It was not pretty, but UNC added another W to the records after a 27-24 victory over the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. UNC needed stellar defensive play late in the game to top Miami as the Hurricanes made a late charge, only to have a deep shot down the field intercepted by Deandre Boykins on the final drive.
UNC began the game strong on both sides of the ball as they forced a punt, missed a field goal attempt on defense, and had two drives of 95+ yards for touchdowns. The Hurricanes actually outgained the Heels by 63 yards in the game, but the difference was the Hurricanes had three long drives stopped on downs in UNC territory. Carolina’s defense came up clutch on several occasions in the second half and continued to show improvement. Drake Maye had perhaps his worst game of the season as he was 19-28 for 309 yards for a 68% completion percentage, he had two touchdowns, two interceptions, and missed several easy throws that he would have normally made.
Head Coach Mack Brown met with the media after the game and was really proud of the defensive effort and just the overall performance, although I’m willing to bet that he would like to see fewer yards allowed as UNC gave up 537. They were put in tough situations and stepped up big time. As mentioned earlier, UNC had three fourth-down stops that gave the UNC offense the ball back. None were more impressive than a goal-line stand early in the game in which Miami had the ball with first and goal at the UNC one-yard line with a chance to score. UNC held them to a turnover on downs. UNC only gave up 41 yards on the ground, which Brown was also proud of. However, they struggled to stop Tyler Van Dyke so there were teaching points for Gene Chizik in the game. For more on the press conference please see my additional article on this blog.
There was no shortage of drama late in the game as an onside kick ensued after a Miami touchdown. The ball was headed out of bounds, only to be kept alive by a Miami gunner who batted the ball to a teammate, who recovered the ball. However, a review of the play showed it to be illegal touching as the Miami player was out of bounds and never reestablished himself inbounds. It was UNC football.
UNC has won four straight in this Coastal division rivalry, the last three of which were outstanding one-score games. Drake Maye continues to lead the ACC and is third in the nation in passing TDs with 21 touchdowns. He is second in QBR in the nation as well with a 90.7 QBR through five games. Here are a few takeaways from what was an outstanding game in Miami.
1. The Defense Finally is Playing Consistently.
Mack Brown has repeatedly stated that if UNC’s defense can put together full, consistent games, they can be great defense. What great words of wisdom from the UNC coach. UNC has put together two consistent games and has given up 10 and 24 points in those games. If the heels can continue to do that, look out.
2. UNC Had an 18-play Drive.
One of the biggest shortcomings of this team has been the inability to milk the clock late in games. UNC has struggled in four-minute offense situations with running the ball when the whole stadium knows you’re going to do it. Well, fast forward to the early fourth quarter. UNC put together an 18-play drive that took 8 minutes off the clock and put serious pressure on Miami. The Heels need these kinds of drives to win football games, and they proved that they could execute them on Saturdays.
3. UNC surrendered just 41 rushing yards.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the game was the fact that UNC forced the Hurricanes to be pretty much one-dimensional. Miami’s leading rusher had 19 yards on 11 carries for a putrid 1.7 yards per carry. UNC’s D-line was getting great penetration throughout the game. Miami only had 7 rushing yards in the second half on six attempts. All this cumulated to the meager 41 rushing yards put up by the Canes. The hope is that UNC can continue this run throughout the year.
UNC pulled off a win on Saturday but it was not easy. They will play 4-2 Duke this upcoming Saturday. If the Heels can put everything together as one unified team they could be a real threat to any ACC team. I believe we will only see them improve!