Isaac Schade presents Quick Hitters from UNC Football’s 56-24 home win over Florida A&M on Saturday evening.
- This was Game 1 of the 2022 UNC football season, and against a shorthanded, but talented, FCS opponent in Florida A&M. You want 3 things: a win, health, and coachable/teachable moments. Carolina got the win, they came away relatively healthy (pending what we learn about Tony Grimes’ head injury and Josh Downs’ ankle), and there are plenty of teachable moments.
- After a game of this nature, I feel the need to remind everyone (myself included): Don’t get too high or too low from this Week 0 performance.
- Apparently, Florida A&M didn’t find out about the ineligibility issues until Thursday evening. You hate that for their program, but the team showed a lot of determination in making the trip and holding their own for a big percentage of the game. Quarterback, and Vanderbilt transfer, Jeremy Moussa was impressive.
- Drake Maye did a lot of really good things in his first start, including becoming the first Tar Heel to throw five touchdowns in his first start AND the first Tar Heels to throw five touchdowns in a season opener. What impressed me most was his awareness and decision-making. The play that defined that most tonight came in the third drive: he saw the blitz coming from his right (likely even picked it up pre-snap), and quickly got the ball out to Gavin Blackwell in the vacated area.
- Maye also spread the ball around well, both in terms of targeting various receivers and in terms of different sections of the field. He additionally had a nice 42-yard scamper, after which the redshirt freshman really settled into the game.
- Omarion Hampton and George Pettaway, Carolina’s true freshmen running backs, had really impressive debuts. Hampton rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries while Pettaway tallied 51 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Don’t be surprised if Hampton shoots to the top of the depth chart as soon as this week.
- We heard from the coaching staff this offseason that all three tight ends would be involved, and they were. All three (Kamari Morales, Bryson Nesbit, and John Copenhaver) had at least two receptions, Morales and Nesbit each had a touchdown and the trio finished as three of the top five receivers in terms of total yardage.
- One of the unfortunate side effects of Florida A&M’s ability to keep the game close is that UNC wasn’t able to get Jacolby Criswell in until the fourth quarter. Coach Brown said postgame that he would have liked to get him in midway through the third.
- Six different Tar Heels scored a touchdown: Morales, Nesbit, Blackwell, Downs (two), Hampton (two), and Pettaway.
- One of the questions that needs answering this season is how the offensive line rebounds from 2021. It’s just one game, but the line allowed Florida A&M zero sacks, after giving up the most in the ACC last season. The last time Carolina allowed zero sacks was three seasons ago against Temple on December 27, 2019, in the Military Bowl.
- While the offense hummed along well once it got going (although it will certainly have its fair share of bumps and bruises as well), the defense wasn’t as far along. After one game, it’s admittedly difficult to say what Gene Chizik has with the defense. I know it looked like the secondary got picked, but FAMU was dumping off quickly to mitigate their short-handed offensive line. This didn’t allow Carolina’s defensive line opportunity to make much of a mark. At the same time, I’d like to see the secondary press up more in those situations. And at the end of the day, given the talent on the line, they need to be able to penetrate and put pressure on opposing offenses regularly.
- That said, the defense did come away with three sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Storm Duck nearly had what would have been the first interception (and likely pick-six) of the game in the first series. Additionally, the Tar Heels were able to score touchdowns off both turnovers. Coach Brown mentioned multiple times post-game his pleasure with that outcome.
- Power Echols was the most impressive defensive player, recording 10 tackles (nine solo), two tackles for loss, and a sack. Kaimon Rucker had fewer tackles (four), but also had two TFLs, a sack, and caused a forced fumble.
- Not that it means much, other than that FAMU was moving the ball well and quickly, but the Rattlers secured at least one first down on five of their six first-half drives. This is likely to be expected under Coach Chizik’s bend but don’t break defense. However, the defense did make several halftime adjustments and began tackling better in the second half.
- Despite failing to score in the 2:00-drill before halftime, mostly due to a holding penalty, Duck grabbed the first interception of the season on the ensuing FAMU drive. Carolina turned that takeaway into seven points and then scored seven more on the opening drive of the second half. That type of swing makes a head coach elated, and Mack Brown expressed as much postgame. This was a relatively clean affair despite being the first game of the season. The Tar Heels had just five penalties for 45 yards and none until 5:00 before halftime when Ray Vohasek jumped offside on 4th-&-3. Against an inferior opponent, you hope to play a disciplined and clean game, even if it is the first game. Carolina did that for the most part.
- If you’re making notes for trivia questions, the first down of the season went to Blackwell and the first touchdown of the season was to Morales.
- There were no unexpected surprises on either side of the football when the starters came out. Asim Richard, Ed Montilus, Corey Gaynor, William Barnes, and Spencer Rolland were the five starting offensive linemen. The other offensive starters were Drake Maye, DJ Jones, Josh Downs, JJ Jones, Gavin Blackwell, and Kamari Morales. That’s exactly what Coach Brown said and what the depth chart listed. The defensive line starters were as advertised – Noah Taylor, Vohasek, Dez Evans, and Myles Murphy. Power Echols and Cedric Gray were the starting linebackers, while the five in the secondary were Storm Duck, Gio Biggers, DeAndre Boykins, Cam Kelly, and Tony Grimes.
- I would be remiss to not end by wishing Coach Mack Brown a happy 71st birthday. Happy Birthday, Coach!
Mack Brown Postgame Press Conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina football game. Next up is a road game against Appalachian State on Saturday, September 3. Kickoff is at Noon ET on ESPNU.
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