Saturday night, the most important game of the ACC season took place in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels faced the Virginia Cavaliers for the 124th meeting of the South’s Oldest Rivalry. In yet another close affair for this 2019 Tar Heel team, they would fall to the Cavaliers 38-31, in large part because of a disastrous third quarter defensively. As the team heads into their second bye week of the season, let’s take a look at the stock report to see where certain aspects of this Tar Heel team are trending.
⇧ Dyami Brown
The prior two games had been tough ones for the sophomore, who burst onto the scene with a fantastic start to the season. He rebounded on Saturday, though, with the best performance of his career, catching six passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Brown became just the seventh Tar Heels receive to reach the 200-yard receiving mark in game. Of those seven, only Jheranie Boyd’s performance against LSU back in 2010 saw a receiver averaged more yards per reception than Brown’s 33.7 on Saturday night. Brown performance on Saturday night is also tops amongst ACC receivers so far this year, as he is the first receiver in the conference to reach the 200 yard mark this season. His performance earned him a spot on PFF’s National Team of the Week and ACC Player of the Week honors. He’ll hope to carry that momentum over into the Tar Heels’ three game sprint to the finish.
⇧ Sam Howell
After looking the part of a true freshman for the first time a week ago against rival Duke, Howell rebounded with a stellar performance, even in the chilly conditions, against Virginia. Howell would only complete 15 of his 29 passes, but those fifteen completions went for 353 yards and four touchdowns. This is the third 300+ passing yard, 4+ passing touchdown performance in the last four games for Howell, who currently leads the ACC in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Howell is one of the most impressive young quarterbacks in the country and will hope to prove that down the stretch as he tries to lead this team to their first bowl game since 2016.
⇧ Chazz Surratt
Surratt continued his unbelievable season on Saturday night with another huge performance for this Tar Heel defense that struggled otherwise. Of Surratt’s 15 total tackles, thirteen were solo tackles and he was able to add 2.0 more tackles for loss to his season total. Surratt has now recorded double-digit tackles in four straight games and his 90 total tackles is currently the top mark in the ACC.
⇧ Javonte Williams
The Tar Heel running game has caught fire and Williams is the running back leading the way right now. His 209 yards in the last two games is the best two game stretch that he has put together this season and the 5.5 yards per carry average in those last two is a solid number, as well. Williams’ 738 rushing yards this season rank fifth in the ACC and he is on pace to be the Tar Heels first 1,000 yard rusher in four years.
⇧ Antoine Green
Green has struggled to make an impact since returning from the lower body injury that he suffered against Miami, so Saturday was a nice step in the right direction for him. He caught two of his three targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. If he can expand on this performance to close out the season, the Tar Heels could have a solid six-man rotation at wide receiver heading into next year.
⇩ Jason Strowbridge
Strowbridge put together a freakish performance last week against Duke, but followed it up on Saturday night with his worst performance of the season. Strowbridge was shut down by the Cavaliers offensive line and was only able to rack up one total tackle despite being on the field for 70 defensive snaps. He will have to avoid another performance like that for a defense that desperately needs his presence to be successful.
⇩ Trey Morrison
Morrison was amongst the three players that returned to the lineup from injury on Saturday night, but he had a tough go of it in his return from a broken arm. Morrison was picked on early and often in the first half, as he struggled to slow down Cavaliers receiver Terrell Jana, who pieced together a big night. It may have been that the team rushed him back too quickly, but Morrison hasn’t had a great season on the outside. One has to wonder if he is simply a better fit at nickel, a spot where he starred as a freshman.
Morrison wasn’t the only issue for the Tar Heel secondary on Saturday night. Bryce Perkins carved up this sputtering defensive backfield, completing 30 of 39 pass attempts for 378 yards and three touchdowns. Perkins ability to get the ball out quickly gave the Tar Heels problems all night, but the unit once again struggled in man coverage on the outside. The most frustrating part is that this young unit is in position to make plays, they just haven’t been able to execute.
⇩ Beau Corrales
Corrales has developed into a solid third option in this Tar Heel pass game this season, but on Saturday night, he had the worst performance of his 2019 season. Corrales caught just two of his five targets for just eleven yards and couldn’t haul in the fade pass in the end zone on the Tar Heels final red zone drive of the game that glance off of his hands.
⇩ Antonio Williams
Following a huge performance a week ago against Duke in his limited snaps, Williams was on the field for just six snaps on Saturday night. In those six snaps, he touched the football just once, carrying the football for one yard on his lone rush attempt. After what we saw a week ago, we thought Williams might be able to establish a solid role in this offense to close out the season. Clearly, that is not the case.
⇩ ACC Coastal Chances
The loss levys a huge blow to the Tar Heels chances to head back to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels will now have to win both of their remaining ACC games (@Pittsburgh and @NC State) and get two losses from Virginia Tech in these three games (Wake Forest, @ Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh) and have Virginia lose their last two ACC matchups (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech). As of right now, there is an extremely small chance that the Tar Heels will be able to pull this off, but believe it or not, it’s still possible.
⇩ Bowl Chances
While the team’s bowl chances do decrease with the loss, the good news is, it doesn’t completely destroy their chances. Mercer at home appears safe to project as a win, meaning the Tar Heels would have to beat either Pittsburgh or NC State to make a bowl game. While the Tar Heels are no longer projected to go in and beat the Panthers next Thursday, the Tar Heels are currently still projected to beat the rival Wolfpack to get bowl eligible.