Carolina is back at .500 with a solid if unspectacular win over an overmatched Georgia Tech. A strong offensive display (which should have been even stronger) saw the Heels win a comfortable 38-22 game that displayed both how much potential this team has...and how far they are from fully realizing it. Here are our Position Grades for Saturday’s win.
Sam Howell overcame a rickety start to the game to finish with a terrific scoreline of 376 yards, four touchdowns and one interception on 33-51 attempts. Early on, he missed several connections, particularly on the deep ball, and he threw his worst interception of the season thus far, failing to note a defensive end dropping in coverage. As the game went on, however, he settled in nicely and had several gorgeous throws, especially to Beau Corrales. He was fearless on third and long, converting over and over again, and his arm strength was truly impressive at times. Against an inferior team like GT, his early mistakes didn’t cost UNC too dearly.
Running Backs: A
Easily UNC’s best unit on the day. Javonte Williams had a career day, finishing with 144 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown (which came on a busted play that he rescued), while Michael Carter added 68 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards on five receptions. The Tar Heels were able to pound the ball throughout the game and had the Yellow Jacket defense reeling throughout. Over and over again Carter and Williams one up each other in terms of impact on the field. Saturday was Javonte’s, and considering Carter had over 100 total yards, that’s saying a lot.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Yesterday, we saw everything that is maddening about UNC’s receiving corps and everything that is breathtaking. Early in the game, UNC’s receivers seemed determined to let every golden opportunity bounce out of their hands. Drops by Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown took touchdowns off the board and Rontavius Groves and Garrett Walston had bad penalties to kill off drives. Then one by one each of them redeemed themselves:
Dyami Brown, who had some particularly egregious drops, had a spectacular touchdown catch as well as a reception to convert on third and long (third and long and on one occasion fourth and long was HUGE for UNC all game). Dazz had Carolina’s first touchdown of the game and fought for every yard he could after the catch. Groves had the massive fourth down catch to keep a touchdown drive going, and Walston tallied his first touchdown of the season. Beau Corrales shook off an early injury scare to have a terrific game as well.
Offensive Line: A-
Outside of a questionable penalty by Charlie Heck (he was basically flagged for blocking too hard), the offensive line had a strong day. Howell was sacked only once and, while he took a few tough hits in the second half, he had plenty of time to throw the ball and receivers had ample opportunity to get downfield (for all the good it did). Brian Anderson has received a lot of criticism for his play in relief of Nick Polino, but he played an error-free game on Saturday and alertly capitalized on a Tech offsides penalty resulting in a free play for UNC.
Defensive Line: B+
The Heels had a terrific performance up front in the first half, shutting out the Jackets and giving them nothing in the way of running lanes. Over and over the Jackets had to bounce their runs outside, testing Carolina’s edges since they had nothing in the middle. In the second half, UNC eased up a bit and gave up several big runs that allowed their opponent to get back into the game. Jason Strowbridge had his best game since returning from injury and Aaron Crawford was his usual reliable self.
Tomon. Fox. The redshirt junior had his best performance as a Tar Heel yesterday, wreaking havoc all over the field. He read screen plays well, beat backs to the edge, made big tackles, and had a great feel for the pulse of the game throughout. Along with him, Chazz Surratt continues to impress and Jeremiah Gemmel had a mostly solid outing. The backers DID, however, give up a few chunk plays in the second half when Tech’s offense finally woke up, the most egregious being a 43-yard scamper by Jordan Mason. On the whole, however, it was a respectable showing from UNC’s backers.
Don Chapman had quite the interesting day. The true freshman, in for the injured Cam’Ron Kelly, had his first pick as a Tar Heel in the first half, then was burned horribly on Tech’s first touchdown. It’s hard to be angry at a true freshman backup who collected a pick though. D.J. Ford had a pick of his own in the dying moments of the game to effectively end it. On the whole, UNC played well in the secondary, allowing just 11 receptions for 171 yards and much of those yards coming when UNC had inserted their backups at the end of the 4th.
Special Teams: B-
A mixed day for the ST unit. On the negative side, Noah Ruggles missed a 39-yard field goal that would have put UNC up 20-0 (GT scored its first touchdown immediately after). On the plus side, Dazz Newsome had a good return that set up a scoring drive. Ben Kiernan had a mediocre game with four punts for 158 yards, but one of those was an intentional moonball with UNC punting around midfield. UNC kick/punt return coverage has been a strength lately, not giving up any chunk plays to opponents, which was not the case earlier in the season, especially against Clemson. It’s been nice seeing the consistent progress that the coverage team has produced.
Despite the fact that UNC was expected to win this game and win it comfortably, this was a good day for the men on the sidelines. Phil Longo, who was getting some heat a couple weeks ago, called a terrific game, especially on third and long situations, and had the offense ready to roll right off the bat. Carolina should have blown Tech out early on with the yardage and looks they were getting, but the lack of points fell on drops and missed throws, not playcalling. The Heels’ offense plays best when it goes fast, and Mack Brown and Longo had them going fast right from the start.
On defense, Jay Bateman and company weren’t faced with much of a challenge preparing for an anemic Georgia Tech offense, but they locked them up early and this was only really a game because the offense didn’t capitalize on the many opportunities to turn the game into a rout in the early going. One point of concern was Tech’s ease at scoring their second touchdown and the ensuing 2-point conversion, which were both done with very little resistance.