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Sam Howell does it all as UNC Football picks up their first win of the season

That’s my quarterback.

Georgia State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

UNC bounced back from their season-opening loss at Virginia Tech with a big 59-17 victory over Georgia State. It was a game a team like the Tar Heels absolutely should have against a team like Georgia State, which will hopefully serve as a springboard for UNC going forward as they try and win the ACC Coastal.

Sam Howell was the hero with his arm and feet for the Heels. He threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns while running for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He became just the second Carolina quarterback to throw for over 300 yards and run for over 100 yards in a game. The UNC ground game has sputtered out of the gate so far in 2021, and it’s not exactly comforting that the team’s prize quarterback has proven to be the team’s best running back in the early going. It worked for tonight, though.

On their way to over 400 yards through the air, the wide receivers were fed well all evening. Antoine Green led the way with 117 yards and a touchdown, followed by Josh Downs and Emery Simmons who each had 73 yards and a touchdown of their own. Backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell found freshman Bryson Nesbit for a score late in the fourth quarter to cap off the scoring.

UNC’s domination of the game really did not get started until the second half. The teams went to the locker room with the Tar Heels leading 24-10 with Mack Brown expressing displeasure at his team for only getting a field goal out of an ill-conceived decision by the Panthers to try a fake punt from deep in their own territory in the second quarter. Carolina put up three touchdowns in the third quarter that really helped them pull away once and for all.

It’s very difficult to criticize a 59-17 win, but there were at least flashes of things that might be concerning going forward. The primary thing being that there still has not been any reliable run game to speak of. Ty Chandler has certainly not put a choke hold on the RB1 spot after running for just 58 yards on 15 carries. He was the only Tar Heel not named Howell with more than 20 yards on the ground, which is at least somewhat of an alarming tidbit against a team such as Georgia State. The offensive line still caused moments of cringe, and a couple important players (Dae Dae Hollins and Ja’Qurious Conley, to be specific) had injuries of concern in the game.

In all, it was a good bounce back in a game that would have been a disaster if it wasn’t a total blowout. The issues are still there, but hopefully things are headed in the right direction with some improvement before next week.

Up next, the Tar Heels welcome Virginia to Kenan Stadium next Saturday night.