Lucas: Rapid Reactions
1. Coming into the game, one of the big areas of concern was defending Miami's vertical passing game. As so often happens, though, the problem was something much simpler--stopping simple running plays agains the Hurricanes' backup tailback, Dallas Crawford. After losing Duke Johnson early to an injury, it looked like Miami might have to beat the Tar Heels through the air.
Instead, after Tommy Hibbard pinned the 'Canes on their own 10-yard-line, Miami ground out 90 yards on nine runs and four passes, using up nearly every ounce of the clock on the way to the game-winning score.
"We have to keep working at (stopping the run)," Larry Fedora said after the game on the Tar Heel Sports Network. "I'm going to have to look at the film to see what happened on those plays."
2. Penalties weren't a major problem for most of the game, but were a huge problem on one of the game's key snaps. Facing third and inches and holding a 23-20 advantage with 5:34 left, the Tar Heels tried to be tricky instead of just firing off the line and making the inches the conventional way. A late UNC personnel switch caused some confusion among the officiating crew and resulted in the umpire standing over the ball as the play clock expired with the Tar Heels holding three timeouts.
"We substituted and they felt they needed to hold up the ball," Fedora told Jones Angell after the game. "You're supposed to give them three seconds to substitue and we felt like we gave them more than three seconds. That was the explanation he gave to me."
You know the rest. The resulting delay of game penalty pushed Carolina back to third and five, and a subsequent procedure penalty made it third and 10, which the Tar Heels were unable to convert. That gave the ball back to Miami for the eventual winning touchdown.
3. You have to give credit to the marketing department for the planning and the execution of the Zero Dark Thursday effort, and even more credit to a beleaguered football fan base that showed up and made it happen. That was one of the best Kenan Stadium atmospheres of the past decade, and it was absolutely electric at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter. The Tar Heel crowd caused some communication problems for the Miami offense and was generally a factor in the game from start to finish.
Thursday night showed some of the possibilities for Carolina football. It can be done at Kenan Stadium (and, by the way, it was also a very good crowd against ECU before the 55 points pierced the balloon). Now comes the hard part: figuring out how to generate that same kind of excitement on a more regular basis, starting next Saturday at 3:30 against Boston College.
4. This might be the worst best stat of the night: Carolina is 1-5 and is far better than 1-5. The Tar Heels have a favorable second half of the schedule with several winnable games. So much emphasis was put on this special Thursday night game that it will be interesting to see how the Tar Heels come back in nine days for a home date against Boston College.
It could go one of two ways: Carolina players could draw from solid efforts against Virginia Tech and Miami, the class of the Coastal, and rip through the back half of the schedule. Or they could be exhausted after the near miss and struggle to get that same intensity for opponents that don't have the same marquee value.
5. Eric Ebron, who spent some time throwing up on the sideline early in the game, was a beast. The tight end finished with eight catches for 199 yards (a single game record for tight ends). There's not much else to say. This was a big early 71-yard score:
"No one wants to tackle a guy that big and moving that fast," Ebron said on the THSN. "I broke two and there was nothing but green grass. I'm a pretty fast guy in open space."
Ebron one-handed catches have become almost commonplace, but even by his standards this was an absurd snag: