Chansky’s Notebook: Let’s Not Forget

It’s been 20 years since the heartbreak in ‘Hooville.

With the Tar Heels going to Virginia on Saturday for a game they are favored to win, what better reminder of a having letdown than the infamous outcome 20 years ago in Scott Stadium, when Carolina had seemingly broken the long drought in Charlottesville? Or so we thought. Certainly, every UNC football fan over 30 remembers what happened.

The Heels have not won at UVA since 1981 despite having a better program over those 15 years. But this time they mounted a 17-3 lead late in the game when Brian Simmons picked off a pass and returned it to the shadow of the Virginia goal line. Game over, right? Another TD, or at least a field goal, puts it out of reach. Then All-ACC quarterback Chris Keldorf tried to rub it in by throwing the ball to the end zone. Either Keldorf missed his target or receiver Octavus Barnes turned the wrong way; that has been debated for two decades.

But Antwan Harris, from Raleigh, intercepted the pass and returned it almost 100 yards to awaken the Cavaliers and their fans, who to that point had imbibed themselves into a blither of disappointment. Still, Carolina led 17-10 and could have put the game away. But, uncharacteristically for a Mack Brown team, the Tar Heels fell apart. They could not move the ball, punted and allowed Virginia to tie the score. Ditto on the next possession, and the Wahoos completed the shocker by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining to pull off the 20-17 comeback.

Let the memory of that awful evening Charlottesville hang in the air Saturday so these Tar Heels, many of whom weren’t even born yet in 1996, get a lead a continue dominating the series as they have since the turn of the century. Let’s not forget that pain of 20 years ago. Let’s remember it, and shove it further into the past.

UNC Football Doesn’t Buy-In to “Trap Game” Mentality Against Virginia

Over the first couple weeks of the 2016 college football season, many analysts wondered if Virginia was among the worst teams in a Power Five conference.

The Cavaliers have found life recently, however, shifting the narrative quite a bit—with some wondering if the UNC football team’s trip to Charlottesville this weekend should be viewed as a trap game.

Prior to the season, it was widely recognized that the stretch from the middle of September to the middle of October—the first four ACC games– would be toughest slate of opponents the Tar Heels would see all season.


Playing without senior receiver Mack Hollins--who was lost for the season with a broken clavicle--means unheralded players like Thomas Jackson will need to step up for UNC. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Playing without senior receiver Mack Hollins–who was lost for the season with a broken clavicle–means unheralded players like Thomas Jackson will need to step up for UNC. (Smith Cameron Photography)

While UNC’s loss against Virginia Tech was its first at home since 2014, the team can take pride in opening conference play 3-1 against a group that included three teams ranked in the top 25 at the time and a Pitt squad that remains one of the tougher groups in the ACC Coastal Division.

Taking into account Virginia Tech’s loss at Syracuse this past weekend, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Tar Heels enter the home stretch with a great shot to repeat as Coastal Champions, provided they stay focused on the big picture.

“I never thought we were out of it just because we lost one game,” Trubisky said at Monday’s press conference. “It’s a long season, and pretty much anything can happen.

“That gives us confidence because [we] want to see things fall in place for us to be able to reach our goals at the end.”

UNC’s defensive resurgence not only lifted the team to a win over Miami, it also gave the Tar Heels a return to the Top 25—coming in at No. 22 this week.

That hasn’t always meant good things, however.

On both occasions UNC has played as a ranked team this season, they’ve come up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Although nobody has confused this Virginia team for Georgia or Virginia Tech—which were each ranked when they beat UNC—the Cavaliers have gone 2-1 while averaging 38 points per game in their last three outings.

This comes after they opened the year 0-3 under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall–with a sputtering offense that scored just over 18 points per game in losses to Oregon, UCONN, and Richmond, an FCS school.

UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik spoke after practice Tuesday about the difference he’s seen in his opponent this season.

“It’s night and day different,” Chizik said of Virginia’s transformation. “I think they were really trying to figure out who they were, and what they wanted to be and what their players could actually do productivity-wise.

“They’ve definitely hit that groove now,” he continued. “They’re very efficient in what they do—throwing the ball and running the ball.”

Virginia tailback Taquan Mizzell has proven during his career that he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands--no matter how it gets there. (AP Photo/ Steve Helber)

Virginia tailback Taquan Mizzell has proven during his career that he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands–no matter how it gets there. (AP Photo/ Steve Helber)

Quarterback Kurt Benkert has been a large part of Virginia’s recent improvement, as he’s picked up his game significantly over the last three weeks. While Benkert is a serviceable player under center, Chizik pinpointed tailback Taquan Mizzell as the Cavaliers’ most dangerous threat.

