A global pandemic, changes in schedule, player eligibility questions, a practice stoppage, remote learning, no fans – I could go on… But despite all of the obstacles UNC kicked off their 2020 season in winning fashion with a 31-6 victory over Syracuse in Chapel Hill and that alone makes Coach Mack Brown happy.
“Excited about the win,” Brown said. “Opening games are always crazy anyway and then you add the pandemic to it, all the things that have happened with social injustice, the roller coaster that these kids and coaches across the country have been on; it’s a true credit to them to be able to come and play a game.”
It wasn’t the prettiest display of football, but I don’t think anyone expected that. The Tar Heels’ highly touted offense struggled the majority of the first half – heading to the break with just a 4-point lead over the Orange, but Howell and company began to gain a rhythm in the 3rd and hit their stride in the 4th, spurred by a rushing attack led by Javonte Williams and Michael Carter who combined for over 200 all-purpose yards.
“I think we probably scored too quickly and felt like it was going to be an easy day” Coach Brown said after the win. “We had some lapses against a new defense. They were blitzing and moving all over the place and we had inconsistencies. In the second half we settled down and became the offense that we wanted to be coming into the ball game.”
“Those two guys are the engine of our offense,” Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell said when asked about the contribution of Williams and Carter. “When we get the run game established we can play with anybody.”
While much has been made of the Heels’ offense coming into Saturday’s contest, it was the defense that impressed the most – limiting the Orange to two field goals and just 202 yards from scrimmage. They also sacked Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito seven times in a performance linebacker Chazz Surratt said the defense took personally.
“Our defense is really good. A lot of people talked about our offense going into the year, so coming into the game we had a chip on our shoulder knowing the kind of guys we’ve got on the defensive side of the ball. I’m really glad we played how we’re supposed to play. I think we can be really good on defense. We’ve got a lot of really good guys up front and on the back end. The sky is the limit for our defense.”
UNC will take on Charlotte next week in Chapel Hill.