Following a disappointing loss to Florida State last Saturday, the Tar Heels bounced back with a dominant 48-21 win over the NC State Wolfpack in Kenan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels looked extremely motivated from the word go and had a very solid overall game in all three aspects to give them their second top 25 win of the season. Here’s what we learned about this Tar Heel team on Saturday.
Running Game Might Be the Best in the Country
The combination of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams has been causing teams problems all season long and it was no different in this game against NC State. Both guys once again hit the 100 yards rushing, with Williams leading the way for the second straight week, carrying the ball 19 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns, continuing his streak of games with multiple touchdowns, which now sits at five to begin the season. Carter had a strong outing, as well, running for 106 yards and a touchdown on his 17 rush attempts. While the two weren’t nearly as present in the passing game as they have been in some of the other games, this was another fantastic performance for this tandem that is now averaging 312.8 yards of total offense per game. The two just continue to tear it up and they continue to make the case that they might just be the best running back tandem in the country this year.
Run Defense Will Just Be Up and Down All Year
After consecutive games where the Tar Heels struggled mightily to stop the run, the defense responded on Saturday. The Wolfpack came into the game with a solid 1-2 combination of their own, but the Tar Heels held the two to just 53 yards between them and held the Wolfpack to 34 overall rushing yards. Chazz Surratt, who had really struggled in the last two games, led the Tar Heels’ defensive charge, finishing with 8 total tackles, six of which were solos. The Tar Heels have really succeeded against teams who have had pocket-based quarterbacks like they saw on Saturday, but they have to find a way to do that against mobile quarterbacks, who have given them fits so far this season. Until they can do that, this run defense will be inconsistent.
Penalties Are Just Going to Be a Part of This Team
It’s been discussed after every game and it will be discussed once again after this one. At halftime, the Tar Heels had committed just two penalties for 20 yards, but the penalties became a big problem in the third quarter, as the Tar Heels recorded six team penalties for 45 yards. The penalties in this game weren’t game changing because of the margin, but this could be more of an issue going forward, especially late in the season. This may unfortunately be something this team will have to find a way to navigate around because there hasn’t been any improvement here so far this year.
Mack Brown Just Continues to Own NC State
Prior to Mack’s return to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels struggled to beat the rival Wolfpack, but he wasted no time fixing those troubles. In his first stint at Carolina, Mack won his last five meetings with the Wolfpack and he has now started off his second stint with two blowout wins over them. As GoHeels’ Adam Lucas revealed on social media, the Tar Heels’ 88 combined points in the last two meetings are the most combined points by a Tar Heel team in consecutive meetings in the rivalry’s history. The previous staff had plenty of issues beating their rivals, but the new staff has quickly restored order, going 3-0 so far against the teams two rivals so far. As for NC State, Mack Brown now has a seven game winning streak against the Wolfpack, six of the seven of which have come by double-digits.
This Team Still Has Plenty of Reason to Believe
It felt like there was a lot of negativity around this Tar Heel team after the loss to Florida State and rightfully so. However, as we said in last week’s recap, this team still controls their own destiny and on Saturday, they showed why there is still plenty of reason to believe this team can make an ACC Championship game appearance. The schedule produces three straight very winnable games over the next three weeks ahead of the Notre Dame-Miami finish to the conference season. If the Tar Heels can continue to build some momentum on both side of the football, they should feel good heading into those final two conference matchups.