The Tar Heels came into Saturday with a chance to come away with a program defining victory and, boy, did they do that in Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday. The Tar Heels came prepared for a physical matchup with the Miami Hurricanes and put together a dominant first half on the way to a 34-10 halftime lead. The Tar Heels kept their foot on the gas in the second half, as they ran away from the Hurricanes on their way to a 62-26 win that kept them in the hunt for an Orange Bowl berth. Here’s what we learned about the Tar Heels in this gigantic win on Saturday.
We Are Likely Saying Goodbye the Most Dynamic Running Back Duo in Program History
The season that Michael Carter and Javonte Williams have combined for in 2020 has simply been one for the Tar Heel record books and they stepped up once again in big fashion in the most important game of the season. The tandem toted the ball 47 times and turned those carries into 544 yards, the most by any two running backs in college football history. The two combined to find the endzone five times, four of which came in the first half. The two easily cleared 1,000 rushing yards on the season, the first Tar Heel running back to accomplish that since 1993 when Leon and Curtis Johnson cleared the mark. With the huge performance, Carter moves up to fourth in program history and Williams has moved inside the top fifteen. After this performance, it’s hard to imagine that we won’t be saying goodbye to both of these players at season’s end, but if for some reason this is the last time we see them, what a way to go out.
This Defense Continues to Step Up in Big Games
The Tar Heel defense was tasked with slowing down the best mobile quarterback they had faced all season and while the first drive wasn’t the best star, the group rallied and was sensational for the remainder of the half. The group made a key fourth down stop and did a solid job of slowing King and the Hurricanes rushing attack thanks to a big performance from the tandem of Chazz Surratt and Jeremiah Gemmel at inside linebacker. They were aided by true freshmen studs Ja’Qurious Conley and Tony Grimes, both of whom had big days for this defense. Kyler McMichael also had a strong day opposite Grimes, making his presence felt with two nice pass breakups. Although they allowed more points in the second half, they allowed fewer yards and still held off any attempted charge from the Hurricanes in the second half. This defense has had their issues at times of the past two seasons, but in these types of games against ranked opponents where they have been counted on to step up, they have. If they can ever make it more consistent, that could put this team over the top.
Winning the Battle in Trenches Was a Difference in This One
One of the keys to this game was for the Tar Heels and they did just that on Saturday. After struggling against Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago, many wondered how the Tar Heels’ offensive line would handle a Miami defensive front that had two of the most explosive defensive ends in college football in their repertoire, but the group simply dominated the entire day, pushing the Miami defensive front around with ease. The Tar Heel defensive line didn’t look great on that first drive, but they rebounded to have a pretty solid day, helping to allow just 2.8 yards per rush and sacking D’Eriq King three times. These units stepped up when they needed to on Saturday to help the Tar Heels pick up one of their biggest wins in recent memory.
This Historic Offense Will Not Go to Waste
Heading into Saturday, it felt like the Tar Heels had let one of the best offenses in program history go to waste to some extent, but this game helped eliminate that. The Tar Heel offense dominated once again, piling up 778 yards of total offense, including 506 on first down plays alone, leading the way for the Tar Heels to pick up their biggest win in years and enter the driver’s seat for the program’s first Orange Bowl appearance ever. Even if the Tar Heels are selected for the Orange Bowl, this win will label this season as a success, something that wasn’t quite able to be done coming into the day. This offense will no doubt be remembered as one of, if not the best offense in program history and if Saturday was the last game of the season, they certainly left a lasting impression.