Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 59-53 home victory over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.
- The only acceptable phrase to describe this game is “banana-whackers”.
- Carolina is able to attack equally well on the ground and through the air. The question coming into each game is: Will this be a “Sam Day” or a “Javonte and Michael Day”? Today was undoubtedly a “Sam Day”. The Tar Heel quarterback had the game of his life, and needed every bit of it to secure a Tar Heel victory.
- Howell didn’t just have the game of his life, but from a passing yardage and touchdown perspective, had the best game of any Carolina quarterback ever. His 550 passing yards are the most in a single game in UNC history (Marquise Williams previously held the record with 494 yards) and the third most in ACC history (Deshaun Watson holds that distinction with 580 yards). Howell also threw for six touchdowns, setting another Carolina record for most in a single game and tying the ACC record for most in a game.
- For all of Howell’s throwing heroics, it was perhaps his legs that made the most important play of the day. You might think I’d be referencing his 20-yard touchdown run that put UNC in the lead for good, but you would be wrong. Four plays earlier, Carolina was facing a 3rd & 7 at the Wake Forest 48. Howell picked up exactly seven yards on a scramble and found the endzone shortly thereafter.
- In both their losses and today, the Tar Heels faced a 21-point-or-more deficit. Comebacks against Florida State and Virginia fell just shy, but today Carolina was finally able to get over the hump and secure a victory.
- Carolina amassed an absurd 742 total yards of total offense (most in Carolina history), breaking the previous 2020 season high of 656 against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels offense has now gained 500-plus yards of total offense in six straight games. Additionally, they have 550-plus yards of total offense in five of those six with the game against Virginia as the only outlier (536).
- After UNC turned the ball over on downs on the first possession of the game, the two teams combined to score on eight of the next nine total drives. Seven of those eight scores were touchdowns.
- The Heels went into halftime with a manageable 11-point deficit, although Wake Forest had the momentum and the ball to start the second half. The third quarter started with a Wake field goal, a UNC three-and-out, and a Wake touchdown to give the Demon Deacons a 21-point lead. Were it not for the previous nearly-successful ferocious comebacks, there would have been no reason to hope for a turnaround. Carolina went on to score touchdowns on five of their next six possessions, while holding Wake scoreless in the same time span (a 35-0 scoring run).
- During Carolina’s scoring run, Wake punted four straight times (three of which were three-and-outs) and then turned the ball over on downs. The defense struggled throughout the first half, but this impressive play by the defense over the last 20 or so minutes of gameplay is what ultimately allowed the Heels to win.
- An interesting stat: Wake Forest is yet to throw an interception this season. The Heels, however, came extremely close to picking off two different Sam Hartman passes in the first half.
- Over the course of the first three quarters of play Carolina was 3-for-10 on third down conversions. In the fourth quarter? The Tar Heels went 4-for-4. Javonte Williams and Howell had two important conversions each. Williams’ were both on the drive that tied the game at 45. We’ve already discussed Howell’s third down conversions, both of which came courtesy of his legs on the drive that put Carolina ahead for good.
- On offensive wrinkle to watch keep your eye on – during the fourth quarter drive in which Carolina reclaimed the lead, you might have noticed that both Michael Carter and Javonte Williams were in the backfield.
- Speaking of Williams, his streak of scoring a touchdown every game this season seemed very much in jeopardy, thanks to Sam Howell’s aerial attack. However, after Wake turned the ball over on downs with just north of 2:30 remaining the game, Williams took the second play from scrimmage 15 yards for the touchdown. Williams now has 18 touchdowns on the season, tied for third all-time in Carolina history with Mike Voight (1976) and Kelvin Bryant (1981). Gio Bernard is number two on the list with 19 touchdowns in 2012.
- Ray Vohasek deserves special recognition for two big defensive plays down the stretch. After Carolina re-took the lead at 52-45, Wake received the ball with around 4:00 remaining and needing to score. On 2nd and 10, Wake quarterback Sam Hartman scrambled out of the pocket and looked to have some open green in front of him, but Vohasek was able to make a shoestring tackle after just a one-yard gain; stopping the potential momentum. On Wake’s next drive, Vohasek sacked Hartman on the first play to make life even more difficult for the team looking to score two touchdowns in 2:30.
- I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face: Jonathan Kim might be the most underappreciated weapon on a team full of them. The Tar Heel kicker achieved touchbacks on eight of his 10 kickoffs today. For the season, he has 54 touchbacks on 60 kickoffs, exactly a 90 percent success rate.
- Due to the craziness of the game we have yet to even discuss the other gaudy offensive numbers. Dazz Newsome hauled in 10 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, just outpacing Dyami Brown who caught eight passes for 163 yards and also two touchdowns. Carter and Williams continued their great work with Williams gaining 101 yards on the ground and 13 in the air, while Carter tallied 77 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards.
- There were several “wow” moments throughout the game. Carolina’s first touchdown was a one-play drive featuring a 75-yard reception to Dazz Newsome, most of which were yards after the catch as he came streaking across the middle of the field (which was open all day long for Howell). Here's the touchdown:
- Also in the first quarter, Dyami Brown had a rather unbelievable catch in which the receiver had his hand on the ball, but Brown snatched it away on the way to the ground. See it for yourself:
- Another “wow” moment (which is actually two moments) was Javonte Williams having a “Javonte Williams run” in which he just shed every defender that came his away. On the next play he had an even more “Javonte Williams run”, carrying all sorts of defenders along for the ride. Also, he blocks people. Hard. Like this:
- The linebacking core led the way in tackles today as Chazz Surratt had 10.5 (including a sack and two tackles-for-loss) while Jeremiah Gemmel had eight.
- An area where the defense had some struggles today was getting off the field on 3rd and five or longer. Wake Forest was 9-18 on third down conversions overall; six of those conversions were of the “five or longer” variety and all were passes. It’s inevitable that an opponent will convert 3rd and long from time-to-time, but not at this rate. To be successful against Notre Dame and Miami, Carolina will have to be able to get off the field on 3rd and long. For reference, here are those six third and long completions:
- 3rd and 5 – nine yard completion
- 3rd and 8 – 34 yard completion
- 3rd and 7 – 28 yard completion
- 3rd and 6 – 41 yard completion
- 3rd and 6 – seven yard completion
- 3rd and 18 – 46 yard completion
- You might recall that Javonte Williams dropped a catchable ball to end the Florida State game. Today with the Tar Heels facing on an onside kick as potentially the last meaningful play of the game, Williams got some "hands" redemption as he fielded the tricky hop and secured the victory for his team.
Mack Brown postgame press conference
Players postgame press conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina football game. The Tar Heels are off next week before hosting Notre Dame on Friday, November 27. Kickoff is at 3:30ET on ABC.
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