3 things I liked, 3 things I didn't like from Carolina's win at Georgia State
For the 2nd week in a row North Carolina went on the road and survived a tough test against a Sun Belt team.
This time it was a 35-28 win against Georgia State in Atlanta, as the Tar Heels blew a 21-3 lead but ended the game with 14 unanswered points to secure another frightening win.
Here are 3 things I liked, and 3 things I didn’t from Carolina’s Week 2 win against the Panthers:
3 things I liked
Omarion Hampton balled out
Carolina quarterback Drake Maye has deservingly gotten most of the love the first couple of weeks of the season, but freshman running back Omarion Hampton also has been excellent.
Hampton rushed 16 times for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns in Atlanta, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He also had his touchdowns when the Heels really needed them, scoring the final 2 of the game.
Georgia State made a rapid comeback during the 3rd quarter to take a 28-21 lead. The Heels got the ball back and Hampton made a big difference, breaking out a 58-yard rushing touchdown to tie the score.
On Carolina’s next possession, Hampton capped a 92-yard drive with a short touchdown to give the Heels the points that won the game.
Stops when they mattered
Carolina’s defense was far, far from perfect, but the Heels got some huge stops when they needed them most.
After scoring points on 3 of 4 possessions, Georgia State’s offense went cold late in the 3rd quarter into the 4th as Carolina was able to secure the win. The Panthers were forced to punt on 4 straight possessions to end the game, as the Heels battled back from a deficit to win.
On top of just getting stops, Carolina did it efficiently. Georgia State averaged just 4.25 plays per drive on those final 4 possessions, and they averaged just 16.75 yards. The Heels forced back-to-back 3-and-outs to end the game.
Excellent clock-killing drive to seal the win
Georgia State chose to punt the ball away with 3:51 left and the Tar Heels winning 35-28.
Carolina did a fantastic job of killing off the rest of the clock without giving the ball back, as the Tar Heels ran 5 plays and got 2 first downs to burn Georgia State’s last timeout and get to a kneel situation.
Maye had the biggest play of the drive, scrambling for a 5-yard gain on 3rd-and-5 to move the chains by the narrowest of margins with 2:41 still left on the clock. It was a mature play from Maye and a mature drive for a very young offense.
3 things I didn’t like
Blowing a big lead, again
For the 2nd week in a row, Carolina made things harder than they needed to be.
The Tar Heels seemed to be in full control. A 78-yard drive during the 2nd quarter gave Carolina a 21-3 lead, and it looked like the Heels were going to coast.
But then Georgia State scored before the half, and that momentum carried into the 2nd half. The Panthers strung together 25 unanswered points to take a 28-21 lead as they scored 4 times in 7 drives while Carolina went cold.
In 2 games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, the Tar Heels have blown massive leads fairly quickly. It’s a concerning trend to be sure.
Defensive struggles persist
Carolina’s defense was better in Week 2 than it was in weeks 0 and 1, but it still wasn’t good.
The Tar Heels allowed 421 yards and 28 points as Georgia State ran for 235 yards and passed 186. The secondary was much improved, though it allowed Panthers quarterback Darren Granger to perform well after a terrible day against South Carolina.
And the rushing defense, which had been much better for the Heels than against the passing so far, really let Carolina down. While Georgia State did run the ball an absurd 54 times, it piled up huge yardage numbers and all 3 of its main rushers averaged more than 4 yards per carry.
So far, Gene Chizik’s 2nd stint with the Tar Heels has been a disaster.
There has been a lot of talk in the ACC, and particularly the state of North Carolina, this past week about some of the conference’s scheduling.
For the 2nd week in a row, Carolina had to go on the road to play a tricky Sun Belt team in a “no-win” game. The Tar Heels won both, and it’s not going to get a ton of credit for beating Appalachian State and Georgia State despite the challenges both those teams presented.
Had the Heels lost either one of these games, it would’ve been a huge early blemish on their resume. It’s a bit unfair, but the national perception won’t look kindly on a Group of 5 loss, regardless who the opponent is.
For the Tar Heels to have not one but 2 of these games, and back-to-back weeks at that, makes you wonder how that scheduling came to be. The Heels escaped free of a loss, but they did so barely.