The Tar Heels had a chance to regain their footing against the Campbell Fighting Camels in Kenan Stadium after two disappointing losses as double-digit favorites the last two weeks. After a sluggish start that saw the teams tied at the end of the first quarter and Campbell driving to tie it again in the middle of the second quarter, the Tar Heels were able to flip the switch and run away to 59-7 victory. Here is our biggest takeaways from the won that give the team a little bit of confidence back as they head into the difficult three game stretch to close the season.
Coaching Decisions Remain Baffling
While it’s hard to be too critical after a 52-point win, the decision-making from the coaches continues to be frustrating. Chip Lindsey’s play-calling was confusing early in the game, especially on the first and third drives of the game. The choice to start the game without a traditional run play against a run defense that was allowing 175.8 rushing yards per game was an interesting one and led to a three and out, but it was topped when Lindsey opted to run the ball on 3rd & 8 and settle for a punt on the Campbell side of the 50. Nothing will compare, though, to the complete meltdown that the staff had before halftime where the team could have hit a field goal to extend the lead to 31-7 following an interception. Following a completion over the middle to Bryson Nesbit, the team attempted to run the field goal unit out with no timeouts instead of just running to the line and clocking the ball, which could have easily been done. A miscommunication on the sideline led to everyone from the field goal unit except the placekicker and holder coming on the field, causing the clock to run out once they realized the mistake. These types of errors are something that can’t happen no matter who the opponent is and is part of the growing concern with this coaching staff.
Omarion Hampton Continues to Build Case for Doak Walker and ACC Player of the Year Honors
Hampton was one of the players that coming into this game we expected to see have a big day against an FCS opponent and he didn’t disappoint. Hampton ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries and in the process became the fourth running back since Mack Brown’s return to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season. His day will keep him amongst the nation’s leaders in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, scrimmage yards and total touchdowns, all categories he entered the day top ten in. While breaking the single-season program records are probably out of reach, these numbers certainly have him firmly in the running for the Doak Walker Award, given each year to the nation’s best running back, and the ACC Player of Year award.
Young Defenders Provide Some Hope
I know it feels like we’ve said this plenty of times before, but there was a group of young defensive players that showed some nice flashes late in the game against an FCS opponent. Amare Campbell played more than just garbage time snaps and played very well, showing some nice physicality and tackling ability and giving you a good feeling about his ability to step in if needed. Edge rusher Tyler Thompson was limited to just the late game reps, but did some nice things against the Campbell starters which were still in the game at the time. Thompson did a great job shedding blocks and winning consistently off the edge, something he has to be able to do with his slender frame. Plenty of others got valuable experience, too, and there is reason to be encouraged about some of the future members of this unit moving forward.
Conner Harrell Has a Good Chance to Be the Next Starting Quarterback
Many have speculated that the team would go into the transfer portal this offseason if quarterback Drake Maye departs like most think he will. Sophomore backup Conner Harrell showed on Saturday, though, that he has a good chance to fill that role himself. Harrell completed all four of his pass attempts including a perfect 41-yard deep throw to Chris Culliver for his first career touchdown pass. He also showed off his running ability, scampering 61 yards for his first career rushing touchdown. There was a lot to like about his performance on Saturday, but the question now is was it enough to keep the team from looking in the portal?
Next Week Will Determine What This Season Will Be
While it was nice to get a win, this win doesn’t really do a lot for the team other than serve as a chance to reset. The Tar Heels now get set to begin a tough three game stretch to close the season, starting with next Saturday’s matchup in Kenan Stadium with rival Duke. The hope is that this game can serve as one that took the bad taste of the team’s mouth and give them some confidence for a game that will determine the direction of this year’s team and the program as well.