Season Report Card: North Carolina
But North Carolina began to turn the corner in its sixth game of the season against No. 10 Miami (FL). The Tar Heels were leading the entire gam, until the last 16 seconds when the Hurricanes scored to make it 27-23. After that loss, North Carolina went on to win six out of the next seven games, losing to No. 24 Duke by only two points (27-25) in the regular season finale.
Fedora and his team should be applauded for turning the season around and becoming one of the hottest teams in the FBS down the home stretch.
Offense: D (First 5 games) A+ (Last 8 games)
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams took over the helm after senior Bryn Renner’s Tar Heel career was ended at N.C. State. Williams had the best tight end in the country in Eric Ebron. Ebron was a beast, leading the team with 973 yards receiving at the tight end spot. Williams performed quite well himself, throwing 15 touchdowns and also leading the team in rushing with 536 yards. The Tar Heels finished fifth in the ACC in scoring, which isn’t a true indicator of how good this offense was this past season. After the loss to Miami, North Carolina averaged 40.5 points a game and looked impressive doing it. Despite the loss of Ebron for next season, Williams will be expected to put up big numbers in 2014.
Defense: C- (First 5 games) A (Last 8 games)
Finishing 43rd in the FBS in points allowed, North Carolina was decent on defense, but it could have been better. Led by two seniors -- first team All-ACC defensive tackle Kareem Martin and second team All-ACC safety Tre Boston -- the defense held both No. 6 South Carolina and Miami (FL) to 27 points. But that same unit also gave up 55 points in the devastating loss to East Carolina. Just like the offense, things began to click after the team’s loss to Miami. During the last seven games, North Carolina was only giving up 19 points a game. Needless to say if the Tar Heels played like that all season, this team would have been playing for the ACC Championship.
I would not have wanted to play this team late in the year. It would have been interesting to see this team face off against South Carolina in the last game of the season, rather than the first. Give Fedora and the Tar Heels credit for continuing to grind it out after starting 1-5. Who would have thought this team would make a bowl game after that? But not only did North Carolina make a bowl game, the team destroyed Cincinnati 39-17 in the Belk Bowl. This season will give slow-starting teams around the country hope for years to come. Fans should feel good about the Tar Heels making noise in the ACC next season.