One of North Carolina’s top offensive players will be lost for the remainder of the regular season. Wide receiver Mack Hollins will undergo surgery to address a broken collarbone, the school announced on Monday. The injury occurred on Saturday in a win against Miami.
Hollins was UNC’s third-leading receiver this season with 309 receiving yards on 19 receptions through seven games. Hollins led the Tar Heels in touchdown receptions with four. A senior, it is unknown if Hollins will be able to return for any postseason game UNC may be invited.
Hollins led the nation in receiving with an average of 24.8 yards per catch in 2015, proving he was a threat to make a big play when he got his hands on the football. Hollins was UNC’s leading receiver in 2015 with 745 yards and eight touchdowns.
It is well beyond time to start recognizing the good work being done this season by the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-1, 5-0 ACC). After picking up two pivotal wins against Pittsburgh last week and Duke this week, UNC is now in the pole position in the ACC Coastal with a chance to play in its first ACC Championship Game at the end of the season. That has become the reality of the situation after UNC pounded rival Duke 66-31 today on Chapel Hill.
This was a total beatdown from start to finish by UNC, a week after Duke was snakebitten by Miami (and the ACC officials). The Tar Heels clobbered Duke in the first quarter (21-3), outscored them in the second (17-7) and edged them in the third (21-14). UNC quarterback Marquise Williams completed 23 of his 35 pass attempts for 494 yards and four touchdowns before getting an early rest in the second half. Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer each went for at least 100 yards and four different Tar Heels players caught a touchdown pass. There was simply no slowing down UNC’s offense for Duke’s defense. Duke’s offense did itself no favors either with three turnovers in the game.
UNC has now won eight straight games, with the lone loss coming in the season opener against South Carolina. In that game, Williams was picked off twice in the end zone. Since then, Williams and UNC have been on a roll. UNC has scored at least 40 points in five games in this eight-game winning streak and each win has come by a double-digit margin all but twice. IF UNC manages to get to the ACC Championship Game, they could be talented enough to give Clemson or Florida State a good scare if they keep playing this way down the stretch.
The final games of the season are none to take for granted for UNC of course. Next week Miami comes to town, which is followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech and a regular season finale at home against North cArolina State. There is still work to be done, but right now it is all in front of them, along with some serious momentum.
Maybe Duke is still stunned over the events of last week against Miami. Maybe UNC is just a better team. Whatever the case, the Tar Heels are looking to score a second straight big win in the ACC Coastal and put themselves one giant step closer to playing in its first ACC Championship Game. A 49-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Williams to Bug Howard on the final play of the half gave UNC a 38-10 lead.
UNC jumped all over their rivals in the first quarter with three touchdowns. Williams connected with Ryan Switzer for a big 89-yard touchdown play on their first possession of the game for the early 7-0 lead. Williams would later run in for a four-yard touchdown on its next drive, and Elijah Hood scored a rushing touchdown at the end of an 11-play drive before the end of the first quarter.
Duke seemed to bounce back in the game early in the second quarter when Jela Duncan ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run, but the Tar Heels continued tacking on with a field goal and a second touchdown pass from Williams, a 74-yard scoring play with Mack Hollins doing the damage.
With UNC’s win over Pittsburgh last week, the Tar Heels are in prime position to take a commanding lead in the ACC Coastal with a win. If the Tar Heels hold on to win this one, they will have a one-game lead in the loss column on Pitt and head-to-head tiebreakers against the Panthers, Blue Devils with Miami coming to town next week.