NORFOLK, Va. — The North Carolina offense was stuck at its own 12-yard line.
A pair of pre-snap penalties were to blame for the poor field position. It was third down on the Tar Heels' first possession of their first road game of the season. Eighteen yards separated them from moving the chains.
A patchwork, injury-ridden offensive line dug its knuckles into the turf. A redshirt first-year, who hadn’t quite claimed the starting quarterback job, set up in the shotgun. A sophomore running back, who hadn’t even carried the ball 50 times in his UNC career, lined up beside his quarterback.
And yet — despite the sub-optimal hand the team was dealt — North Carolina’s (1-2) third play from scrimmage proved to be emblematic of its 53-23 thrashing of Old Dominion (2-1) at Foreman Field. Running back Jordon Brown took a handoff from quarterback Chazz Surratt and cranked out a 21-yard gain for a Tar Heel first down.
The drive that ensued was capped off by a 35-yard field goal, but it sent a message to a sold-out ODU crowd that would ring clear throughout the game until the time on the scoreboard hit zeros: North Carolina wasn’t going to squander its size advantage up front.