In North Carolina’s opening drive of the second half, Howell threw his second interception of the game. After Syracuse safety Andre Cisco took the intercepted ball back into UNC territory, Syracuse drove the ball into the red zone before eventually settling for a field goal, shrinking the Tar Heel lead to 7-6.
The Tar Heels struck back in the next possession, putting the ball through the uprights after a long position to spread their lead to 10-6 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. A 45-yard rush into the red zone from Michael Carter was punctuated with a hard nosed run from Javonte Williams through the heart of the line and into the end zone to extend UNC’s lead to 17-6.
In UNC’s next possession, Carter once again led the Tar Heels into the red zone — this time through the air — and Williams punched the ball in for a touchdown extending North Carolina’s lead to 24-6.
As the fourth quarter went on, UNC continued to spread its lead. Another touchdown from Williams secured a 25 point lead that the Tar Heels would hold for the rest of the game.
Who stood out?
The dual rushing attack of running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams made its presence known down the stretch after a slow first half. The tandem combined for 217 yards from scrimmage and put the Tar Heels in position to score quickly in second half possessions. Javonte Williams’ three rushing touchdowns put him close to the five he punched in last year after just the first game of the season.
When was it decided?
UNC’s defense forcing short possessions for the Orange was the determining factor in moving the Tar Heels’ to 1-0. A talented group of Syracuse defensive backs were kept on the field with quick stops by the UNC defense and it showed in the second half when Howell and the UNC offense began to click. A UNC defensive line unit that came into the year inexperienced made big plays on third down and put pressure on Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito, forcing seven sacks, the most UNC has had in a single game since 2013.
Why does it matter?
After a slow first half, the UNC offense started to click. Opening the season after stopping workouts twice due to COVID-19 clusters made for an especially rusty opening game, but the team made adjustments and pulled away with a 25 point victory.
North Carolina looked like the top-25 team it was expected to be in the second half despite the early miscues and rust.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will host Charlotte in Kenan Stadium next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in their lone out-of-conference matchup of the regular season.
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