NC State came up with a strong, workmanlike performance to ease its way into the season. With Western Carolina up next, and very, very winnable games against West Virginia and Florida State on the road, there’s a chance for 5-0 with the way this defense plays. There was no running on the Wolfpack – the Pirates ended up with just 41 yards on the ground.
How was Matt McKay after taking over for Ryan Finley? Terrific. He didn’t throw ant picks, threw for 308 yards, and spread the ball around well to seep things moving. There was little drama – the O just kept going on the way to over 500 yards. There weren’t any turnovers – the defense wasn’t put in a bad position.
The Pack didn’t even turn it loose defensively. The pressure came from several spots and ECU didn’t go anywhere. There’s offensive talent on this Pirate team, and it could only managed two field goals.
It’s Alabama – Duke wasn’t going to be able to do anything. The run defense was able to hold up relatively well – only allowing 3.5 yards per carry – and it didn’t get pummeled by the Crimson Tide offensive line, but that’s about it for the positives. This was total domination by the other side after the first quarter.
Quentin Harris had to push the ball a bit, and but he didn’t get enough plays and enough chances – the offense couldn’t do anything to control the game. Bama struck quickly, but it also played with enough of a pace to keep the Blue Devil defense on its heels.
It’s a plus that Dylan Singleton was all over the place making plays, but it’s a problem when your safety is making 13 tackles. There was no pass rush and no pressure in the Bama backfield, Tua Tagovailoa had time to get comfortable, and he took target practice. Fortunately, North Carolina A&T is up next to get over this.
Okay, North Carolina. If a team like South Carolina is going bring the vanilla gameplan and not push too hard, then go ahead and up the intensity and take it over. The Tar Heels made a ton of mistakes, they caught several break, and … they flat-out out-played the Gamecocks when it mattered. Emotion played a huge part in the second half.
The Tar Heels have some ballers. The receiving corps made a slew of big plays – especially in crunch-time – and QB Sam Howell played like a four-year veteran instead of a true freshman. He didn’t throw any picks, he gunned it for 245 yards, and he was magnificent in the fourth quarter. UNC scored 18 second half points and 15 in the fourth. USC was shutout in the final frame.
Mack Brown has certainly changed around the attitude. The Tar Heels lost so many tight games last season, and this time around, they simply executed, were loose, and it all worked. There was almost a perfect offensive balance, the defense was flying around, and it was a big, big win that’s been missing form the program for a long, long time.