The Tar Heels opened their 2019 home schedule on Saturday night in a crucial ACC matchup with the Miami Hurricanes. In front of one of the best crowds in Kenan Stadium history, the Tar Heels would add another historic win to the Kenan Stadium history books, completing their second fourth quarter comeback in as many weeks. Here’s what we learned about this Tar Heel football team on Saturday night.
Sam Howell Is Setting Himself Up For a Big Career
When the Tar Heels made the decision to go with Howell at quarterback, you knew that Tar Heels had a talent player taking over the most important position on the field. However, no one expected Howell to get off to this good of a start to his young career. Howell had another phenomenal performance on Saturday night, highlighted by the game-winning drive which included a 4th & 17 conversion to Rontavius Groves and a perfect touchdown throw to Dazz Newsome with 1:01 left to take a 28-25 lead. Howell has led two fourth quarter comebacks in each of his first two collegiate games, a feat that is special for a veteran starter, let alone a true freshman. His 519 passing yards in the first two games is the second-most for a quarterback in program history, trailing only Bryn Renner’s 533 in 2013, and he has a 4-0 TD-INT ratio so far this season. This looks to be the start of a historic career for Howell in Chapel Hill.
Javonte Williams Is Clearly The No. 1 Running Back
It was tough sledding for the Tar Heels running game most of the night against the stout Miami front seven, but Javonte Williams still had himself a solid performance. Williams ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on ten carries and continued to muscle through defenders, including a remarkable play on his touchdown run to somehow power through a group of defenders to get into the endzone. Williams runs with an edge that Tar Heel fans haven’t seen maybe since Ryan Houston. Combine that with some pretty good open-field speed and it’s easy to see why he is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Williams has what it takes to give the Tar Heels their first 1,000-yard rusher since 2015.
The Defense Is Still A Work In Progress
After week one, there was a lot of optimism about this Tar Heels defense, but Saturday showed that this defense still is a long way from consistently bringing that performance to the field week in and week out. The Tar Heels were gashed for 488 yards, with much of the damage being done in the middle of the field. The team had some tackling struggles once again and the secondary depth got thinner with the injury to Patrice Rene. It was a tough night for the defense, but there were bound to be some ups and downs with a new scheme and a defense that lacks depth. Here’s to hoping we don’t see that type of performance again from this 2019 Tar Heels defense.
The Tar Heels Will Have a Home Environment This Season
The Tar Heels have become known around college football as one of the lesser Power 5 home environments in the country. Saturday night was a different story, though, as Kenan Stadium was full at the start of a game for the first time in years. The environment was electric from start to finish and received praise from the coaching staff, players and visiting recruits after the game. Each of the Tar Heels next two games are sold out and both the Duke and Virginia games are closing out on sellouts, as well. The environment could be a nice advantage for the Tar Heels in 2019.
The Tar Heels Have a Chance in the Coastal
This was something that may have seemed a bit premature to think coming into the season, but Saturday night’s game set the Tar Heels up for a shot at the Coastal title. The win coming over the Hurricanes means they have already beaten one of the Coastal favorites and they draw preseason Coastal favorite Virginia. The Heels have some challenging games on the road, but the two Coastal contenders that they face on the road, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, have early season question marks. While we’re staying away from saying the Tar Heels could or will win the ACC Coastal, it looks like the Tar Heels will be a factor.