Tar Heel football is not for those with a weak heart. The Tar Heels dropped another close game on Thursday night to the Pittsburgh Panthers in overtime 34-27, putting themselves in a tough spot to make a bowl game in Mack Brown’s first season back on the Tar Heel sidelines. As the Tar Heels head into a must-win matchup with Mercer on Senior Day, let’s take a look at the Week 12 stock report for this Tar Heel football team.
⇧ Dazz Newsome
Newsome has been heating up down the stretch of the season and that culminated on Thursday night with the best performance of his career. Newsome caught 11 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown and was a couple of overthrows away from being the second 200-yard receiver in as many games. Newsome now has 817 yards and seven touchdowns on 57 catches this season.
⇧ Antonio Williams
With the tandem of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter ahead of him, it has been quiet senior season for Williams so far. On Thursday night, however, Antonio Williams was forced to take on a bigger role with Javonte Williams hampered by an ankle injury suffered against Virginia. Williams would take advantage of the opportunity, running for 107 yards on 12 carries to lead the Tar Heel rushing attack. If Javonte Williams’ ankle injury lingers, don’t be shocked if Williams continues to see an expanded role in the final two games of the season.
⇧ Beau Corrales
Newsome wasn’t the only Tar Heel receiver that had a big night on Thursday. After his worst game of the season a week ago against Virginia, Corrales responded with a nice performance, catching five passes for 92 yards and an impressive touchdown that opened the scoring for the Tar Heels in the first quarter. Corrales has evolved into a third reliable option for this passing offense that has hit their stride.
⇧ Don Chapman
Chapman has been sparingly used since his first career start, but returned to the rotation in a big way on Thursday night. Chapman finished the game with six total tackles, all of which were solo, and was much better in coverage than D.J. Ford who he replaced after his rough first half.
⇩ Chazz Surratt
It has been a special season for Surratt so far in 2019, but Thursday’s game was one of his worst so far this season. Surratt finished with just five total tackles and struggled to make tackles in the open field, an issue that we’ve seen surface at times, but not to the extent that we saw on Thursday night. Expect a rebound performance next week from Surratt against Mercer.
⇩ D.J. Ford
Everyone in this secondary has seemed to have their struggles over the past few weeks and on Thursday night, but Ford had the worst night of anyone against the Panthers. Ford was beat over the top for two of Pittsburgh biggest plays of the first half, looking lost on the 48-yard completion to Taysir Mack in the first quarter. Ford was benched in favor of Chapman in the second half and with Chapman playing well, you have to wonder if Ford’s role will diminish a bit in the final two games of the season.
⇩ Defensive Line
From the word go this unit was dominated by a mediocre defensive line. While Jason Strowbridge and Aaron Crawford managed to still piece together decent showings, the rest of the unit was non-existent for most of the night, as have been for the bulk of the second half of the season. This unit needs to be better in the final two games of the season if they want to make a bowl game for the first time in three years.
⇩ Javonte Williams
The Tar Heels leading rusher was slowed by an ankle injury he suffered against Virginia and was on the field for just 12 plays on Thursday night. Williams carried the ball just five times for 25 yards and unless he’s able to get healthy in the next two weeks, it’s hard to see him having a huge impact, especially if Antonio Williams can build on his performance on Thursday.
Williams was just part of the injury problems that the Tar Heels entered Thursday night’s dealing with. After returning against Virginia, both Myles Wolfolk and Trey Morrison did not make the trip to Pittsburgh and it was announced shortly before the game that Wolfolk had officially been declared out for the season with an upper body injury that he sustained against the Cavaliers. Starting offensive guard Marcus McKethan also left the game with an injury and would not return. To say the Tar Heels are looking forward to the offseason so they can finally healthy is an understatement.
⇩ Bowl Chances
With the loss, the Tar Heels are now tasked with winning the final two games of the season, a situation they were hoping to avoid after the fast start. Next week shouldn’t be much of an issue against a Mercer team that is just 5-6 at the FCS level this season, meaning it will all come to the rivalry matchup with NC State, a team that will likely be fighting to play in a bowl game as well. While many may be encouraged by the struggles for the Wolfpack so far this season, it is worth noting that the Tar Heels are just 3-9 in their last twelve meetings with their fiercest rival.