Going from good to great was the goal for this team when they entered the season and they took another step towards that today. While the Tar Heels have put together some strong performances this season, none rival the performance that they put together in Saturday’s 40-7 win over Syracuse. The team dominated from the word go on both sides of the ball, putting together one of their most complete showings of the second Mack Brown stint.
Drake Maye Puts Himself Back in the Heisman Trophy Conversation
Tar Heel fans have been worried about Maye’s Heisman candidacy after the first four games of the year, but those concerns should be gone after one of the best performances of his career. He threw for the second-most passing yards of his career (442) and finished with the second-most total yards of his career (497), trailing only his performance against Wake Forest last season. He was a part of all four of the Tar Heels touchdowns in the game, throwing for three and quarterback sneaking the other one. This type of performance is just what Maye needed to re-enter the race, one that is aided by a week where some of the Heisman leaders were relatively quiet.
Running Game Set the Tone Early
While Maye was the star of the game, the team really established their dominance early on the ground. The team ran for 109 of their 202 rushing yards in the first quarter led by Omarion Hampton, who was ripping off big gain after big gain in the first quarter. The success on the ground was what allowed the passing game to open up and was a big part of the reason the offense put up 644 yards of total offense and scored 40 points in this one.
Defense Continuing Pass Another Huge Test
As we told you when we were previewing this game, this was the most complete offense that the Tar Heels have faced so far this year and was going to be a major test for this improving defensive unit. As the unit has done for the majority of the season, they passed this one with flying colors. The Orange finished the first half with just 70 yards of total offense, easily the fewest yards that the team has allowed in a half so far this year. While Syracuse would strike first in the second half, this defense did a great job of ensuring the Orange never got themselves back in the game, allowing just 76 yards the rest of the game in what was their most dominant performance in years on that side of the ball.
Interior Defensive Line Proves Themselves More Than Capable
One of the only real concerns about this Tar Heel team after the four games was the interior of the defensive line not being able to win at the line of scrimmage. After a solid showing in the opener against South Carolina, the group has been pushed around by the last three opponents, which was reflected by how easily teams were able to run the football on them for the better part of the prior three games. On Saturday, the group stepped up, though, and was a big part of the dominance on the defensive side of the ball. Myles Murphy had his best performance of the last two years, finishing with five total tackles and a tackle for loss, as did Travis Shaw, who made three tackles of his own in 26 snaps. Tomari Fox also had a good day for himself, as did Kedrick Bingley-Jones, who saw his most significant snaps of his career and played well. This was a great showing from this group that they will hopefully be able to build on moving forward.
The Bye Week Woes Are The Latest Trend This Team Has Bucked
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Tar Heels had lost four of the five games they had played coming off of byes, but that wasn’t an issue on Saturday. Instead, the team turned in one of the most complete performances that we have seen in a long time and will now sit at 5-0 heading into next week’s primetime matchup with Miami. This is just the latest trend that the team has been able to overcome this season in a season that has been full of moments like this early on. So far, the team has won a primetime matchup with South Carolina, a team they had struggled with recently, to begin the season and taken down a Pittsburgh team that they had yet to beat on the road in Mack Brown’s second stint to get to 4-0 for the first time in 26 years. This team has been up for the challenges so far this year and they will face another one this coming weekend when they Miami in primetime in Kenan on Saturday.