So far this season, Mizzell leads Virginia in rushing and is fourth on the team in both receptions and receiving yards.

He also set an ACC record last season for most receiving yards in a single season by a running back, with 721.

“He’s really a great player,” Chizik said of Mizzell. “They find ways to get him the ball, and rightly so.

He’s great catching the ball out of the backfield and he’s great with the ball in his hands as a running back,” the coach added. “He’s just a very productive player.”

Taking into account UNC’s long-term goals and Virginia’s recent upswing in performance, it’s easy to see why it would be an awful time for the Tar Heels to sleep on their opponents this week.

Obviously every team wants to win all its games, but upsets happen all the time when one team overlooks another that could be considered less talented.

That, of course, is where the idea of the trap game originated.

Tar Heel fans shouldn’t fear, however, as Trubisky is doing his part to keep that negative mentality out of the locker room this week.

“I don’t see it as a trap game,” Trubisky said. “It’s a big game for us in the Coastal. Virginia’s gotten better each week. They’re gonna be a really tough team.

“It’s a big game for us,” he continued. “I don’t see it [as a trap], and I hope nobody else on our team sees it that way.”

Defense Savoring Its Moment Following UNC Football’s Win Over Miami

Up until the UNC football team’s 20-13 win over Miami on Saturday, it had become common practice for anyone talking or writing about the Tar Heels to mention the major deficiencies on defense.

After that same defense saved the game against the Hurricanes, though, defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke wasn’t afraid to admit that the criticism helped them savor their moment that much more.

“It felt great to finally win one on defense,” Clarke said at Monday’s press conference. “But like [Defensive Coordinator Gene] Chizik and the guys have been saying, it’s a golf swing mentality.

“A perfect hit or hitting it in the water is one golf swing away,” he continued, lifting his hand to show his thumb and index finger scrunched together. “It’s literally this small of a chance, and we’ve been right there.

Clarke (left) picked up the fumble forced by Malik Carney late in Saturday's win over Miami--sealing the win for UNC in the process. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Clarke (left) picked up the fumble forced by Malik Carney late in Saturday’s win over Miami–sealing the win for UNC in the process. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“I feel like we’re finally playing as a defense that’s making less and less mistakes.”

The dominant theme for UNC’s defense in 2016 has been its struggles stopping the run. The Tar Heels spent the early part of the season ranked among the worst run defenses in the entire nation, let alone the ACC.

Following the win over James Madison in Week Three—a game against an FCS opponent where the Tar Heels gave up 209 yards on the ground, and trailed after the first quarter—Clarke said things began to change in the locker room. Guys on the defensive side of the ball started getting upset over the thought of being a burden to the team.

Pitt came in to Kenan Stadium the next week and gashed the Tar Heels for 281 rushing yards, but since then UNC has improved in each of its last three games—including holding Miami’s running game to just 139 yards.

“We really didn’t feel like we performed good in that game [against James Madison],” Clarke said. “So we all kinda had to look at ourselves in the mirror and go ‘How are we gonna look and go forward as a defensive line? Are we gonna keep hindering the defense or are we gonna make the improvements we have to make?’”

It hasn’t all been bad news defensively for the Tar Heels this season, however. They rank 31st nationally in passing yards allowed behind the strength of talented cornerbacks MJ Stewart and Des Lawrence.

The problem is that opponents have taken advantage of the spotty defensive line play whenever they’ve needed to move the ball.

This has, at times, turned the secondary into glorified linebackers—evidenced by the fact that strong safety Donnie Miles leads the team in tackles for the second straight year.

Now that the big guys have made good on their efforts to improve in recent weeks—including Malik Carney’s game-saving strip-sack against Miami–head coach Larry Fedora decided it was time to give them each the individual praise they’ve earned.

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones has been the team's leader up front all year, setting the tone for everyone else around him on defense. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones has been the team’s leader up front all year, setting the tone for everyone else around him on defense. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“Naz [Jones], especially [has been playing well],” Fedora told reporters. “His game is getting better and better and better.

“Jalen Dalton, same thing–he’s starting to understand that role of moving inside,” the coach added. “Aaron Crawford, playing much better. Jeremiah Clarke, playing better. And the guy now who’s really starting to be a factor is Malik Carney.”

