Coming into the season ranked in the top 25 with a legit Heisman candidate in Sam Howell meant that expectations for Carolina football were high before they ever stepped on the field for the first time. The Tar Heels entered today’s game as 23-point favorites over Syracuse, and that looked like a big bust for three quarters of football.
Fortunately, the 4th quarter Tar Heels are still a thing and they returned with a vengeance today against the Orange, scoring 21 points in the final quarter of the game. Carolina scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game when Sam Howell hit tight end Garrett Walston for an 11-yard score. From there, the offense looked every bit the part of a rusty unit that had not gotten regular reps over the summer.
The defense was up to the task of limiting Syracuse on the scoreboard despite a number of opportunities handed to them by Tar Heel turnovers. All six of the Orange’s points came off turnovers, but it could have been much worse if they had been able to capitalize.
UNC’s defense was relentless against Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito, sacking him seven times. Chazz Surratt picked up where he left off last year with two sacks on the day. Tomari Fox contributed two sacks of his own, and his brother Tomon sacked Syracuse’s quarterback once as well. Sophomore Giovanni Biggers came up with an interception in the final minutes of the game for the team’s first and only pick of the day.
Sam Howell didn’t have his best game by any means, but he cobbled together nearly 300 yards and one touchdown. He did have two interceptions, one of which was particularly ugly, but some rust is certainly to be expected considering the circumstances. Dyami Brown was the team’s leading receiver with 90 yards on six catches. The two-headed monster of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter put together 135 yards and three touchdowns as well.
Carolina held Syracuse to just 202 total yards on the day while they accumulated 463 on their side of the ball. DeVito was only able to average 3.6 yards per pass against the Heels’ defense.
One particularly ugly spot of the game for UNC was on special teams. It looked, quite frankly, like a mess for pretty much all of the first half. There were also a number of bad penalties that totaled 91 yards against the Heels. Much like the offense, some rust is probably to be expected here. Hopefully they’ll clean that up in practice between now and next week.
The Tar Heels will be back in action next week against Charlotte.