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UNC vs. Campbell: Winners, Losers, & Honorable Mentions

After a sluggish start, the Tar Heels did what they needed to do.

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

To say the Tar Heels got off to a sluggish start against the Campbell Camels on Saturday is putting it lightly. The defense didn’t seem to want to try and put their last couple of weeks behind them, and the offense was just being too cute instead of taking care of business.

Eventually someone got into both sides of the ball and after a 7-7 first quarter, the Tar Heels reeled off 52 unanswered to quickly take control of the game and get folks rest leading into the most important and season-defining games of the season.

There’s more to talk about with this game than you’d think, so let’s just jump right into our Winners, Losers, and Honorable Mentions.

Winners

1st Team Offense-Let’s just use this as a catch all for the stats put up by everyone on the offensive side of the ball. After a head-scratching first drive where it seemed like Chip Lindsey was more concerned with putting stuff on film for opponents than actually trying to get a lead, the Tar Heels did what they were supposed to do: dominate. Drake Maye had an efficient 16-23 day with four touchdowns and 244 yards. Omarion Hampton piled up 144 yards and two scores, while British Brooks got some good work in and added 64 yards to the total. Tez Walker thankfully showed he was fine after that hard hit last weekend and caught two touchdowns, and JJ Jones fooled the Campbell secondary completely for a score. The offense was really never the problem over the last two games, but it was good to see them get into a rhythm.

Conner Harrell-Speaking of good to see, Harrell’s only appearances this year have been in mop-up duty where he ran pretty much a bare-bones offense and was just out to melt the clock. On Saturday, he not only got into action earlier than most thought — the word had been Drake Maye would play through the end of the third — but he got reps with the first team. He also, got the chance to run some real offense and for the first time fans have a glimmer of hope about what the future might look like after Drake Maye Leaves. Harrell slung it down the field, going 4-4 with 71 yards and a 41-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and a 61-yard rush for a touchdown. He looked electric on the field, and showed potential for an offense that’ll see some turnover next season.

Defensive Depth-The UNC defense still didn’t have a great day, as the first scoring drive from the Camels was too easy, and it looked for a while that they were still having trouble dealing with tempo offense. After the first score, the defense buckled down enough to allow the offense to get into a rhythm, and more importantly they were allowed to sit a good chunk of the second half. That rest will be important as they face a Duke squad that’ll likely be running it down UNC’s throat next weekend, and doing so on a couple of extra days’ rest. While the defense didn’t show you a ton to make you feel like they put the last couple of weeks behind them, they at least got back to getting the job done. The real test comes in the next three weeks.

Losers

Special Teams-Honestly, the performance of the defense has hidden the fact that this unit has been bad all season. Their troubles continued on Saturday with a horrid sequence at the end of the first half. Noah Burnette had a great squib kick that got the Tar Heels another possession after a touchdown drive, and the offense responded by getting them into easy field goal range. However, without a timeout the offense needed to spike the ball then run the field goal unit out there — except the unit didn’t wait for Maye to spike it and ran on the field anyway. This caused confusion, as the offense then tried to run off to avoid an illegal substitution penalty which would have killed the clock, and the resulting tumult caused the clock to run out anyway. That’s solely on coaching. This is after the struggles punting the ball all season, as well as giving up a long kick return early in the game. Larry Porter clearly has done a great job with the running backs, but it may be time for him to hand off his special teams duties to someone else.

First Quarter Attitude-As noted, you can throw a lot of reasons for why the Tar Heels would get out to a slow start against an overmatched opponent, the problem is that there’s a lot of the same attitude that can be seen in how they played against Virginia and Georgia Tech. The offense seemed more concerned with trying cute passes, while the defense seemed to just assume that Campbell would fold. The seemed to forget that the Camels had several former FBS players on their roster and were led by a longtime NFL player noted for being underrated. Their next three opponents won’t let them off the hook like Campbell did, as all seem to have found their footing at the end of the season.

Crowd Takes-Saturday was the smallest crowd in Kenan all season, and it’s easy to pile on fans for not supporting one of the last chances fans have to root on Drake Maye. The problem is, of course, it doesn’t take into account the cost of attending, both in actual dollars and in things like time and convenience. On Seat Geek, you saw two tickets go for as low as $12 each. The problem is the final cost is double that thanks to fees. Then you have to figure out how to park — spending more for a campus spot or commit to riding the Tar Heel Express. This all for a noon game, a three hour commitment and $8 sodas among other pretty high concession prices. Unlike some stadiums, fans can’t go and come as they please in Kenan. With Homecoming next weekend being sold out for weeks and it being Senior Night, it’s clear which game fans chose to spend their money on. Saturday showed why Mack Brown doesn’t like playing these games this late in the season, and it’s worth noting that this will be the last time we see it for a while at least now that Mack has finally finished up all of the Fedora-era scheduling contracts.

Honorable Mentions

Noah Burnette did an amazing job executing the squib kick in the second quarter, stealing one more possession for Carolina. You never know when you might need that, and he continues his conversion on field goals as well, a remarkable recovery for someone who lost his job this season...Cedric Gray continued his campaign to be one of the top linebackers in the country with his seven solo tackles, including three for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. He and the rest of the squad will have their hands full the rest of the season...Marcus Allen has done an unsung great job in the secondary, and he finally got his hands on a pickoff.


The Tar Heels now prepare for their final home game of the 2023 season, against the Duke Blue Devils. It’s Homecoming, It’s Senior Night, it’s likely Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, and it’s 8 PM. Here’s hoping it will be a good result.