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UNC vs. Miami: Positional grades

Much like Adele said, we could have had it all.

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels have plenty to be proud about when it comes to their homecoming weekend performance against the Miami Hurricanes. They were a 1-7 team hosting a 6-0 team, and the score easily could have been embarrassing. As evidenced by the stands, most fans didn’t really believe UNC had a chance.

They dared to make us hope. Jordon Brown punched it in from the one-yard line the same drive he busted out a 56-yarder. At least, that’s what we thought. Replay review showed that his knee was down before the ball broke the plane of the goal line, and UNC failed to score, with a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line turning into a sack at the ten-yard line. That summed up the day pretty well.

QUARTERBACKS: 4/10. Brandon Harris sat out the game due to injury, so we were treated to the Chazz Surratt show. That is, until he was cheapshotted by Zach McCloud and knocked out of the rest of the game. Nathan Elliott finally got his first extended playing time of the year, and he did well, throwing his first touchdown pass of his career to wide receiver Beau Corrales to make it a one-score game late in the fourth. However, that only came after he had thrown the first, second, and third interceptions of his career, all three coming in the second half.

Even with the interceptions, Elliott performed well, showing that much like Surratt, he’s capable of running the ball as well. It’s hard to expect so much against someone who had no idea he was going to play almost a full game against the 6th-ranked team in the country. But man, we were so close.

RUNNING BACK: 5/10. You have to feel for Jordon Brown. He was a workhorse in this game due to the absence of freshman Michael Carter, and he answered the call for the most part. His 19 carries went for 88 yards, although when you remove his 56-yarder from the equation, 18 carries for 32 yards doesn’t look so impressive anymore.

He did add four receptions for 51 yards, but the play that’s going to keep him up at night for months is going to be the fumble he lost on UNC’s last drive of the game, when the margin was only five points and victory was within reach. Without that fumble, he would have earned a seven or eight. Instead, his grade has to be docked pretty severely.

WIDE RECEIVERS: 7.5/10. Welcome to the Beau Corrales and Anthony Ratliff-Williams show! ARW was actually our best quarterback of the day, going 2 of 3 for 51 yards and a touchdown to Corrales. Corrales reeled in not just the first touchdown of his career but also the second. Considering that four different UNC players had a completion on the day, the WRs did pretty admirably.

TIGHT ENDS: 4/10. Brandon Fritts and Jake Bargas were largely left out of the offense’s plans on the day, combining for three receptions and 29 yards. Although tight ends are generally regarded as safety nets for inexperienced quarterbacks, Elliott did not seem to favor them over his wide receivers and running backs, who hauled in sixteen passes overall.

OFFENSIVE LINE: 3.5/10. During the game, one of my colleagues here at THB noted that the defense was often in the backfield before Elliott could hand the ball off. Indeed, the Miami defense racked up ten tackles for loss on the day, including four sacks. And as noted above, when you take Brown’s big run out of his stats, his yards per carry falls below two.

DEFENSIVE LINE: 5/10. The UNC D-line unfortunately was not as fearsome as their Miami counterparts. Malik Carney got into the backfield for UNC’s only solo sack of the game, and Jeremiah Clarke helped linebacker Cole Holcomb for their only other sack. Carney was far and away the D-line’s brightest star; his eight tackles tied for second on the team and he added two pass deflections and a QB hurry. Lineman Aaron Crawford also recovered a late fumble that gave UNC one final glimmer of hope.

LINEBACKERS: 8/10. Holcomb and Cayson Collins, were the heart and soul of UNC’s defense. They were a large part of Miami going a mere 4-for-17 on 3rd down, and they, along with the D-line, were why Miami could only muster 59 rushing yards despite leading for the vast majority of the game. If you went into this game expecting another VT-like embarrassment, Holcomb and Collins weren’t here for it.

SECONDARY: 3/10. Big plays on either side of halftime ruined this position group’s day. A 51-yard touchdown pass before halftime and a 78-yarder immediately after halftime were the two plays that honestly made all the difference. Without those two plays, it’s an entirely different game. Not even J.K. Britt’s late interception can numb the pain. These guys aren’t going to have a good time in the film room.

SPECIAL TEAMS: 9/10. Aside from an amusing fake field goal that went nowhere, the special teams actually had a pretty good day. Freeman Jones was perfect, converting from 24 and 45 and banging his only extra point attempt through. In relief of Tom Sheldon, backup punter Hunter Lent averaged 48 yards on his five punts, and even got a pair inside the 20. Most importantly, no big plays were allowed!

COACHING: 2/10. That Larry Fedora followed up the reversal of the early Jordon Brown touchdown with two plays from shotgun formation and then a rollout from under center that ended up in a nine-yard loss on fourth down is all that really needs to be said. He wasn’t the only reason those plays failed, but don’t you have to try sneaking Surratt at least once on one of those downs?