Despite having two losses, the Tar Heels have found themselves back in the top 25 and in a tie atop the ACC Coastal Division.

With an offense as strong as the one UNC already possesses, the way it finishes the season will likely come down to whether the defense can continue building on its gradual progress. The Miami game certainly put some people back on notice as to what the Tar Heels are capable of defensively, but it’s not likely to change everyone’s opinions overnight.

That, Clarke said, will have to happen the old-fashioned way.

“I think people underestimate the Carolina team,” Clarke said.

“You know, you see the beautiful UNC blue color and they assume it comes with soft players and actions,” he added, flashing a bright grin. “We’re just out here to prove that we’re just as good any team in the ACC and that people and teams should stop underestimating us.

“Maybe if we keep beating top opponents and ranked teams we’ll finally get the respect we deserve.”

Lucas Crowley Named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week

Entering the 2016 college football season, UNC had the luxury of possessing one of the more experienced offensive lines in the country.

A pre-season injury to senior John Ferranto–followed by injuries during the season to fellow seniors Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck–have largely stripped the Tar Heels of that experience.

The one constant up front, however, has been senior center Lucas Crowley–who was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance in UNC’s 20-13 win over Miami on Saturday.

Crowley was outstanding as he helped a patchwork offensive line protect quarterback Mitch Trubisky and create running lanes for tailbacks TJ Logan and Elijah Hood.

It’s the second time this season Crowley has earned the honor, also picking it up in Week Two for his efforts in UNC’s road win at Illinois.

With Ferranto out for the season–and the current status of Peterson and Heck questionable–Crowley may continue to carry a large burden for the Tar Heel offensive line moving forward.

So far, though, he’s proven to be more than capable of handling the task.

UNC Wide Receiver Mack Hollins Suffers Season-Ending Injury

The UNC football team received terrible news Monday morning, as it was announced that senior wide receiver Mack Hollins will miss the rest of the season.

He recently underwent surgery by Dr. Jeff Spang at UNC Hospitals for a broken right clavicle suffered in the Tar Heels’ 20-13 win at Miami last Saturday.

Hollins–a 6-foot-5 deep threat–began his career as a Tar Heel by joining the team as a walk-on. He later earned a scholarship and a place as a special teams captain by combining a tireless work ethic and athleticism.

In 2015, he led the nation in yards per catch, gaining 745 yards and eight touchdowns on just 30 receptions. Through seven games this season, Hollins had 16 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns–on pace for a similar stat-line.

Many players also point to Hollins as a guy who lightens everyone up in the locker room with his vibrant personality.

“Mack has been an instrumental player in our program,” head coach Larry Fedora said, in a statement released by the university. “He became our special teams captain as a freshman and alwayas took pride in making plays in that part of the game.

“Over the last three seasons, he has been a key component of our offense at wide receiver and has been one of our most vocal leaders,” the coach continued. “His contributions on the field will be missed, but he will continue to be involved with the program and help mentor our players.”

Throughout his time in a Tar Heel uniform, Hollins caught 81 passes for 1,667 yards and 20 touchdowns. The 20 touchdown catches rank third in school history behind only Quinshad Davis (25) and Hakeem Nicks (21).

UNC Football Back In the AP Top 25 Following Win Over Miami

Saturday’s 20-13 win over then No. 16 Miami marked the fifth time in five tries this season that the UNC football team won as an unranked team.

In two games as a member of the top 25, the Tar Heels have faltered each time.

Head coach Larry Fedora will need that statistic to change now that UNC has re-entered the AP poll this week at No. 22.

The Tar Heels are one of four ACC teams among the rankings, joining No. 3 Clemson, No. 7 Louisville and No. 13 Florida State.

UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked.

After a second straight loss, Miami slid from its spot at No. 16 all the way out of the top 25. This after being ranked as high as No. 10 following a 4-0 start.

The other ACC member to leave the polls was Virginia Tech–who fell victim to a major upset against Syracuse and, much like UNC did last week, slipped from No. 17 to the outside looking in.

With four schools–No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska and No. 10 Wisconsin–among the top ten for a second straight week, the Big Ten remains the strongest league at the top.

Led by No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M, the SEC has twice as many ranked teams as any other league, however. The reappearance of No. 25 LSU in the polls gives the SEC eight teams in the mix.

