With new details seemingly emerging every other day about the NCAA and academic investigations, UNC continues to surprise with its performance on the field, gutting out a win against a Clemson Tigers team just as desperate for a victory. Even more surprising? The Heels do so mostly on the backs of once-third-stringers and… wait for it… solid special teams play! (Well, the kick coverage units, anyways… punting is still a house of horrors for UNC).
In a back-and-forth contest of offensive ineptitude, the ultimate difference-maker was Johnny White, who tallied 179 yards of total offense, including 2 TDs and a number of crucial plays - his 51-yard reception in the second quarter to set up a touchdown just before halftime, as well as touching the ball on every single play during Carolina’s final drive to run out the clock. White has been one of the brighter spots for the Carolina offense this season, looking like a legitimate threat both running and catching the ball out of the backfield, and there’s no reason to think his production can’t continue barring injury.
And it may very well be that keeping White healthy is going to be crucial for UNC moving forward, because the shine is starting to come off of TJ Yates and this receiving corps a little bit. Take away White’s 90 yards receiving, and Carolina only tallied 74 additional yards through the air. The numbers were especially bad on 3rd downs, where the Heels were a miserable 4 of 14 on conversions and it looked like several receivers were stopping their routes short of the markers (Tar Heel Fan noticed this, as well). Yates also overthrew a couple of wide-open targets on occasion and generally looked off on the day, perhaps distracted by coveting the luxuriant amount of time that Clemson QB Kyle Parker had to throw in the pocket all day.
Fortunately, Yates and company were at least clutch when it counted, as Butch Davis must have caught something from Les Miles in week 1 and went for it 4 times on 4th down, converting every time as all three UNC touchdown drives featured a 4th down conversion. Other perhaps-unexpected names came up huge for Carolina as well, like Zach Brown subbing in for the injured Quan Sturdivant and notching 14 tackles (10 solo) and a couple of huge hits on special teams.
Despite some shaky play on both sides of the line for the Heels, UNC proved it can find a way to win ugly when necessary. The question is whether that will be enough moving forward…
Other links from the weekend:
- The other big news of the weekend was that fullback Devon Ramsay was held out of action vs. Clemson because of “information gathered this week in the probe into agent-related and improper benefits, as well as possible academic misconduct.” Since Ramsay had played in all of UNC’s previous 4 games, this opens up a whole new can of worms in terms of whether or not the NCAA will be vacating wins from THIS season now. If they do, maybe we should just bring back every suspended player and let them take the field as a big “up yours” to the NCAA - heck, bring back Julius Peppers! Who cares!
- Tar Heel Fan’s game recap says this felt like the type of performance we expected before the season: a solid defense bailing out an occasionally shaky TJ Yates. (True, but let’s not make that a recipe forthe future, please!)
- Carolina March also gives some props to UNC’s special teams and, of course, Johnny White.
- Steve Spurrier finally got his breakthrough win at South Carolina, beating #1 Alabama; wonder if that, combined with UNC’s scandals, potentially changes anything in terms of recruiting in the Carolinas?
- Some former Duke Students started up a t-shirt company for Duke-centric shirts. Originality is questionable, but at least they’re going for something more creative than “Crazies.”