UNC improved to 5-1 (1-1) on the season with a 14-7 victory over the Louisville Cardinals in Chapel Hill. The victory may have helped notch another one in the wins column, but the fact is, this team was far from impressive against one of the declining programs in the country.
The game itself turned into a tale of two halves. Louisville, although entering halftime with zero points, absolutely dominated the first half, as the Tar Heels managed only 18 offensive snaps. UNC finished the first half with three punts and one turnover.
The second half turned out to fair a lot better for the hometown Tar Heels. No turnovers and two touchdowns turned out to be the difference, as the Heels held on 14-7.
Bryn Renner looked lost at times in the pocket with some very errant throws. Renner, after showing signs of brilliance in the season's early going, returned to very average form.
The quarterback finished with 178 yards on 12-of-18 attempts with only one touchdown. Granted, Renner did not turn the ball over, his game could have fared much better.
Take away the 43-yard touchdown to Dwight Jones in the fourth quarter, Renner finishes with a subpar 135 yards.
One thing missing from Renner's game is his ability to run the ball, an aspect of his game that was highly anticipated when committing to UNC.
Giovanni Bernard looked great running the ball behind an offensive line that came out flat. He finished with 109 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown and a lost fumble. His long of the day was only 12 yards, attesting to the back's skill between the tackles.
Overall, the team finished with only 86 yards. Ryan Houston carried the ball only once for one yard, while Renner was sacked five times for a negative 23 yards. These numbers did not equate into the grade.
The offensive line looked flat all afternoon against a rather pedestrian Louisville defense. Twice plays were negated for holding penalty, not including another hold that was declined.
The line was unsuccessful in opening gaps for Gio Bernard. The fact he managed over 100 yards is a testament to his skill, not the line's ability. Furthermore, the line yielded five sacks to Louisville. Renner looked uncomfortable and lost in the pocket at times, leading to errant throws.
On special teams, every punt appeared to be on the verge of being blocked.
Erik Highsmith and Dwight Jones again looked great catching balls from Renner. Jones was single-handedly responsible for getting in the end zone for Carolina's second touchdown, shedding two tacklers in the process.
However, Highsmith and Jones were the only two wide receivers to even catch a ball all afternoon. Bernard caught three passes out of the backfield for a mere 14 yards, while Christian Wilson caught only one pass. The two receivers combined for 150 yards.
On paper, the defensive line did not do much. Sylvester Williams accounted for the lone sack, but the defensive line looked more impressive than that.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked uncomfortable at times in the pocket, hurrying passes, including one that was ultimately intercepted. Louisville's running game finished with a meager 2.6 yards per carry.
I bundled the linebackers and secondary simply because neither did much to separate itself. The defense did a good job containing the run game, holding Louisville to 2.6 yards per carry.
The pass defense looked very average. Zach Brown intercepted Bridgewater in the second quarter, accounting for the team's lone takeaway.
The special teams had very few opportunities to do anything today. On returns, Charles Brown averaged three yards per punt return, while T.J. Thorpe took his lone kickoff return 25 yards.
Casey Barth was still out with a thigh injury, and Thomas Moore's lone opportunity to kick a field goal was taken away when Louisville was called for offside.
Thomas Hibbard did a decent job punting, averaging a tad over 40 yards per punt, with one landing inside the 20. The offensive line did a terrible job protecting Hibbard, and it appeared any punt could be blocked by Louisville.
Everett Withers knows he has a lot riding in the early going. UNC is now 5-1 (1-1) on the season, and lost by only one score to Georgia Tech two weeks ago.
The play-calling was very mediocre. John Shoop has done a much better job this season getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers, but aside from a 43-yard touchdown by Dwight Jones and a 31-yard scamper by Highsmith, the offense looked very menial.
The team finished with seven penalties for 50 yards, a step back for a team that committed only one penalty the previous week against East Carolina.
UNC entered the game as an up-and-coming team in the ACC, double-digit favorites over Louisville. However, the team looked far from its 4-1 record may have indicated.
I chalk this victory up to Louisville's immaturity and mistakes. Teddy Bridgewater looked the part of a true freshman, while the team combined for nine penalties and nearly 80 yards. Indeed, it was an offside penalty that allowed UNC to score their first touchdown after lining up for a field goal.
A win may be a win, but this did far from impressing the voters. It was their final non-conference game that should have served as a tune-up, but it left more questions than answers as the team prepares its showdown with Miami next weekend.