Luckily for the Tar Heels, though, their next game comes against a Virginia team that has limped to a 2-4 record under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall. In each of UNC’s losses–to Georgia and Virginia Tech–its opponents entered the game as members of the top 25 themselves.

That certainly won’t be the case this weekend, as the Tar Heels continues their quest for a second straight ACC Coastal Division title.



UNC Rides Much-Maligned Defense to a 20-13 Road Win Over No. 16 Miami

Following each of UNC’s thrilling comebacks against Pitt and Florida State, head coach Larry Fedora gave the same message.

One of these days, the tables would turn and the struggling defense would be forced to bail out the high-powered offense.

That time came on Saturday, when Malik Carney’s strip sack in the final moments capped an impressive defensive effort–and sealed the Tar Heels’ 20-13 road win over No. 16 Miami.

Coming off the worst offensive performance of the Fedora era, the Tar Heels sprinted out to a 17-point halftime lead behind a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Mitch Trubisky and a pair of field goals from Nick Weiler.


TJ Logan (left) and Mitch Trubisky (right) carried the UNC rushing attack against Miami, with Elijah Hood struggling in his first game back from a concussion. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

TJ Logan (left) and Mitch Trubisky (right) carried the UNC rushing attack against Miami, with Elijah Hood struggling in his first game back from a concussion. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

UNC became the first team to score on Miami’s much-improved defense in the first quarter all season long, and appeared to have found its groove again. That progress then slowed to a halt after halftime, as the Tar Heels were held scoreless over the final two quarters.

Instead, the game was won by the defense for a change—a group that not only made the game-sealing play, but one that also stopped the Hurricanes on third down 11 times and held them to just 3.9 yards per rushing attempt on 36 tries.

“It looked like, to me, they controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well,” Fedora said of his defense. “I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage the entire game.

“There were only a couple times it looked like we misfit a gap and a guy got through,” he continued. “But very seldom, did they get to the linebacker level.”

As fate would have it, the skies opened up with heavy rain early in the fourth quarter—creating conditions similar to those the Tar Heels played in during their loss to Virginia Tech.

Not long after, Miami tailback Joseph Yearby took a handoff from quarterback Brad Kaaya and scampered 42 yards down the right sideline. UNC was able to force him out of bounds,however, and then make a critical red zone stop.

A 22-yard field goal put the Hurricanes within one score, but Carney’s heroic effort ended their next drive—and with it, their chances of tying the game.

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke scooped the ball off the ground, while tailback Elijah Hood followed up three plays later with a bulldozing 13-yard run on 3rd-and-12 that put the final nail in Miami’s coffin.

“You get Malik Carney who comes in during a two-minute situation—and it’s the first time our defense has been on the field in a two-minute situation—and they had the opportunity to win it, and they do that,” Fedora said.

The coach then smiled a bit. “And that run by Hood there at the end was just unbelievable.”

In a battle between two of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, Trubisky completed 33 of his 46 throws–finishing a yard shy of 300 in addition to the two early scores. He also channeled his inner Marquise Williams by carrying the ball 13 times for 47 yards.

MJ Stewart and the rest of the Tar Heel secondary held Miami to just 221 yards through the air. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

MJ Stewart and the rest of the Tar Heel secondary held Miami to just 221 yards through the air. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heel secondary, meanwhile, played perhaps its best game of the year as it held Kaaya to completions on just 16 of his 31 passes for only 221 yards.

“They hit us on some runs, and we had some negative yardage plays,” Fedora said. “But I thought Mitch had a real good command of where he was taking the ball. He threw the ball really well today and the receivers did a nice job.”

It was the eighth straight road win for UNC, which moves to 5-2 while also moving back into a tie for first atop the ACC Coastal Division following Virginia Tech’s upset loss to Syracuse.

There’s still plenty of work to do, as the Hokies still own the tiebreaker over the Tar Heels.

If the UNC defense continues to build off this effort, though, Fedora and his bunch have a good shot at taking care of their end of the bargain.

“We’ve got all of our goals still sitting in front of us,” Fedora said. “That’s a big thing, to be at this point of the season and to have that. We’ve got another divisional opponent coming up, so that’ll be one we have to get ready for—but I’m proud of where this team is.

“We talked about it before the game,” he added. “They’ve become a team.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will stay on the road next week for a game in Charlottesville against Virginia, which is 2-4 in 2016 after a 45-31 loss to Pitt on Saturday.

