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UNC Football vs. Miami: Positional Grades

Get on the bus and don’t look back, let’s get the hell out of here with the win!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 North Carolina at Miami Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Carolina has now beat Miami four times in a row. Kind of hard to digest, especially with all of the knots my stomach had to untie in that fourth quarter. This was a great win because of how hard it was to finish off, so this should make for some interesting grades up and down the roster. Let’s dive in!

Quarterback: B-/C+

Drake Maye has become a hot talking point across college football media, and with good reason! Much of the first half sounded like a paid infomercial for Maye’s potential Heisman candidacy, especially when he led Carolina on touchdown drives of 95 and 99 yards in two of their first three drives.

But at the end of the second quarter, Maye got picked on great coverage by linebacker Keontra Smith when he got underneath Bryson Nesbit. Miami got a field goal out their hurry-up offense, similar to what UNC did against Virginia Tech last week. But on Carolina’s first drive of the second half, Maye was intercepted again by safety Kamren Kinchens, and that seemed to sap his mojo. He didn’t take any downfield shots after that.

Drake Maye got his first real black eye of the season and walked out of Hard Rock Stadium with Carolina’s third road win in a row. He managed the game well enough to never surrender the lead, even if that lead was tenuous at times. This is the first wobble we’ve seen from the Tar Heel quarterback, but it’s a tremendous learning opportunity. Carolina will be better this season because of this performance.

Running Backs: B

Mack Brown wanted to shorten the running back rotation. Mission accomplished!

Caleb Hood seems to have nailed down the #1 running back spot, but his inability to stay healthy could prove to be his bugaboo. Omarion Hampton finished the game off after Hood was injured securing a first down on a 3rd & 9 in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore finished the game with 74 yards rushing and five catches for 50 yards. Hampton vultured a touchdown from Hood in the second quarter, but really earned it, keeping his knees off the ground as he plunged across the goal line. He also had 36 yards rushing, but on 15 attempts.

The running backs’ biggest contribution to the win, though, was during UNC’s final scoring drive in the fourth quarter, when they burned 8:18 off the clock before converting a field goal to put the Tar Heels up two scores. That was pivotal.

Recievers: B

Against Miami, the Tar Heels had 309 yards receiving, two touchdowns, and some “Ooooo, ahhhh” moments.

First, the simple touchdown that J.J. Jones had over busted coverage got the Heels going. Josh Downs coming back for a wild toss from Maye, and scoring off some nifty moves brought the fans to their feet.

But as mentioned for the quarterbacks, the explosive plays ground to a halt in the second half. Downs and Morales were safety valves for some crucial first downs, but Carolina never looked like a threat to the back of Miami’s secondary after the first half. In another game on another night, Maye will need his receivers to deliver something special to pull the Heels out of jam. If it weren’t for the cushion they built in the first half, UNC could have lost the game, as they couldn’t score touchdowns.

Offensive Line: C

Carolina’s O-line continues to have trouble with penetration. The Hurricanes sacked Drake Maye five times and had nine tackles for loss. The Heels struggled mightily when William Barnes left the game with an upper body injury.

The run blocking was improved and Carolina was able to get better gains on first down. Mack Brown’s edict to improve rushing on first down was met with aplomb. Caleb Hood had runs of 4, 6, 5, 4, 15, 6, and 6 yards on first down, plus that weird (bullshit) holding penalty on Bryson Nesbit that turned a 24-yard run on first down into a 9-yard gain. Hampton also ran for 7 yards on a first down.

In the fourth quarter, when it was apparent that Carolina was grinding out the clock, those first down runs didn’t get as much traction, but in a more open game, this kind of run blocking will make the offense less predictable.

Defensive Line: C+

Tyler Van Dyke reverted back to last season’s form, one that made him a candidate for ACC player of the year, one game after being benched for shitting the bed against Middle Tennessee. One of the reasons for that is that he had time to throw all over the field.

Carolina only had two sacks, and both of them came from designed blitzes. The line is not getting home on time, and it’s causing anxiety as the defense as a whole gives up tons on yards.

Linebackers: A-

Carolina’s linebackers were busy, busy.

Noah Taylor had a sack after Tony Grimes just missed Van Dyke on a corner blitz, but put him right into the Jack’s arms. Taylor also had 1.5 TFL.

Power Echols had 14 total tackels (12 solo!), and a QB hurry.

Akil will go into greater detail on Cedric Gray in our “Player of the Game” piece, but I just want to give Gray a special shout out for taking Jaleel Skinner to Suplex City to keep him inbounds—and the clock running—while Miami scrambled to get a snap off, leading to the Boykins interception that ended the game.

Secondary: D

The only thing keeping this grade above failing is the DeAndre Boykins pick that sealed the game.

Carolina’s secondary just doesn’t make sense. They have the talent and athletes to compete in the ACC, but they are not showing the goods on the field. They consistently fail to tackle in the open field. They gave up three touchdowns, two of them on soft coverage by Tony Grimes.

Miami had 42 catches for 496 yards. Forty-two catches. For four hundred and NINETY SIX YARDS!!! Something needs to change, or Wake Forest will drop 600 yards on us.

Special Teams: B+

Noah Burnette made both of his field goals. He also didn’t harm Carolina too much against the dangerous Key’Shawn Smith, who averaged just 23 yards per return on five kick returns. Omarion Hampton returned a kickoff 36 yards. That was good. Perfectly acceptable, but nothing extraordinary. I’ll take that every game if offered.

Coaching: B

Phil Longo received high praise from frequent critic—and Tar Heel Blog alum—Jake Lawrence for some of his play-calling, which has been called into question in previous seasons.

Longo has improved significantly in his red zone offense. A bad read on fourth down between Josh Downs and Drake Maye cost the Tar Heels points on their second drive of the game, but didn’t jam up the offense until the second half.

Where Longo earned his bread yesterday was how he managed the offense and more importantly the clock, when Miami had a fix on them. With the deep ball taken away, Carolina got savvy running the ball and calling designed quarterback runs to keep Miami off balance.

Defensively, Gene Chizik and the secondary have some homework to do. By the grace of God, the Heels gave up the second fewest points of the season, while surrendering 496 yards in the air. The Heels did hold Miami to 41 yards rushing, but that number is a bit of a misnomer. If Miami didn’t have so much joy throwing the ball, that rushing total surely would have climbed.

Duke’s Riley Leonard had a poor day passing against Georgia Tech in a surprise loss, so this presents an opportunity for Carolina to “get right” in the secondary. Fingers crossed!