North Carolina is at it again. The Tar Heels won six out of their last seven games last season to finish 7-6, and coach Larry Fedora’s team is on the same path in 2014. North Carolina edged Virginia 28-27 on Saturday to improve to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the ACC.
The Tar Heels opened 2014 by recording wins over Liberty and San Diego State, but Fedora’s team wasn’t particularly impressive in either victory.
Following the 2-0 start, North Carolina dropped four straight games, largely due to a defense that allowed 51 points per contest in that stretch.
However, over the last two weeks, there have been signs of life for Fedora’s team.
Sure, North Carolina gave up 43 points to Georgia Tech, but quarterback Marquise Williams outshined the Yellow Jackets’ Justin Thomas to pull out the close win.
Against Virginia, the defense stepped up in the clutch for Fedora.
Yes, the Tar Heels allowed 443 yards, but the defense forced two second-half turnovers and forced the Cavaliers go three-and-out twice in the final two quarters.
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Additionally, North Carolina intercepted Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert with less than seven minutes remaining, which allowed the Tar Heels to score the game-winning touchdown.
By no means was Saturday’s win a perfect effort from North Carolina, and this team still has plenty of flaws to address moving forward.
The defense is allowing 6.4 yards per play (13th in the ACC) and ranks last in points allowed (41.3 ppg).
While the offense is scoring 37.4 points per game, its rushing attack is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, and the offensive line has allowed 12 sacks in four ACC games.
While the flaws of North Carolina are evident, it’s worth pointing out there is no dominant team in the Coastal.
The Tar Heels’ midseason improvement is a good sign for Fedora, especially as his team is filled with youth and promise for 2015.
Looking ahead, road trips to Miami and Duke will determine just how high North Carolina can climb in the division, with home dates against Pittsburgh and NC State likely deciding whether or not this team can get bowl eligible.
The Tar Heels are still a flawed team – much like the rest of the Coastal – but the two-game winning streak is a needed sign for a coaching staff that was starting to feel a little heat after a 2-4 start.