UNC Football: Carolina wins ugly on the road vs Miami (Fl)

I was not surprised that North Carolina (5 & 2 ~ 2-1 in the ACC) was able to go to Sun Life Stadium and beat Miami (Fl) (4 & 3 ~ 3-1 in the ACC). What I was totally surprised by, or better said truly shocked, was the final score, which I said in my preview would be 38 to 28 and that the Vegas insiders put the O/U at close to ten touchdowns, which ended up being 18 to 14. This was the first win, even if it was a very ugly one, for the Heels over the `Canes on the road since 2008, which has now been vacated by the NCAA.

While it’s great that this squad gets a road win, the first one in the Fedora era, it does not hide that this team still has to work hard on many things. As I have said on many of my posts, as well as on twitter and UNC web boards, about the 2012 version of the UNC football team… it’s a work in progress. The good thing about it is that it seems to be moving forward, the not so good is that some are moving slower than others.

Here were my keys to the game…

Stop the penalties. I like to note that I said… “sounds simple, but after what we saw last game this has to be the number one priority for coach Fedora’s team this weekend.” So much for that, as Carolina had the same amount as last week, fifteen, but for even more yards, 140 to 126. Of all of them the one that stood the most to me was a roughing the passer that kept a Miami drive going, which finally ended up scoring one of the two touchdowns the Hurricanes had in the game. Just like last week, if this had been a loss it would not be very long in anyone’s recap before the penalties were brought up as a factor. Going forward the coaching staff has to find a way to stop this from happening, or else sooner rather than later, the Heels will suffer a loss due to this.

Head coach Larry Fedora on the penalties:

“I’ll just say that we need to continue getting better in that area. I don’t why it’s happening. It’s not like we’re not emphasizing it in practice [or] still coaching the fundamentals. I don’t know. I’m going to have to go back and evaluate each and every one and determine what the reasons are.

“A lot of it was holding and it’s not guys that are just being lazy. Like, I know on Quinshad Davis’s hold, when he finished the block off and took him to the ground, I thought it was a hold. Well, if Quinshad isn’t trying to block so hard and finish the guy we probably don’t get a holding call. I don’t’ know. We’ll have to look at it and see.”

Pressure. This was something that seemed to have gone by the book, for the most part. When Carolina did not rush enough to get pressure on Stephen Morris (12 for 26 for 155 yards and 2 INTs) first and then Ryan Williams (9 for 13 for 80 yds) when the starter got hurt late in the fourth both were able to find their targets. When the coaching staff sent the right amount of rushers both of the gunslingers were in trouble for the most part.

And the pressure was also put on Miami (Fl) as they were stopped twice late in the game on fourth downs. The first one gave the ball back to UNC with about six minutes to go…

…and the other one with less than a minute, on a fourth and long, where the Heels defense did not give up the long ball, made the Miami QB find someone underneath and then tackled the wide out before the first down…

It is almost unbelievable to speak so much about defense in this game that most thought could be a basketball type score when it was all said and done. The UNC defense held Miami to 6 for 15 on third down and 2 for 5 on fourth.

Go Gio Go. And did Bernard go in this one. The sophomore who was playing for the first time ever in college in front of his father and his brother had a game that was just outstanding. In some ways you could say that it was thanks to the tail back that the team was able to overcome the way too many penalties in this one. On the ground the tail back had 177 yards on 27 carries and scored twice, the second most yardage ever and it’s also back to back weeks with over 150 yards rushing. In all the young man has had nine games with 100+ yards in a game, and is in 13th place of UNC’s all time rushing yards with 1,905. Through the air he also caught four balls for a total of 36 yards. This is the fourth time this season and the eighth time since he has arrived in Chapel Hill that the running back has scored multiple times in a game.

Coach Fedora on Bernard’s play:

“Gio is a complete player. It doesn’t matter if it’s pass blocking in protections or if it’s catching the football or if it’s running the football or punt returns. Whatever we ask him to do, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s going to do everything he can to help this team win.”

From the first to the last whistle. Believe it or not the Tar Heels, after destroying the opposition 85 to 6 in the third quarter of the previous games, were outscored 7 to 3 in this one, which were also the only points scored after halftime. In the first half UNC scored two touchdowns, Bryn Renner (25 of 40 for 214 yards and 1 INT) was intercepted at the footsteps of a third score and Casey Barth missed a field goal. In a game where points were hard to come by Carolina scored all of them but a field goal in the first half. It might not be the out put we wanted to see, but considering how the game went this is one thing that the Heels did good enough versus the Hurricanes.

While, as it should be after his performance, Bernard gets most of the accolades in this one, let’s not forget that Renner did not do a bad job, hitting eight different team mates in this one, four of them multiple times, including Eric Ebron eight times, which ties a career high for the tight end, (87 yds) and Erik Highsmith for seven (57 yds). As more and more obstacles are surpassed by this team that many did not believe in to begin with, more dropped off the bandwagon after the back to back losses, you have to like what is going on in Chapel Hill with the new regime and the new schemes. As I said many times, including in this post, this is a team that is a work in progress, and the way they have committed 30 penalties in the last two games shows that, but they are also a team that is moving forward and is improving in many other areas.

In all the team left 13 points on the field. With Renner’s interception on the Miami’s one yard line and two missed field goals by Casey Barth. The usually accurate kicker missed one from 33 yards in the second quarter and the other from 43 yards out in the fourth. While, and the announcers did talk about this plenty in the game, both of the missed field goals could be blamed on the wind, I still believe that at least the shorter one should have been made.

As I have said many times, be it in here or on other venues, the UNC basketball is a white collar sport in Chapel Hill, while UNC football is a blue collar one. Today’s game, while being ugly, was also one of those games that is needed to see if the squad has what it takes to be a tough program. From the looks of it, and the result, it seems that it does. But there is still plenty of football to be played this campaign, starting next week as the squad heads eight miles away to take on Duke in a prime time game between two teams both looking for their sixth win of the season.

As usual more information about UNC football and/or basketball, teams and players, present and past, make sure to check back often on isportsweb!