The Tar Heels would cash out for touchdowns in their next five red-zone trips in the first half.
North Carolina was the beneficiary of several ODU missteps in the first half. Old Dominion's punting game did not do it any favors in terms of field positioning in the first half, giving UNC two drives starting in Monarch territory. ODU also threw an interception late in the second quarter, setting redshirt first-year Chazz Surratt and his offense up only 29 yards away from the canvas.
Not to mention, whenever the Monarchs seemed to be getting into a rhythm, the Tar Heels would make something happen. North Carolina blocked a field goal that would’ve put ODU on the board for the first time. And, right before halftime, Steven Williams Jr. (the third Old Dominion quarterback to enter the game) fumbled at the one yard line — deflating the sell-out home crowd.
North Carolina entered the break leading 39-10.
At the outset of the second half, however, ODU was able to put some momentum together — pulling the game as close as 22 in the second half. However, the Monarchs were unable to overcome their first half deficit, and the Tar Heels continued to dominate on the ground.
In the end, North Carolina trotted off the field with its first win of the 2017 season.
Who stood out?
In a high-scoring affair like Saturday’s, there were many impressive stat lines. Jordon Brown ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and Michael Carter added 67 yards and two touchdowns. North Carolina’s dominance on the ground is certainly a testament to its offensive line's performance on Saturday — a unit which has struggled to stay healthy all year.
Despite North Carolina’s dominant performance on the ground, though, Surratt — who manned quarterback responsibilities up until just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter — proved effective and poised inside the pocket all day. He threw for 257 yards and one touchdown on 16-24 passing.
He also proved his worth with his legs, adding two rushing touchdowns — including an impressive 10-yard score when he weaved through several ODU defensive backs on the first play of the second quarter.
Given his allotment of playing time, it seems like head coach Larry Fedora has selected Surratt as North Carolina’s quarterback for the rest of the 2017 season.
When was it decided?
Although the Monarchs put together a nice push to start the second half, North Carolina had this game won when it jumped out to a 25-0 lead with just over eight minutes left in the first half.
Why does it matter?
In the greater context of the season, this win didn’t mean much for the Tar Heels.
Sure, it was the team’s first road game of 2017. And sure, the team was searching for its first win of the year. But in reality, North Carolina’s post-game prospects were neither hindered nor helped by Saturday’s victory over a non-conference, unranked opponent.
Rather, this game was important because it may have answered the biggest question Fedora and the Tar Heels have yet to fully address. Surratt took all meaningful reps at quarterback, signifying his arrival as North Carolina’s sole signal-caller for the rest of the season.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels return to Kenan Stadium to face conference rival Duke next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.