Going into Senior Day for Carolina, we knew that this game may get out of hand quickly against the Catamounts. Things did not disappoint, as the Tar Heels took this opportunity to have what was essentially a practice game for both the first and the second team. While it wasn’t exactly a perfect performance against a lesser talented team — UNC turned the ball over three times, with two of those being committed in the second half — it was a dominating victory nonetheless and one that was sorely needed.
The Heels came out of the gate firing on all cylinders on offense. Michael Carter was responsible for two of UNC’s first three touchdowns, gouging the Catamounts’ defense for 17 and 22-yard runs respectively. Sam Howell connected with Antoine green for the second touchdown on a 22-yard pass, which was one of two Howell touchdown throws. Howell now ties for second in career touchdowns throws for UNC, and will almost definitely pass Jameis Winston for the most touchdown throws for a sophomore quarterback in ACC history. He still has a shot at taking Trevor Lawrence’s crown as well, but we will see how things pan out against Miami next weekend.
On the defensive side of the ball the Heels struggled early to contain the Catamounts’ run game. Western Carolina found themselves in scoring distance early, but had to settle for three points. Later in the second half Jacoby Criswell (who we will get to more in just a moment) threw a pick six that got called back due to a penalty, and the defense managed to keep Western Carolina from sniffing out the end zone for the rest of the game. It was good to see the Heels hold up for most of the day after a lackluster start, but they will need to have a complete game next weekend as they face off against a much more talented offense.
Going back to Criswell, the freshman quarterback got some in-game experience due to the 42-3 lead coming out of halftime. There wasn’t a great deal that he was asked to due, as the Heels mainly ran the ball with the exception of his three pass attempts. His two completions were good for 16 yards, but he was also able to gain 12 yards using his feet. Jace Ruder and Jefferson Boaz saw some action as well, but the story was about the same — Phil Longo and Mack Brown mainly decided to run the ball against a defense that was already struggling to deal with the run, and they were able to squeeze one more touchdown out of their game plan thanks to D.J. Jones.
It’s probably safe to say that UNC needed this kind of a game before going against the Hurricanes next week. No disrespect to Western Carolina for referring to the game as more of a “practice”, but the reality is that UNC’s roster proved to be more talented than the guys across the field from them. Mack Brown saw the opportunity to use the second half to get some backup players valuable in-game experience that hopefully will pay off should anything catastrophic happen next week or in their bowl game. As for the first team, it had to be a confidence boost to hang that many points on a team in just one half, and hopefully the Notre Dame game is now behind them so they can get ready for their final game of the regular season.