael Carter decides to do this:
In retrospect this took any chance Miami had of getting back into the game away from them. The two traded wonderful runs, more touchdowns, and then finally Williams just snatched the souls straight out of the body of the Hurricanes:
Both finish the year well over 1,000 yards. Williams now holds the single season record for rushing touchdowns. They combined for five touchdowns on the day. Miami just kept giving them angles to run, and they kept taking what they could get. We’ll get into the other components of this later, but let’s just sit back in awe at the display we saw Saturday.
And look, Javonte Williams has deserved all of the accolades and attention he’s gotten this season, and there is zero doubt now he’ll be going to the NFL once this season is done because, hey, go make that money. However, you can’t help but to feel great for Michael Carter. The senior genuinely enjoyed sharing the spotlight with the junior, probably having his TD number cut down heavily because of Williams’ bullrushing ability. To see him light it up on the national stage at the best possible time was amazing to witness, and then he rightfully got the honor to be interviewed after the game was over. However, true to form, he had to take a moment to be with his teammates during it:
If your name is @8kMike and you rushed for over 300 yards, you are allowed to leave the interview, celebrate with your team and come back @TarHeelFootball pic.twitter.com/4RGBGctl23— Maria Taylor (@MariaTaylor) December 13, 2020
Sam Howell: He wasn’t the biggest reason the Tar Heels won on Saturday, and that alone makes him a huge winner. For so much of his UNC career you could tell he felt the pressure to do something himself, even with all this talent behind him. Instead, the junior had a fairly pedestrian day of 14/19, 223 yards, and one passing touchdown.
His lone touchdown pass came after his rushing touchdown. And after his receiving touchdown.
Near the end of the game game when the result was no longer in doubt, it became clear that Longo and the offensive staff wanted to put some plays out into the ether to force teams down the road to prepare for them. The quarterback rush and the “Philly Special” play that got Howell his two scores demonstrated the amount of growth from the sophomore in his second season, and he still showed that he can fling the ball thanks to two cannon shots to...
Dyami Brown: Speaking of people who are likely gone after this season, the junior continued his statement season by hauling in a couple of absolute beauties from Howell at different points in the game. He wasn’t quite able to get free to score, but his 167 yards on four catches were enough to make the mark. Seriously, the runs from Carter and Williams were all so amazing it’s easy to forget these absolute highlight reel pass and catches, so let’s relive them:
It’s not that Miami forgot to cover him — on both of these catches you can see that Brown just blew by his coverage. Brown is something special and if he’s heading to the pros after this, one hopes he’s going to make some noise on Sundays.
Chazz Surratt: One last gif before we celebrate the entirety of the defense.
Chazz Surratt had a lot of hype on him to start this year, and for the most part he suffered as he was missing the support he had to stand out last season. In the last couple of games, however, he’s been rounding back into that first team ACC form, and Saturday was his best game. He led the team in tackles with ten total, including six solo, had two pass break ups, and of course this wonderful stop on fourth down in the first quarter to blunt any chance of Miami Momentum. Surratt was instantly rewarded with the Michael Carter score that is posted above.
More on Bateman in a second, but the DC used Surratt as a spy to keep Miami star QB D’Eriq King in check, smartly pairing up the athletic ability of the former QB to keep an eye on the Houston transfer. King was never able to break for a really long run, and it was because of the discipline and growth that Surratt has shown in the position in only his second year. It should go without staying, but considering what happened to Surratt the last time he played in Miami Gardens, it had to feel good for him to basically bookend it with that performance. Here’s hoping he gets one more time in Hard Rock.
Phil Longo: The offense as a whole looked crisp, and Longo clearly used the time between Notre Dame and this game to study what didn’t work well against the Irish, and what would work with the Hurricanes. This is a defense that gave up just over 50 yards to Duke last weekend, and was in the top ten nationally They generally had the type of talent up front that tends to give the Tar Heels trouble. Instead, he quickly found what worked and just stuck with it. The one deep ball to Dyami seemed to force Miami to decide they couldn’t let their receivers go one on one with their secondary, and Longo recognized this calling run, after run, after run. The Philly Special play was run well, and overall the OC put together some strong tape that he may take into an offseason interview or two. Here’s hoping he wants to at least finish it out with Howell before seriously considering moving on.
