Carolina fans have needed blood pressure medication for quite some time now, but yesterday may have been enough to send everyone to their local physician. Once again the Heels’ defense made a Generals offense look like the Harlem Globetrotters, but it was Drake Maye & Co. that saved the day yet again to get the team that much closer to winning the Coastal division title. The very loud opinion online is that this may be the most frustrating 8-1 team ever, and while that may be true, I also think this shows that this is one of the toughest UNC teams that we’ve seen in quite a while.
Let’s discuss three things that we learned from UNC’s big win in Charlottesville.
The defense continues to bend without breaking
Going into yesterday’s game, the Cavaliers had proven to be a pretty weak offensive team. All season long they failed to score more than 20 points with the exception of their game against Richmond, and they even failed to score a touchdown against Illinois back in September. Naturally the stage was set for Virginia to have their best offensive game of the season against a Power Five team, and boy did they ever.
Virginia finished the game with 418 total yards, which wasn’t far off from UNC’s 455 yards. Brennan Armstrong was far from the best version of himself, finishing the game with 232 passing yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, and completed 49% of his passes. However, the run game worked out for the Cavaliers pretty well: Armstrong and Mike Hollins combined for 139 yards and two touchdowns. UNC’s defense deserves some credit for what they were able to do in the passing game, but the fact remains that this squad continues to make things way more interesting than they should be against inferior opponents. They may want to get it together before next weekend, because Wake Forest may just be the team that finally breaks them.
Elijah Green may be the running back Mack Brown was looking for
Let me get this out of the way: yes, this was one game, and things could drastically change next weekend against Wake Forest. However, it seems like Elijah Green could be the guy going into the final stretch of the season for now. There’s really no telling on a week-to-week basis who is going to have a big game running the ball, but yesterday was Green’s day to be the brightest star.
Green finished the game against Virginia with 22 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a pass from Drake Maye for a 22-yard touchdown that put the game away for good. Green and Maye’s contributions on the ground went a long way in getting the win, and hopefully they will keep the ball rolling next week in Winston-Salem.
Josh Downs’ career day
Another Tar Heel on the offensive side of the ball that had himself a day was Josh Downs, who finished the game against the Cavaliers with a career record in single-game receiving yards. He caught 15 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, and averaged 11.1 yards per catch.
Downs’ dominance was something to behold, and he basically carried the receivers on his back for the entire game. Drake Maye struggled to connect to his other targets, but he managed to connect with Downs with 94% efficiency. If all of that wasn’t enough, Downs also had a big-time kick return late in the game, because for some reason Virginia felt comfortable kicking to him instead of kicking the ball out of bounds or into the end zone. It’s a pretty bizarre strategy, and Downs made sure to make them pay for it.
While Downs’ numbers aren’t as crazy as I expected them to be at the beginning of the season, he is still proving to be one of the most important players on the team. He is now on a three-game streak recording 100+ receiving yards, and he has a chance to make it four next weekend against the Demon Deacons.