There was nothing much that was going right in the first four games of the season for North Carolina (4 & 5 ~ 3-1 ACC), as the team kept giving up big plays on defense and were not able to get on track on offense. In the last five games this squad has improved each and every week. The result of that is a dominating effort and victory over Virginia (2 & 8 ~ 0-5 ACC) by the final of 45 to 14. With that Carolina has now won three in a row and a .500 record looks a lot more attainable that it did three weeks ago.
Huge thanks for the picture goes out to Christy Robbins LeBoeuf, check out the many she took here
Before I go on to talk about the game let me just say this. Sometimes people ask me what the “Carolina Way” is, what it means. Well, watching sophomore Marquise Williams wearing number two in honor of Bryn Renner, who had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, can tell you a lot about what the “Carolina Way” means!
Head coach Larry Fedora began his post game presser by saying…
“It was fun to get back out here in a conference game in front of our fans, our students in the Tar Pit. I thought we had probably played one of the more complete games we have played this year, and I’m talking in all three phases. I do believe this team is getting a little bit better each week. As a coach, that’s what you ask for in your players. You ask for them to keep doing things that we do, keep working hard, and hopefully we get better each week. I do feel like we’re getting that done.”
In this game the offense, the defense and special teams all contributed to the win. On the other hand something reared its ugly head once more. But first the positives…
The new staring QB had a heck of a day, recording a touchdown passing, rushing and receiving (which you can see below). The second year player went 15 of 28 for 185 yards with two TDs and an INT, while rushing for 46 yards on 16 carries finding the end zone as well. And finally catching a pass on a trick play that had Quinshad Davis finding him wide open.
Speaking of Davis, who I said in my preview would be one of the Heels to have a good game, not only did the sophomore throw for a score, but scored once himself and ended up with 65 yards on five catches. The other wide out I spoke about was Ryan Switzer, and the freshman came through as he scored on a punt return (which you can watch below). In all eight receivers caught a pass in this game, five of them multiple ones.
On the other hand, it was a quiet day for junior tight end Eric Ebron, who had a season low two catches. However that pair gave him the school’s career record for catches at his position with 96. He came into today’s game tied with Zack Pianalto, who caught 94 from `07-`10.
The running game, even if by committee, gained over 200 yards in this one, something that has not happened this season. And while T.J. Logan did not make the impact I thought he would in this one, the ground and pound worked overall for UNC. Truth be told, in today’s game there was not much that did not go wrong for the Tar Heels.
On the defensive side the team also played well, getting a pick six from Domique Green, along with another interception by Tre Boston, who leads the squad with four of them. In all the defensive unit allowed the opposition just 316 yards of offense, compared to the 415 yards gained by the Tar Heels. The good thing about the D was that no huge play was made against them.
Coach Fedora said this after the game about the defense…
“If you continue not to give up big plays, you give yourself a chance. We stopped the run today. Overall, they’ve come a long way. I’ll put it that way. They’ve come a long way. Every week they’re gaining more confidence. They feel better about themselves. That helps you. You start getting some confidence and you feel good about yourself, you feel good about each other, and you feel a little bit more accountable to your teammates, so you work a little bit harder. And that’s what they’re doing.”
And talked about at the beginning of this post, the one negative to come out once more…
Penalties. Once again I have to talk about them when it comes to this squad. North Carolina committed 13 of them in this one, giving up 102 yards from them. That is a huge amount, especially when you think that Virginia rushed for 112 yards in all. A pair of them made it so that UVa would score its first touchdown, others made it so that UNC would not finish their drives. They are just too many, at the wrong time, and this has to stop!
For as much as I agree with coach Fedora on this team improving in most everything, someone on the coaching staff needs to find the way to stop this overflow of penalties if this team does not want to lose a game because of them. The last three games the Heels have played well, but they have done so against programs that combined have a 9 and 16 record. The next match up for this squad will be on the road against a Pittsburgh team that will be looking for a win themselves if they want to head to the post season. Giving them 100+ free yards is the last thing that UNC wants to do.
For now it’s time to enjoy this win and to smile on how well this squad has improved. Football season is righting itself and could find a way to make it into the post season. Basketball has begun with a good game overall. If now is not a good time to be a Tar Heel then I am not sure there will ever be one!