At the end of 60 minutes, the scoreboard read Notre Dame 45, North Carolina 32. But in reality, the game wasn't that close. From the middle of the second quarter on, the Fighting Irish bulldozed the Tar Heels, dominating in almost every way, as they cruised to an easy victory.
So what does it mean for Carolina? Here are five takeaways from Saturday's loss.
1. The defensive line got abused
Notre Dame has an offensive line that seems to be rounding into form after a tough start. But this will not be the last quality group of blockers that Carolina will face this season. Plus, this performance was not a one-off situation as UNC was allowing 193 rushing yards per game coming in, and the 287 the Irish put on them makes it even worse. ND quarterback Drew Pyne quarterback was comfortable in the pocket and if the Carolina front can't create more problems in future games, more shootouts will be on the docket.
2. More defensive mistakes
Penalties. Assignments. Missed tackles. It's happening over and over. Perhaps some of the defensive penalties called late in the game were questionable, but Carolina can't put the blame on anyone else. If they're not going to win battles up front – which they haven't been able to do so far this year – they have to be fundamentally sound and not give opponents extra opportunities.
3. The offensive line had its struggles as well
With apologies to Florida A&M, Appalachian State, and Georgia State, this was the first big boy defensive front the Heels' offense has faced this year and the results weren't good. On the day, North Carolina had just 66 rushing yards on 28 attempts. Take out quarterback Drake Maye's 36 yards and the rushing attack was especially anemic. Also, Maye was sacked three times and was pressured on a pretty consistent basis. With ACC play on deck, the UNC blockers have more big-time challenges coming up soon.
4. Drake Maye was really good... again
For all the bumps and stutters the offense had at times, North Carolina did put 32 points on the board and the redshirt freshman quarterback was the big reason. As mentioned, Notre Dame was in his face often and he still managed to throw for 301 yards and five touchdowns against no interceptions. Wide receiver Josh Downs did return and had two touchdown receptions, but Maye had to look elsewhere in his absence and that should pay dividends down the line. Antoine Green had his first catches of the season, two of which resulted in long touchdowns. The Notre Dame defense is very stout – ask Ohio State – and Maye still put up big numbers. For all the holes on this team, Maye alone should be enough for several more wins.
5. Keeping composure
It seemed at times that the team as a whole was coming unglued. It was especially true on defense, but head coach Mack Brown has to beware of divisions forming on his roster. Will the offense feel the need to score touchdowns every single time because of the defensive struggles? What will the offense really think of the defense if opponents continue to score at this head-spinning pace? Will defensive players point fingers at each other when mistakes are made? The coaching staff has to be on the lookout for dissension in the ranks and try to squash any issues immediately.
– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.