Offensive Line: Plain and simple, if the Tar Heels lose both Michael Carter and Javonte Williams to the pros this year, fans shouldn’t worry too much about Josh Henderson, British Brooks, and Elijah Green being able to step up. That trio is talented, sure, but the offensive line providing the lanes and the room for Carter and Williams to operate has gotten so much better together as the year has gone on, and there isn’t a single senior in the bunch. Only Brian Anderson has a real chance to leave early, but his season has been so injury-filled there's a good chance he wants to finish on top. A deep, experienced offensive line with a junior quarterback starting next season? Whoo boy.
Jay Bateman: Do not give this man two weeks to prep for you, he will make you pay. The defense held Notre Dame as much as they could a couple weeks ago, as it was the stagnant offense that failed the Tar Heels against the Irish. Bateman was able to adjust as the year went on, integrated some of the young talent that had been signed this year, and create a scheme that relied less on blitzing and more on containing threats. It befuddled King almost all day, and while the quarterback was able to get a couple of scores under his belt, for the most part he was seeing ghosts and it was difficult for him to really get any rhythm on the day. Knowing what Bateman was able to do in the Military Bowl last year, and now realizing he’ll have at least three weeks to prep for this year’s bowl game, has to give fans hope that the defense can once again finish on a high note.
Tony Grimes: Maybe you’ve gotten tired of Fowler and Herbstreit the last couple of games emphasizing the fact that Grimes should be a senior in high school right now, but you shouldn’t. Maybe he let a few bad plays go on Saturday, but he got the only pick of the day on this outstanding play that one wouldn’t expect from a high school senior, let alone a college freshman. He let everyone know on Saturday he’s going to be a force in the secondary.
The ACC: The conference now has a bonafide force in the Coastal Division should they go back to the division set up next year, and a clear threat to Clemson. The attitude the Tar Heels exuded while beating the Hurricanes also suggests a budding rivalry that could be fun for the conference to showcase. Also thanks to the results of the other games, the ACC has a real shot to get two teams in the CFP and a team in the Orange Bowl, pulling off the trifecta in the CFP. In a year where all of the athletic departments are facing shortfalls due to no fan revenue, getting a third paycheck from the CFP would be huge for all involved.
Orange Bowl: Officials had to be thrilled at the prospect that they’ll either get this electric Tar Heels team or a Clemson team with Trevor Lawrence’s last game in their bowl that has almost become an afterthought in recent years, thanks to the dominance of the Tigers and the rest of the league being mediocre. Pair that with who they get from the SEC, and it has a chance to be the best non-CFP bowl game. We’ll know this time next week what the fates allow fore.
Mack Brown: In two short years, Brown has completely revitalized the UNC football program, bringing an excitement and stability that it hasn’t had in a long time, and this week is just going to further cement just how strong things are with yet another stellar recruiting class. He’s having fun, and he also got to make a nice little jab at a former assistant even if he won’t acknowledge that he was, as Jake pointed out Saturday:
I applaud Mack for reminding Manny Diaz why Mack fired him at Texas.— Jake Lawrence (@TheRealestRJL) December 12, 2020
Consider Texas is once again having to issue statements of support for their head coach and where Mack stands now, Brown has to be smiling from ear to ear right now. Even if he still can’t dance.
When we win, we dance!#CarolinaFootball #BeTheOne pic.twitter.com/oSufYIsu8i— Carolina Football (@TarHeelFootball) December 13, 2020
North Carolina Football Fans: Seriously, while those losses against UVa and FSU hurt, the fact remains that the program isn’t quite at the level to where they could have beat Notre Dame two weeks ago. Even if the two losses were wins they would have been in a similar position: waiting on the ACC Championship Game result to see if they would go to the Orange Bowl. Maybe they could have had an argument to going there over Clemson with just one loss, but it’s nitpicking. I’ve described over and over again how being a Carolina football fan is like watching Lucy continually pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Watching the game on Saturday felt like this:
Sit back and enjoy this week, Carolina fans. Your football team is in serious contention for a major bowl game, they are the talk of college football due to their offensive domination, they’ve established themselves as a top-tier team in the conference, and the future only looks brighter. These truly are strange times.
But it is 2020 after all, right?