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UNC vs. Miami: Three Things Learned

Is the U back?

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

There is something mystical about UNC’s current four-game win streak against Miami that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s also increasingly perplexing that we wonder if the U is back every season (well, some people feel the need to) and they can’t even take down the Tar Heels, but it also could say more about Mack Brown’s squad than it says about the Hurricanes.

Whichever way we want to slice it, yesterday’s game was pure chaos near the end and the Heels truly could’ve left Coral Gables with a loss. Thankfully the mystique that I mentioned earlier took over, and now the Heels are leading the Coastal division. Let’s discuss three things we learned about the game that earned them that right.

Drake Maye’s bad day

We all knew that it would happen at some point, but UNC quarterback Drake Maye finally had a bad game yesterday afternoon. The star quarterback was humming along to start the game, but his offensive line was getting blown up by Miami, which may or may not have led to some not-so-smart decision-making.

His first interception transpired in the first half when he tried to force a pass over the top of a defender with no luck. Then in the second half, Maye threw an early interception into double coverage, and from there he never really seemed like himself for the rest of the game. Seeing him go from Superman to a mere mortal was troubling to see, but he still finished the game with 309 passing yards, two touchdowns, and 53 rushing yards. Not bad for a sub-optimal outing, right?

There’s no reason for fans to be worried about Maye’s play going downhill, but I think better offensive line play and making teams respect the run more will go a long way in helping prevent some of those uncharacteristic mistakes. Hopefully the offense will be able to address some of these issues before taking on Duke next week.

The close game that shouldn’t have been that close

Sure, Drake Maye didn’t have as good of a performance we would normally expect from him, but there were moments in yesterday’s game that made things look even worse than they really were. Take Desmond Evans, for example: he had multiple facemask / illegal hands to the face penalties called on him, which ultimately helped Miami stay alive in drives that should’ve been dead in the water. Then there was Tony Grimes, who was in excellent position to get an interception and run it back for a touchdown, but he second-guessed himself and broke the play up instead. Finally, there was Cam’Ron Kelly’s interception that was called back for a penalty, which eventually led to Miami cutting UNC’s lead to three.

There are two ways to look at these mistakes on the defense: the knee-jerk take is that this group still hasn’t gotten better, and the 537 total yards they surrendered only prove that point. However, the second way to look at this is the defense created opportunities for themselves throughout the game to shut the door on Miami, they just weren’t able to finish the deal as cleanly as they could’ve.

Sometimes progress doesn’t look as good as we would like it to, but it is still progress regardless. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself to keep from going completely insane. At this point who knows, but when they still do enough to hold off the Hurricanes, does it really matter?

Riverboat Mack

Look, I’ll be honest: I take issue with nicknames for specific people being applied to other people. It honestly just feels lazy to me, and perhaps even a little awkward and forced. However, Ron Rivera really may have a distant cousin in Mack Brown, because the UNC head coach was gambling like it was his job throughout yesterday’s game.

The Tar Heels ended up in three fourth down situations against the Hurricanes, and they managed to move the sticks twice. Brown has been vocal about his dedication to analytics, and when the odds should be in their favor he plans to have the team go for it. To his credit, it’s been working really well: against Virginia Tech the Heels converted all three of their fourth down attempts, and even against Notre Dame they went 2-2. Their fourth-down conversion rate is insane so far this season, which is helped by the fact that they have one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

I expected Mack Brown to make some changes going into this season, but turning into Ron Rivera 2.0 wasn’t on my expectations list. Let’s just hope his luck doesn’t run out at the wrong time, because if Riverboat Ron knows anything, it’s that fans will only love your gambling problem until you do something to make them hate it.