Game Notes:

  • A pair of UNC senior wide receivers set career milestones against Miami–as Bug Howard had a career-high 10 catches for 156 yards and Ryan Switzer’s nine receptions moved him past Quinshad Davis as the school’s all-time leader in catches with 206.
  • This is the first time UNC has ever beaten two ranked teams on the road in one season.
  • The Tar Heels’ three ACC wins in 2016 are by a combined 10 points.
  • TJ Logan led UNC in rushing with 84 yards on 15 attempts. Elijah Hood struggled to find space in his first game back from a concussion, and was held to just 31 yards on 13 carries.



UNC Kicks Off Basketball Season at Late Night With Roy

Keeping with tradition, UNC celebrated the beginning of basketball season with its annual “Late Night with Roy” event–featuring the Tar Heels as both athletes and dancers.

Hosted by former UNC and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Jesse Holley, the night also featured a unique twist with the addition of various skills competitions.

At the end of it all, though, the team scrimmage–the famous Blue vs. White game–decided the night’s winner.

Justin Jackson’s three-pointer in a one-minute overtime period helped lift the White squad to a 40-37 victory that featured a great deal of up-tempo action.

While almost the entire roster was able to get some time in the spotlight during the scrimmage, Jackson led his team with 13 points on the way to a victory in both the game and the overall competition.

Other members of the White team included Kennedy Meeks, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, Luke Maye, Stilman White, Kanler Coker and Aaron Rohlman.

Britt added nine points to the cause, while Meeks and Pinson each tallied six apiece.

Late Night With Roy

Joel Berry was the Blue team’s top contributor all night long at Late Night with Roy. (Photo via Smith Cameron) Photography

The Blue team consisted of Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams and Shea Rush.

Hicks led the blue squad in the scrimmage with 13 points, while Berry chipped in nine.

Earlier in the night, Berry teamed up with Bradley to give the Blue side a 2-0 lead by winning both the shooting stars competition and the skills contest.

The first event consisted of two teams attempting to be the first to make shots from various locations on the floor, while the second included an obstacle course that tested players’ dribbling, passing and shooting.

Bradley, a 6-foot-10 freshman, flashed a nice outside shot during those events–even though that may not mean much when it comes to in-game action.

During the next three competitions–a relay race, the dance-off and the three-point shootout–the White team recovered to take the lead heading into the main event.

The relay race was a confusing jumble that forced players into twerking and wearing football helmets at different times, but it provided a good laugh when Pinson took over on the microphone and did his best Larry Fedora impersonation.

Pinson also got the crowd going with his dance moves–giving his team a point after defeating Berry in a one-on-one showdown that broke a tie following the team routines.

Britt then went out and took home the three-point competition with a win over Jackson in the semifinals and Robinson–a lanky, 6-foot-6 freshman–in the finals.

The UNC women’s basketball team started the night off with a dance routine and a scrimmage of its own, after head coach Sylvia Hatchell was given a standing ovation upon her introduction.

It was a night of fun and basketball that gave fans a an early preview of Chapel Hill’s favorite season.

UNC will play its first exhibition game Friday Nov. 4 at home against UNC-Pembroke.

Roy Williams Comments on Kaepernick Protests

UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams took some time during Media Day on Tuesday to address the ongoing controversy in the sports world surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

By refusing to stand for the national anthem before games, Kaepernick has sent shockwaves through most of America–using his actions to help create dialogue about the racial inequalities that exist in the country.

Many other players across several different sports have since followed suit, in an effort to keep the conversation in the news cycle.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (left) kneels during the National Anthem next to quarterback Colin Kaepernick (right). (AP Photo/ Mike McCarn)

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (left) kneels during the National Anthem next to quarterback Colin Kaepernick (right). (AP Photo/ Mike McCarn)

“I don’t mind telling you–I try to be straight forward when I can–when [Kaepernick] first did it, it made me very angry,” Williams told reporters.

Soon after, the coach brought his team together for a meeting to discuss the issue–but with a different mindset.

“Then he explained himself more, and I listened better” the coach added. “He wasn’t saying this is a bad country. He was saying we’ve got one particular problem he was taking a stance on–and I think he’s correct.”

After making his views clear to the players, Williams asked them each to come to him if they had any issues or questions with what’s going in the world–so they’d be able to mutually help each other reach a common understanding.

Soon after that meeting, Williams said two players came to him for an opinion as the violent protests in Charlotte surrounding the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott were reaching their peak.

