When Mack Hollins went down with a broken collarbone in last week’s win over Miami, UNC football coach Larry Fedora knew the offensive production would still be there – it would just be a matter of who would step up.
Hollins was the Tar Heels’ leader in receiving touchdowns with four entering Saturday’s matchup with longtime rival Virginia.
The No. 13 jersey of Hollins that seemed as though it would go unworn the rest of the season, turned into a blessing in disguise for North Carolina.
Shortly before kickoff in the South’s Oldest Rivalry, it was announced that fellow senior Bug Howard would don Hollins’ No. 13 jersey, a decision that worked out for the Tar Heels’ offense.
“That was his idea,” Fedora said of Howard’s decision to wear Hollins’ No. 13. “He asked me before the game if he could wear it, and I told him he could.”
Howard, who usually wears No. 84, moved into the team lead with his injured running mate and caught his fourth touchdown of the season in North Carolina’s 35-14 win over Virginia Saturday at Scott Stadium.
“I don’t know if anybody else has talked about wearing Mack’s number or not,” Fedora added.
Howard helped the Tar Heels tally their seventh straight win in the series that dates back to 1892. The win also improved Fedora’s record to 5-0 against the Cavaliers.
“He (Howard) wanted to honor Mack with his play and he did a great job of it,” Fedora said. “He did really well, and Bug has been able to make those plays all year, but when you have everybody healthy, you are spreading it around more. Today, they gave Bug the opportunity to get open in different situations, and Mitch found him”
Howard was again targeted early and often by quarterback Mitch Trubisky who completed seven of his passes to the 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver from Rochelle, Ga. Howard finished the day early in the fourth quarter with 109 yards on a 15.6 yards per reception clip – the same average he had against Miami.
The continued production from Howard came just a week after he caught 10 passes for 156 yards in a much-needed win for UNC over the Hurricanes.
With the likes of Ryan Switzer and Austin Proehl still vital parts in the Tar Heels’ passing game, there is no lack of targets for Trubisky, which makes Howard’s recent production even that more impressive.
After catching just 29 balls for four touchdowns last season, Howard has already surpassed his catch total from 2015 and his touchdown reception Saturday tied a career high.
With four games left in the regular season, it looks as though Howard will continue to put up impressive numbers to compliment the likes of Switzer and Proehl as the Tar Heels remain in the hunt in the ACC’s Coastal Division.