Following a disastrous setback to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Tar Heels faced a crucial game against the rival Duke Blue Devils in Kenan Stadium. Even though it was far from the most dominant performance the team has had in Kenan Stadium, the Tar Heels did pick up a comfortable win on Saturday 38-7 over Duke to get a key Coastal win. Here is a look at the biggest takeaways from an important win for the 2021 season.
This Defensive Line Provides A Lot of Promise for Defense as a Whole
The group didn’t have the greatest second half against Georgia Tech, but they rebounded nicely in this one dominating the line of scrimmage the entire day. Myles Murphy had his second straight big performance on Saturday and continues to look like he has what it takes to be that dominant force that the Tar Heels need on that defensive line. Kaimon Rucker continued to show promise with another solid outing in this one and veteran edge players Tomon Fox and Chris Collins had good days, as well. If this group can find the consistency to go along with the flashes, that could allow this group to take the types of steps that we thought they were capable of taking back in the offseason.
Offensive Line Struggles Are Going to Be a Part of This Team
With this game in the books, the Tar Heels are now five games into the season and repeated issues like the offensive line play now need to be classified as part of the identity of this team. The Tar Heels front line on offense had yet another lackluster performance on Saturday against a weak Blue Devils front, especially early in the first and third quarters. The staff rotated a bunch today, but some of the times when they rotate were confusing. Both Asim Richards and Jordan Tucker had some rough moments on Saturday, meaning that the unit needs to utilize more of William Barnes at right tackle and Joshua Ezeudu at left tackle. Regardless, this is an element that the Tar Heels have to adjust the game plan going forward, mainly in the passing game. The short passing game has to be even more of a staple for this offense going forward, especially with Josh Downs continuing to show how special he is after the catch. When it comes to running the football, the staff has to remain aggressive and just understand that the results will be inconsistent. The Tar Heels have shown that they can work around this challenge at times this year and they need to show they can do it consistently to be able to get where they want to go.
Even On An Off Day, Josh Downs is Pretty Amazing
Saturday's game may have been the worst game of the season for Downs because of the fact that he had two drops and tripped on another route he was open on, but he still was able to put together another tremendous statistical performance. For a fifth straight game, Downs caught eight passes, turning them into 168 yards and a 63-yard touchdown that sealed the game for the Tar Heels. He continues to do most of his damage after the catch, which is what makes him so difficult for opposing defenses to stop. If he can continue to put up numbers like this, there is a legit chance that we could be witnessing the best single season from a Tar Heel receiver ever.
This Continues to Be a Different Team at Home
It may not have been the fastest start for the Tar Heels offensively, but this team still showed how different they are, especially this season, at home than they are on the road. This is a team that thrives with the support of the home crowd and the good news is that the next two games and arguably their most difficult game of the season are at home. This is where this team needs to build up their conference before they hit the home stretch of the season that will feature crucial road matchup with Pittsburgh and NC State.