North Carolina football: Stock report after Week 9
The North Carolina Tar Heels fell to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 42-46 on Saturday. This was the 2nd straight game in which the Tar Heels were double-digit favorites and ended up losing.
Last weekend, it was the Virginia Cavaliers who pulled off the huge upset. This week, it was the Yellow Jackets. What once seemed like a potentially historic season, now seems destined to have Heels’ fans asking what could have been.
Let’s go over what happened against Georgia Tech and see where the Heels go from here.
Player of the Week: Omarion Hampton
Hampton ran the ball 29 times for 153 yards and 2 TDs. The running back also caught 4 passes for 41 yards. Hampton did all he could do to help the Tar Heels, he just wasn’t picked up by his defense.
Hampton set season-highs in receptions and receiving yards, and had his 3rd-straight game with 100+ rushing yards.
The sophomore has been doing more than enough for the Tar Heels to win. It’s just hard to do that when the defense allows 77 points in 2 weeks.
Newcomer of the Week: Alijah Huzzie
There weren’t many big performances from newcomers this week. Tez Walker again caught a few balls, but the receiver lost a fumble and got injured. So, we will go Alijah Huzzie.
Huzzie collected 5 tackles against the Yellow Jackets, bringing his season total to 34. The defensive back also leads the team in interceptions with 3.
Huzzie transferred to Chapel Hill for the 2023 season after spending his first 3 seasons at East Tennessee State. Huzzie has been a ball hawk and a sure tackle for the Heels all season.
Biggest Surprise: North Carolina’s non-existent pass rush
The Tar Heels ended the game against the Jackets with 0 sacks. The defense got gashed on the ground, through the air, and got no pressure. The Tar Heels have 18 sacks on the year and average 2.25 per game. To get 0 against Georgia Tech was a complete surprise.
To be fair, the Jackets sport one of the best lines in the nation. Still, the Tar Heels got absolutely no pressure all night and it made a difference. Hayes King had plenty of time to throw the ball and the Heels’ defenders couldn’t keep the receivers covered.
Developing trend: The run defense allowing 200+ yards
For the 2nd game in a row, the Tar Heels were gashed on the ground. After allowing 228 rushing yards to Virginia, the Heels’ defense had an even worse performance against the Yellow Jackets. The Jackets racked up 348 yards on the ground, with Dontae Smith getting 178 by himself.
The Heels still have to play NC State, Duke, and Clemson, and all 3 of those teams like to run the ball. Getting gashed on the ground is not a formula for success in the ACC.
Biggest concern: The defense can’t stop anyone
If the Tar Heels couldn’t stop the Cavaliers or Yellow Jackets, who can they stop? The Tar Heels have NC State and Clemson coming up next, and neither offense is particularly scary. If the defense gets gashed by those units too, then there are some serious problems in Chapel Hill.
After the Georgia Tech game, the Tar Heels now boast the No. 103 total defense in the nation. That is simply not good enough. It’s easy to see how we will look back and think this defense tanked what could’ve been a magical season in Chapel Hill.
First Impressions about Week 10: A get-right game against an FCS opponent
The Tar Heels should stop the skid next week when the Campbell Fighting Camels come to town. The FCS Camels are 4-4 and have been involved in several high-scoring affairs. The Camels currently sport the No. 16 scoring offense in the FCS, averaging 34.2 points per game.
With the way the Tar Heel defense has played of late, it would not be surprising if the Camel offense puts some points on the board. However, the Tar Heel offense should have no problem matching the point total. North Carolina just has better athletes across the board and they should have no problem getting the upper-hand.
All-in-all, I see this being a blowout win for the Tar Heels. The team still has a lot to play for and I can’t see a Mack Brown team rolling over. I’d look for a score of something like 45-13 in the Heels’ favor.
The Heels should get back to their winning ways and look to finish strong. A dominant performance here could propel the Heels to a strong finish on the season. It would be nice to see the backups play the entire 2nd half so the starters can get rested up for the stretch run.
The Heels will have a home game against Duke after the Campbell game before finishing the season with road games at Clemson and NC State respectively.