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UNC vs Louisville: Three things we learned

I promise this isn’t Groundhog Day, but it sure does feel like it.

Louisville v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Last week, Al Hood gave us three things that we learned from our opening weekend loss against California. This weekend, the Tar Heels opened up ACC play in similar fashion. This time just happened to be against reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

What could we have possibly learned from this game? Honestly, not a lot more than we knew last week.

The Quarterback Battle Enters Round 3 (but the passing offense was decent with either option):

Chazz Surratt was granted the starting spot on Saturday thanks to his decent showing against Cal. During the first half of action, Surratt went 12-14 with 168 yards and two touchdowns. 54 of those yards, however, came on a shovel pass to Dazz Newsome on the Tar Heels’ first offensive play. Surratt was able to get the passing game working in the absence of the running game. On the third possession, Surratt found both tight ends on a 75-yard drive that was capped by Brandon Fritts’ second touchdown.

On the next possession, Surratt made his biggest mistake of this young season when he retreated away from the Louisville defensive line. As he was running backwards, he was hit and the ball was jarred loose. Michael Carter was able to recover the fumble, but it was at a loss of 30 yards.

Sometime in the first half, Surratt seemingly turned his ankle while running with the ball. He left the field with under a minute remaining before the half and never took another snap. With Coach Fedora and his staff being tight-lipped about injuries, one can only assume what happened with Surratt.

When play resumed in the second half, Brandon Harris was under center. His first drive stalled, but his second was a nine-play, 77-yard drive that ended on a 22-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Jackson. That score gave the Tar Heels a 28-27 edge (that would be erased on Louisville’s next possession). The entire Tar Heel Blog staff seemed to appreciate Harris’ arm strength on the touchdown pass. Overall, Harris fared well during his time, going 17-23 with 216 yards and a touchdown.

In a game that barely featured the running game, this does nothing to squelch the quarterback battle that has gripped the Tar Heels. We can most likely expect to see both quarterbacks again next weekend against Old Dominion.

The Defense is Still Struggling:

In what was supposed to be a strength of this football team, the defense is a major weakness. Scoring 30 or more points should lead to a win. North Carolina has eclipsed the 30-point mark in both games this season, but are still 0-2. It’s not all that hard to believe, either. Giving up almost 1,200 yards on offense in two games isn’t exactly being the driving force behind a team.

The Tar Heels must find a way to shore up the middle of the field. Jackson was able to complete multiple passes and runs through the heart of the defense. If you are into pouring salt on fresh wounds, watch the video below and count how many wide open receivers you see. I was only looking for those across the middle and stopped when I got to number ten (1:44, 3:31, 4:08, 4:28, 4:53, 6:15, 9:23, 10:17, 12:08, and 12:26 for easy reference).

It wasn’t without bright spots, as Andre Smith had a decent game by racking up 11 total tackles. However, on many of the plays in the video above, you will see he was constantly beaten by faster wideouts or tight ends. Jalen Dalton was also impressive with his sack, three tackles for loss, and a stunning 74-yard run down of running back Malik Williams.

The defense also went the entire game without forcing a single turnover after producing two interceptions last weekend.

The offense has surprisingly done it’s job. Now it’s up to the defense to at least get to bend-don’t-break style of play.

Don’t Give Lamar Jackson Extra Ammunition:

Earlier this week, linebacker Andre Smith boldly proclaimed that “We definitely don't want it to be the Lamar Jackson show. So, if he's able to beat us with his arm, then he's not going to beat us at all. I take that back. He's not going to beat us. We're just going to stop anything that he tries to do. He's not going to be able to run on us. We have everything solidified with that...” (Full interview below)

Initially, Smith praised Jackson, but towards the end of the interview, he turns and makes his bold statement.

Probably not the best of ideas because Lamar Jackson had himself a day! He completed 25 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also carried the ball 19 times for 132 yards and three more touchdowns (including a 43 yard score). In all, Jackson accounted for 525 of Louisville’s 705 total yards and all six touchdowns.