Believe it or not, the Tar Heels may actually be improving.
Despite some horrendous moments on defense in the first two games, Carolina could have won both of them. Despite giving up record home-field yardage against Louisville, Larry Fedora’s team took a big step toward scoring enough points to win.
Let’s face it, UNC will never have a great defense under its current head coach. Three different defensive coordinators have now given up the most yardage in school history, and they all worked under Fedora. Vic Koenning’s defense allowed 789 yards and 70 points at East Carolina in 2014. Under Gene Chizik, the supposed savior of the Tar Heels’ defense, they gave up 756 yards to Baylor in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl.
Now John Papuchis, who succeeded Chizik as DC, watched the Louisville offense and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson churn up 705 total yards, the most ever for an opponent in Kenan Stadium. That was almost 250 yards more than California gained in the home opener nine days ago.
But the Tar Heels should have won their first game and, really, could have won Saturday instead of losing 47-35 to the No. 14 team in the country. You can blame the defense all you want, and it certainly earned most of the blame, but in Fedora’s coaching world the offense needed to do more for the second straight week as UNC opened 0-2 for the first time since 2010.
As long as Fedora stays in Chapel Hill, his philosophy will be to outscore the other team. That doesn’t mean merely scoring more points than the opponent, it means scoring more than UNC’s defense allows. Considering it was potent Louisville, Carolina came pretty close to doing just that. The offense showed far more versatility than it did against Cal.
Both quarterbacks looked pretty good. Chazz Surratt started and led the Heels to 21 points in the first half. With Surratt shaken up, Brandon Harris came on in second half and was a different player than the week before. Neither could compete with Louisville’s Jackson, but both showed promise, especially in the downfield passing game.
Louisville is the best team Carolina will face in 2017. So if the defense can stop giving up so many big plays, and the offense finishes the drives that are leaving points on the field, the Tar Heels may wind up scoring enough to start winning games.