Mike's Take: UNC Game

The Hurricanes defeated North Carolina Thursday night by the score of 27-23. Read on for a game analysis from CanesTime's Mike Bakas.

* What a game, one in which the Hurricanes really grew up. That was one of the first things Al Golden talked about afterward. Winning on the road against a quality opponent is never easy, especially when you're playing in prime time. Most upsets in college football occur in games just like tonight. And before people start pointing out UNC's 1-4 record coming into the game as making them a non-quality opponent, lets look at what they sent out there tonight. They have a senior quarterback who will play in the NFL. They have a tight end that will likely be a first round draft pick. Those types of players play on quality teams.

* The announcers said that Brennan Carroll compared this team to one of the ones he had as an assistant coach at USC several years ago. It's one that never panics, one that never gets away from their gameplan, one that never seems to be out of it. This was the second straight game where the Canes fell down by 10 points, and it didn't seem to matter. That would have been a lot tougher on the inexperienced teams from 2011 and 2012. Not this one, which is a sign of a well coached and experienced team.

* Stephen Morris played very poorly. There simply isn't any other way around it. Sure, he threw for 322 yards and was 3-for-3 on the game's final drive. However, he was missing open receivers on a regular basis. He was running out of the pocket when he didn't need to. And of course he threw the four interceptions (and had a fifth one late that hit a UNC defender in the hands). Those are things you see in a freshman quarterback, not a senior. Unfortunately, that's always been the knock on him. He has often struggled against fast, aggressive defenses. A lot of it has to do with sloppy footwork, as Jesse Palmer pointed out on the telecast. When he has time to throw and can set his feet, he throws as good a ball as any quarterback in college football. Unfortunately, it's a different story when he sees constant pressure as we saw tonight. I trust the offensive coaches will be doing everything they can to fix this but you'd think it would have been corrected by the time he's six games into his senior season. It likely won't be a concern against Wake Forest, Pitt, Virginia, and Duke but it's likely going to be an issue against FSU and Virginia Tech. That's a concern.

* Morris continues to struggle finding the tight ends and running backs in the passing game. This is something I've talked about for several weeks now, and it's not changing. Clive Walford is a mismatch. He will play on Sundays. He averaged 28 yards per catch tonight. You'd like to see him receive more than two of Morris' 35 targets. And while Crawford caught two passes, Morris also missed a wide open Maurice Hagens that would have gone for a touchdown and then was intercepted on a screen pass that hit off Seantrel Henderson's helmet. If this offense is to really reach its potential, it sure would be nice to see Morris getting the tight ends and backs more involved.

* Tough break with Duke Johnson, who I thought was getting overused a bit early on. He had eight touches when the first quarter was barely half over. This is the same kid whose ideal number of touches in a game is around 20, per Golden and the offensive coaches. He's at his best when fresh. Obviously that had nothing to do with the play he was injured on (since he was blocking) but that was a bit confusing. And while Golden said after the game that Duke should be fine moving forward, it makes you wonder since he's been knocked out of three of UM's six games this season.

* Dallas Crawford, wow. What an incredible performance for a kid who had 28 touches on the season. For those of you who didn't know or don't remember, Crawford was a prep quarterback in high school. He played some defense, which is where he spent his first year here. He got moved to running back and really had to learn how to play the position at a high level last year. With Eduardo Clements and Mike James also ahead of him, he didn't get many chances. Tonight, he clearly showed that while running in this offense (with this O-Line, these tight ends, and this fullback), he can be a real difference maker. Even when Duke returns, I'd really like to see more of a balance -- especially early in the game -- to keep Duke fresh later in games (and give him a better chance for those explosive plays).

* Clements deserves major credit here, too. Crawford needed a break and all he did was come in -- after not having played in a few weeks -- and rip off two runs that went for 27 huge yards on the final drive. Wow. Talk about stepping it up in a huge situation, Clements did just that on a night where mostly everyone will talk about Duke's injury and Crawford's overall performance.

