Next up: vs. Appalachian State, 3:30 p.m., Saturday (RSN/ACC Network Extra)
Wrapping up the weekend
The reality of Mack Brown's rebuild at North Carolina arrived on Friday night, when for the first time all season, the Tar Heels didn't look ready to play from the opening kickoff. Great teams don't do that, especially in an in-state rivalry game that coaches have spent the entire week preaching the importance of.
The first half was a complete disaster for everyone until the defense showed some signs of life late. In the second half, the Tar Heels showed exactly how good they can be in playing well for about 20 minutes and nearly completing a comeback against a good Wake Forest team.
- Sam Howell made a few uncharacteristic mistakes on easy throws in the first half and held the ball longer than necessary at times, but his offensive line gave him no chance. Routinely, he was pressured with three- and four-man pass rushes as the Tar Heels allowed six sacks. The loss of fifth-year center Nick Polino is looming large.
- Carolina's pass rush, without the injured Jason Strowbridge, was the opposite, struggling to generate much pressure, which gave Jamie Newman ample time to locate his talented receivers and allowed the Deacons valuable seconds to make reads on RPOs.
- Bad as things were, the Tar Heels never stopped fighting. That was encouraging for Brown and his team as they staged another fourth-quarter rally.
- Dyami Brown's continues to emerge as Howell's most reliable receiver. Targeted 20 times, Brown has 11 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
- Antonio Williams appears to be the odd man out at running back, receiving zero carries at Wake Forest. He had four attempts for 53 yards vs. South Carolina then two for five yards against Miami.
- Howell made NFL-level throws over the course of the comeback and yet again, the Tar Heels dominated in the fourth quarter. On the season, Carolina has outscored its opponents 38-9 in the final quarter.
- The defense was locked in for the second half, and up until the Deacons' drive, they gained just 66 yards on five possessions.
- Punting 10 times is never a good thing, but freshman Ben Kiernan had his best game of the season, averaging 46 yards per attempt with a long of 57 yards.
- The pendulum swung the other way on penalties with Carolina picking up seven for 43 yards. The Tar Heels are still much-improved over last season, currently sitting in a tie for 35th nationally, giving up an average of 46 yards in penalties.
- What a job Dave Clawson has done. Through three games, the Deacons have been penalized eight times for 68 yards, they tackle well and rarely turn the ball over. Despite the recruiting challenges at Wake Forest, Clawson has upgraded the talent while finding guys that fit his scheme perfectly while offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has built a fun, innovative scheme that kids want to play in.
About the Mountaineers
- First-year coach Eli Drinkwitz is 2-0 at App State, with 42-7 win over East Tennessee State before beating Charlotte 56-41.
- The win over the 49ers left Mountaineer fans uneasy with new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, as a unit that ranked sixth nationally in total defense last season surrendered 526 yards.
- App State is stacked on offense, led by the 2018 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Zac Thomas. He hasn't been asked to do much so far, completing 30 of 44 attempts for 332 yards with five touchdowns.
- As usual, the Mountaineers have a talented running back in Darrynton Evans. The speedy Evans went for 234 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries vs. Charlotte, in addition to return an onside kick for a score.
- Suspended for the first two games, receiver Corey Sutton will presumably return this game. His presence would be huge in giving Thomas a deep threat.
- App State has an experienced group of linebackers, led by linebackers Akeem Davis-Gaither and Jordan Fehr and two battle-tested safeties in Josh Thomas and Desmond Franklin. The Mountaineer cornerbacks are less experienced.
This week's ACC schedule
Elon at Wake Forest, 12 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)
Boston College at Rutgers, 12 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Western Michigan at Syracuse, 12 p.m. (ACC Network)
No. 15 UCF at Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Louisville at Florida State, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Central Michigan at Miami, 4 p.m. (ACC Network)
Old Dominion at No. 21 Virginia, 7 p.m (ESPN2)
Ball State at N.C. State, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Charlotte at No. 1 Clemson, 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network)
Around the nation
No. 10 Utah at USC, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Air Force at No. 20 Boise State, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin, 12 p.m. (FOX)
No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
No. 22 Washington at BYU, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 16 Oregon at Stanford, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia, 8 p.m. (CBS)