North Carolina’s offense controlled the game from its opening kickoff, notching the fifth most total offensive yards in school history. The only time Virginia Tech has allowed more offensive yards was against Alabama nearly 50 years ago.
UNC’s offensive attack wasn’t one-dimensional, either. The balance of running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams — who both rushed for career highs — was aided by a quick-hitting Air Raid led by Howell and wide receiver Dazz Newsome, who exceeded his previous receptions number for the season in the first two drives on Saturday.
“It’s definitely a boost of confidence, we’ve never had this much success,” Howell said. “I think the main thing is that we have that balance on offense. You know, we have so many playmakers. On any given week it could be anybody.”
It was no surprise to see Williams and Carter have such a high level of success. The pair had already combined for 313 yards through the ground this season, but many of the opportunities afforded to the ground game were opened up through the air.
After being held in check for deep balls — which UNC heavily relied on last year — through the first two games of the season, the Tar Heels were able to strike deep on multiple occasions with the connection between Howell and elite receiving weapons Newsome and Dyami Brown.
Of North Carolina’s 56 points, 14 of them came by way of passes for more than 35 yards down field. After struggling to get targets through the first two games of the season, Brown said the downfield opportunities helped UNC create its offensive outburst.
“Pretty much we just locked in for the whole week,” Dyami said. “I knew (deep balls) were something we hadn’t gotten the last two weeks, so this week we just locked in and said ‘alright, we need the deep ball.’”
Even with the win, which makes it likely for UNC to climb even further into the top 10 with losses from No. 4 Florida and either No. 1 Clemson or No. 7 Miami, one win in October won’t ensure the Tar Heels meet the heavy expectations that were set for them before the season kicked off. With eight games to go before an ACC Championship appearance or bowl game, Brown said the team is focused on meeting the expectations they have set for themselves.
Even still, Brown said the win is still a statement that the team has real potential.
“Playing a top-20 team like Virginia Tech that was dominating their first two games, while we weren’t, gave us a chance to prove we can be good,” Brown said. “I’m so proud that the offense stepped up today and did that, and now we’ve just got to go back and figure out what went wrong on defense.”
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