“I think we have a very significant problem throughout our entire country,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of different things I’m watching people debate on TV. That’s for sure.”

As far as what would happen if any member of the Tar Heels decided to make a stand on any social issue–whether it be following Kaepernick or another form of protest–it would be allowed, as long as they discuss it with the coach beforehand.

“I may disagree with you, but I’ll be with you,” Williams said, imagining a situation where he was having that discussion with a player. “Just don’t surprise me.”

UNC Football Faces Stiff Challenge Against Revamped Miami

Among the many memorable moments from UNC’s 2015 season was a 59-21 blowout over Miami that served as the final game at Kenan Stadium for seniors such as Marquise Williams and Landon Turner.

The visitors fired head coach Al Golden after the year and brought in former Georgia boss Mark Richt—who now has Miami ranked No. 16 and ready to exact revenge on the Tar Heels this Saturday in South Florida.

The Hurricanes enter this game at 4-1 after suffering their first loss of the season last week against Florida State when their potential game-tying extra point was blocked with under two minutes to play. Each of Miami’s four wins, though, have come by at least 14 points or more–including a 35-point victory in Boone over Appalachian State.

After a week to reflect on the loss to Virginia Tech, UNC knows it's in a must-win situation against Miami this week. (Smith Cameron Photography)

After a week to reflect on the loss to Virginia Tech, UNC knows it’s in a must-win situation against Miami this week. (Smith Cameron Photography)

This group of Hurricanes might not resemble the dominant Miami teams of the early 90’s and 2000’s, but UNC head coach Larry Fedora definitely won’t be expecting a repeat performance of last year’s demolition.

“I think Mark’s doing a great job with them,” Fedora said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think they’re playing energized, they’re playing hard and they’re playing well.

“Other than the other night [against Florida State], they’ve been pretty dominant.”

In nearly 200 games as the head coach at Georgia, Richt managed to win a whopping 74 percent of them—despite competing in the ruthless SEC.

He brought with him to Miami—his alma mater–a reputation as a great recruiter and offensive mind. Because of that, many people envisioned a breakout year for star quarterback Brad Kaaya being the key to a successful season.

While Kaaya has been solid, the team’s defense—led by a trio of true freshmen at linebacker—currently ranks seventh in the country in total yards allowed. Virginia Tech, which manhandled the Tar Heels last week, is one of only two teams in the ACC (NC State being the other) to have allowed less yards than Miami this season.

UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the Tar Heels’ high-octane offense will have to be at their best in order to avoid another letdown.

“They’re a really tough defense that’s been putting up some good numbers,” Trubisky said. “Definitely one of the best defenses in the ACC.

“They’ve got some young guys—especially at linebacker—flying around and making plays,” he continued. “They’ve got some ballers, so they’re gonna be ready to go.”

Earlier this week, UNC received good news when word got out that junior tailback Elijah Hood will play against Miami after missing last week’s game due to a concussion. The Tar Heels will need Hood’s ability to run in between the tackles in order to expand their options offensively—especially since they’ll need every point they can get against that stingy defense.

Miami’s offense—like each of the other opponents UNC has faced this season–will certainly test the team’s run defense for as long as they can find success.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has risen up NFL Draft boards thanks to his size and arm talent. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has risen up NFL Draft boards thanks to his size and arm talent. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

However, the added bonus of having a 6-foot-4 quarterback in Kaaya that’s near the top of NFL Draft boards means Miami could easily force the Tar Heels into trying to outscore them.

“He can spin it,” Fedora said of Kaaya, using one of his favorite phrases to describe throwing ability. “He’s a quality quarterback, there’s no doubt.

“I don’t know where he’s projected [in the NFL Draft], but he’s gonna go high,” the coach continued. “One thing I can say is Florida State got after him the other night, but he stood in there and played really well.”

This game will also mark UNC’s third this season in a tough atmosphere against a school with a long and storied football history. First Georgia in the Georgia Dome, then Florida State in Tallahassee and now this.

With the body of work Richt has put together in his first five games at Miami, it’s clear this game will look plenty different for his team than last year’s did.

For the Tar Heels, though, it’s more about making sure this game looks plenty different than last week’s.

“Again, another ranked opponent on the road in a hostile environment,” Fedora said. “Our guys have done that, so they know what to expect.

“I expect our guys to bounce back,” he continued, referencing the loss to Virginia Tech. “I think they understand the task at hand.”