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North Carolina Football: 5 Thoughts Following the Tar Heels' Victory Over Miami

Run defense shows up, offense makes enough plays as UNC takes over first place in the ACC Coastal with a narrow victory over Miami.
Caleb Hood, North Carolina Tar Heels Football

Running back Caleb Hood and the Tar Heels earned a hard-fought 27-24 win on the road against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

At times, it hasn't been pretty. But at the midway point of their regular-season schedule, North Carolina is 5-1 and is the only unbeaten team in the Coastal (2-0). Their 27-24 win at Miami gives the Tar Heels two big division wins while everyone else on that side of the ACC can't seem to find any consistency.

Here is what we learned about North Carolina on Saturday afternoon and early evening.

1. These Heels know how to win close games

North Carolina has been in three one-score games this season and has won them all. While luck may factor in at times, there is a belief that develops when good results occur in close games. With six big conference games remaining, these gut-check victories should serve them well down the stretch.

2. Was that the Carolina rush defense?

The Tar Heels came into the game ranked last in the ACC in yards allowed on the ground. But on Saturday they held a Miami running game that was averaging 179 rushing yards per game to just 42 yards on 18 attempts. This is actually a trend considering that Virginia Tech had just 99 rushing yards last week, but since Miami has run the ball much more effectively than the Hokies this season, the showing this week was far more impressive.

3. Secondary continues to struggle

Tyler Van Dyke had a rough start to the 2022 season, but he got right in this game. The Miami quarterback completed 42 of 57 for 496 yards and three scores. Not all of that is on the defensive backfield, but that unit has been perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the entire Carolina team this fall. In Storm Duck, Tony Grimes, and Cam'Ron Kelly the Heels have a considerable amount of experience on the back level and players with plenty of athletic ability. The fact that UNC is 5-1 despite their lackluster play is amazing.

4. Caleb Hood

In the first few games, true freshman Omarion Hampton was getting the bulk of the carries. This week, it was Hood that stepped to the head of the running back line. It wasn't spectacular, but the sophomore's 74 yards were the best output by a Carolina tailback since Hampton's 110 in the Week 2 win over Georgia State.

5. Drake Maye stayed strong

In some ways, his performance was similar to what he did in the Notre Dame game. He was feeling pressure for much of the game but in the end, he finished with 300-plus passing yards and ran for 53. He did throw a couple of picks and the team won in large part because of the defense, but Maye continues to be the most important Tar Heel each and every week.

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.