* I've already mentioned it a few times but you have to give a lot of credit to Maurice Hagens and the group of tight ends. There was a thread on our message boards Thursday about unsung heroes on the team so far this season. How about Asante Cleveland in this game? People rarely mention his name as playing a key role. He is not a factor in the passing game. However, he continues to dominate his role as a blocker and played a huge role down the stretch.

* Losing Phillip Dorsett really hurts for a number of reasons. One, he's the best downfield weapon for Morris, who happens to be one of the best deep ball quarterbacks in all of college football. Without Dorsett, Morris might become a bit more limited with those throws. It also continues cutting into the depth at the receiver position. Rashawn Scott wasn't ready. Malcolm Lewis, despite Golden's comments about being much improved this past week, continues to play a very small role in the passing game. He's obviously not quite 100-percent yet. Stacy Coley is just a freshman. He will make a bunch of huge plays this season and caught a few key passes tonight but it's tougher to rely on true freshmen in these types of games (and in ones we'll likely see against FSU and Va Tech). D'Mauri Jones isn't ready. That really limits things at this position. They can get away with just Allen Hurns (who made two clutch catches on the final drive), Herb Waters, and Coley as the only primary receivers against Wake next week but getting Scott back and getting Lewis healthier becomes a much bigger priority now that Dorsett is out (we should know more about his status on Friday after an MRI is done).

* The offensive line struggled a bit early on but I think that had to do with moving guys around so much. Brandon Linder went inside at one point. Seantrel Henderson played left tackle at one point. Once they went with the same five guys (Flowers, Feliciano, McDermott, Wheeler, and Linder from L-R), they dominated. I read two different NFL Draft lists earlier in the day that had Henderson as a top 25 senior. Yet whenever the game is on the line, he's nowhere close to the field. That hurts because they could really use him in those moments.

* Miami's defensive line did a nice job for the most part. While they didn't generate as much pressure as in recent games, they helped really slow down UNC's running game. The Tar Heels averaged under 3 yards per carry and really made them one-dimensional late in the game. Curtis Porter caused a fumble. Tyriq McCord had a huge sack late in the game. Shayon Green and Anthony Chickillo were very active in the running game. Ufomba Kamalu and David Gilbert - two kids who barely played against Florida -- were on the field a lot and seem to be getting better as the season goes on.

* I found it interesting that Raphael Kirby was on the field so much early in the game. Either he's getting better or Jimmy Gaines was getting banged up. I noticed Denzel Perryman, who seemed to play a very good game, wasn't on the field for their long touchdown to the tight end. The linebackers as a group started missing tackles when they started getting tired late in the game but they continue playing solid football as a whole.

* The two Tracy Howard interceptions were huge, as was the Artie Burns blocked field goal. Throw in Ladarius Gunter's pick six last game and this group of corners is really starting to make plays in the passing game. Who knows what Gunter was doing on the touchdown pass that went right over his head. The safeties were absolutely gashed, however. They had no answer for UNC's tight end. All it took was one elite tight end to really expose the Hurricanes on the back end. Fortunately, no one on Miami's remaining schedule has a tight end that could even come close to challenging this group like he could. He was even on the field to defend a late pass in the first half. That's as good a player that I've seen Miami play against in a long time. I'm sure the safeties would agree.

* Pat O'Donnell continues to be a major weapon on special teams. He even made a tackle on a kickoff (that was made around the 20 yard line, not up near the 50 where most kickers make their tackles). Matt Goudis still hasn't proven he can make clutch field goals beyond 40 so that's something we'll have to keep an eye on. I like the idea of Coley and Crawford over Dorsett on punt returns. I also like the idea of Burns and Coley on kickoffs (although Duke is such a game-changer that he'll likely still be there when healthy).

* At the end of the day, a win's a win. And this was a big one. It was on the road against a solid opponent in primetime. I said earlier in the week that UNC was clearly the third best team remaining on the schedule. Number two comes to Miami. And of course the Canes play at FSU in a few weeks. However, as tonight clearly reminded us, the most important game of the season now becomes Wake Forest next week.

* Bring on Wake!!


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