It was a little difficult to select a true player of the game for the Tar Heels since, for the most part, every player and unit played rather well in an up-and-down game against Miami. Well, almost every unit—ahem offensive line. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer what needs to happen each and every week for UNC to win: Mitch Trubisky needs to play like one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC and maybe the country. On Saturday in South Florida, he did just that.
After a brutal, career-worst performance in hurricane weather against Virginia Tech last week, Trubisky bounced back with accuracy, consistency, and even a little running. Trubisky finished the game a whopping 33 for 46 with 299 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball 13 times for 47 yards, including a long run of 18 yards.
Trubisky appears to be forming better relationships with his wide receivers outside of just Ryan Switzer. He found Bug Howard 10 times for 156 yards (one 40-yarder as well) and even connected with Mack Hollins on a deep ball—although he did underthrow him and the play resulted in an injury for Hollins. Similarly, Trubisky found both Elijah Hood and Austin Proehl four times (a touchdown catch for Proehl). And, oh yeah, in case you were worried about him and Switzer, they linked up nine times for a touchdown but only 17 yards.
Almost all of that came in the first half. The second half was truly bizarre, as the UNC offense was completely shut out and pouring rain in the fourth quarter changed things. Still, Trubisky was able to do just enough to keep the Tar Heels ahead. And, most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
Ultimately, Trubisky executed the offensive game plan perfectly. The offensive line struggled with both blocking and penalties, but everywhere else the offense ran smoothly. No turnovers, 162 rushing yards, and winning the time of possession: That’s a recipe for Tar Heel success, and Trubisky was right at the head of all of it.
Lastly, there should be a special shout out to the Tar Heels defense. They limited the Hurricanes to just 13 points after giving up 34 to the Hokies last week. They forced a crucial turnover—a strip sack of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya—that basically ended the game. The defense also limited the potent rushing attack of Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby to 139 yards on 3.9 yards per carry. Not bad for the much-maligned defense.
The entire Tar Heel squad showed up Saturday in a much-needed win over Miami. North Carolina still has work to do to return to the ACC Championship Game, but this week’s performance was important to get back on track. If Trubisky and the offense can play with similar consistency while the defense improves even in the slightest, Larry Fedora’s North Carolina team will be hard to beat for the rest of the season.