Despite a discouraging performance Saturday, the North Carolina football team still managed to come away with a 45-42 victory against Miami.
Only winning by three points against the Hurricanes – a team that was missing its starting quarterback, D'Eriq King – is far from an ideal outcome for the highly-touted Tar Heels coming into this season. And while the team has dropped several games in which it was favored to win this season, the Tar Heels finished on top tonight.
At the end of the day, a win is a win for this North Carolina team.
Since Brown's return to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels have underperformed at times against subpar teams that, on paper, they should beat. All three of the defeats the team has suffered this season have come against unranked opponents. Additionally, Georgia Tech and Florida State entered their games against North Carolina with records under .500.
“When we got adversity on offense at Virginia Tech, we didn’t handle it very well,” head coach Mack Brown said. “When we had adversity at Georgia Tech and turned the ball over so much, the defense finally cracked and we didn’t hang in there like we normally would’ve, and then last week against Florida State, we’re up ten to nothing to start the game in the first quarter and then they get the 60-yard run and it looked like we let up.”
Saturday had a lot of concerning moments from the Tar Heels, such as junior quarterback Sam Howell throwing the ball right to a Miami defender who had wide-open path to the end zone for the touchdown. UNC also racked up 10 penalties that allowed Miami to stay in the game.
These mistakes did not prove too costly for North Carolina in the end, giving the team an opportunity to learn from these mistakes throughout the remainder of the season.
“We got to hit the film room and see where we can get better, watch this game and break it down and improve,” graduate running back Ty Chandler said. “So, I think that’s what it all boils down to, watching the film, correcting the mistakes and keep moving forward, focusing on Notre Dame. I think that’s what it comes down to — there’s always something we can work on.”
In Saturday's game, though the previously 2-3 Hurricanes never led, they hung around for a while. UNC led by as many as 18 in the second quarter, but allowed Miami to slowly chip away at the lead as time went on.
This victory doesn’t mean all of the Tar Heels problems are gone, as they will have a lot to learn from this performance. But even with the many sloppy moments in the game, North Carolina found a way to win and bring its record back over .500.
As ugly as it might've been, a win was still a win.
“We knew there was going to be adversity tonight, it was just what are we going to do when adversity hits," senior linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel said. "And to see us fight back like that, I think it starts to build a better culture around here when we face adversity.”
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