It’s called the “Tar Heel State” for a reason, and yesterday’s 59-53 thrilling win over Wake Forest gave Carolina a perfect 3-0 record against in-state opponents this season. One of the main reasons Bubba Cunningham gave Mack Brown the job two seasons ago was to restore the state both on the field, and in recruiting. Brown has certainly achieved that, going 5-2 against in-state opponents in his first two seasons. It wasn’t the easiest of wins, as the Tar Heels dug themselves a 21 point deficit in the third quarter, before an unthinkable rally took place inside of Kenan Stadium. A Tar Heel defense that hadn’t stopped the Deacons offense suddenly forced 5 straight stops. That allowed Sam Howell to have a historic effort in a win. Howell set school records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total touchdowns in a single game. If Howell wasn’t already a Tar Heel legend, he became one yesterday. While Carolina’s skill positions players were special, the comeback wasn’t possible without the Tar Heels owning the line of scrimmage.
Carolina’s offense got off to a hot start, before the offense stalled at the end of the first half, and the beginning of the second half, but it wasn’t because of the offensive line. Carolina held their own at the line of scrimmage from word go, even in the run game. There was a chance for Wake Forest to take over the game, once the Tar Heels were forced to throw the football to get back into the game, but they kept Sam Howell upright, and allowed him to make plays down the field. Carolina rushed the football 38 times for 192, averaging 5.1 yards per rush. Javonte Williams continued his sensational season, rushing for 101 yards, and the game sealing touchdowns. One that stood out is Carolina’s success when pulling a guard or a tackle in their run fit. They had all this success with Brian Anderson on the sidelines with a injury. Quiron Johnson filled in for Anderson, and the way he played wouldn’t let you think he is a former walk on for the Tar Heels. Carolina finally put together back to back quality performances up front, as they’re continuing to build depth, and continuity. They get a much needed bye week to get healthy, because the games against Notre Dame and Miami will determine how we judge this season.
While Carolina held their own on the offensive line for the entirety of the game, the same can’t be said for the defensive line. Simply put, Wake Forest controlled the line of scrimmage for the first 3 quarters or so. They pushed around the Tar Heels, and had their best offensive showing of the season. Then everything changed in the final quarter, as Jay Bateman made some scheme changes that landed big results for his defense, that was desperate for stops and confidence. The switch to playing with just one safety, and loading the line of scrimmage, and the box in general yielded a change in momentum, and allowed the comeback to happen. Suddenly Carolina was in the backfield making plays in the run game, They were getting to Sam Hartman, making him uncomfortable in the pocket forcing him to miss throws. The switch to the 2-4-5 didn’t make a lot of sense when it happened, and who knows why it took so long to make another adjustment, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. Raymond Vohasek recorded 4 tackles, and Jalil Taylor had 3 of his own, as the interior defensive line had an up and down performance. More importantly, the switch in scheme, and personnel allowed Chazz Surratt to find the football and make plays. While they won’t want to look at the entirety of the film, they found something to build off in that fourth quarter.