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UNC vs. Wake Forest: Three Things Learned

Sam Howell was his usual incredible self, but two other players deserve a lot of praise.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t do the situation justice to say that yesterday’s game against Wake Forest was a nail-biter. After (allegedly) fumbling the ball on the opening drive, The Heels and the Deacs proceeded to trade blows before Wake Forest pulled ahead for most of the game. Eventually UNC’s defense showed up and got some big stops, including Cam’Ron Kelly’s second interception for the game. Sam Howell & Co. did the rest, and the Heels pulled off a huge upset against the ninth-best team in the country.

There’s a lot to unpack from UNC’s big win, but we’re going to try to focus on just three major points like we usually do. Let’s discuss the three things we learned from the Heels’ big win.

Ty Chandler’s glow-up

When the season started, Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler struggled to get a whole lot going on the ground. He wasn’t great at switching gears, he ran downhill a lot without changing direction, and was overall disappointing considering what we had heard about him prior to the season’s start. Yesterday, however, we saw the extremely good version of Chandler, as he finished the game with a career-high 213 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

While Wake Forests’ defense isn’t exactly known to be world-beaters, Chandler has overall looked like a much improved running back lately. All of those things that I mentioned he lacked earlier in the season have been on full display, and it’s been a lot more difficult for defenders to take him down. According to our good friend Jake Lawrence, he’s also just six touchdowns away from breaking the school record:

When Ty Chandler is playing like this, it really opens up things for the entire offense. We’ll have to enjoy it while it lasts, because unfortunately this will be his only season in Carolina blue.

Storm Duck has returned, and it’s a very good thing

As Jake also pointed out, junior defensive back Storm Duck returning to the lineup was huge for the Heels’ defense yesterday. Sure, the team allowed 55 points, but considering how long Duck has been out, he had an impressive return game. He finished the game with five solo tackles, and also broke up a pass on Wake’s second to last drive that led to a turnover on downs. UNC got the ball back, and Ty Chandler broke free for a 50-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

While UNC’s defensive backs have had good moments at times this season, Storm Duck’s absence from the lineup was very noticeable. Things would’ve been even worse if he couldn’t play against Wake now that Don Chapman is out for the season, so his return couldn’t have had better timing. Welcome back, Storm Duck, and let’s hope that health and luck are on your side moving forward.

Taking a moment to appreciate Sam Howell

It’s really difficult to discuss claim that anything good about Sam Howell is something that we learned from any single game, but we have to take a moment to discuss some things that he pulled off yesterday. For starters, Josh Downs somehow did not have the most receptions against Wake Forest, which is the first time we’ve been able to say that this season. Antoine Green pulled down the most catches, finishing the game with six receptions for 83 yards and Howell’s lone touchdown pass. Downs finished this one with four catches for just 35 yards.

When it comes to total production, this wasn’t Howell’s best passing game, but he was still able to get more receivers involved not named Josh Downs, which went a long way in helping the team move the ball. He also ran as tough as he usually does, finishing this one with 21 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. There was a big scare in the fourth quarter after getting tackled in the red zone, but eventually Howell got up and sat out for one play before going back in. The Heels put up 10 more points, and the rest is history.

Once again, it’s no secret that Howell is incredible regardless of how this season has gone so far (I could write a whole other article about how it’s not his fault). However, I thought it’d be important to take a moment to give him his flowers, because he has been arguably the biggest reason that this team is now above .500 going into Thursday’s game against Pitt. Can he help the Heels take down their second ranked opponent in less than seven days? Stay tuned to find out.