Sun Bowl grades: Stanford DT Solomon Thomas leads Cardinal over UNC

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from Stanford's 25-23 Sun Bowl win over North Carolina.

| 5 months ago
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Sun Bowl grades: Stanford DT Solomon Thomas leads Cardinal over UNC

Stanford Cardinal 25, North Carolina Tar Heels 23

Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from Stanford’s 25-23 Sun Bowl victory over North Carolina.

Stanford Cardinal

Quarterback grade: Ryan Burns, 52.1

Burns plays in relief duty

Stanford backup QB Ryan Burns played the majority of Stanford’s snaps at QB, coming in for the injured Keller Chryst. Burns completed six of his 14 pass attempts for 86 yards with one drop. He took care of the ball, as he did not commit a turnover, and completed a deep attempt on a trick pass play in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal—one that would prove vital for the Cardinal. Burns was unable to complete a pass under pressure, as he finished zero for four when under duress. Chryst completed three of his six pass attempts for 68 yards with a touchdown before his injury in the second quarter.

Stanford QB Ryan Burns vs. pressure in Sun Bowl

Ryan Burns vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

HB Bryce Love, 71.6

FB Chris Harrell, 68.1

WR Michael Rector, 64.7

WR Francis Owusu, 64.1

TE Nick Wilson, 60.6

Cardinals’ offense manages to find a way

Stanford did not a have a standout performance from an offensive player, but found a way to move the ball at times and score points. RB Bryce Love forced six missed tackles on 22 carries, and had a 59-yard burst on one of his rushing attempts. Stanford’s offense was limited after the injury of Chryst, and followed a conservative script until the trick play pass late in the fourth quarter, with Burns hooking up with WR Francis Owusu.

Top defensive grades:

DI Solomon Thomas, 92.5

S Dallas Lloyd, 82.6

LB Jordan Perez, 80.8

S Justin Reid, 79.9

DI Harrison Phillips, 78.1

Stanford’s pressure led by Solomon Thomas

Stanford’s ability to pressure Mitch Trubisky and force turnovers was the key to the Cardinals’ victory. DT Solomon Thomas had an amazing performance in the interior of Stanford’s defense, accumulating five hurries and a sack rushing the passer, while also forcing five stops in run defense. When not always applying pressure on the quarterback, Thomas consistently beat his blocker assigned to him on pass protection. Stanford’s defensive line utilized twists up front (crossing rush lanes), and UNC’s offensive line often did not switch blockers on defenders. Stanford’s pass-rushers took advantage. DT Harrison Phillips contributed with five run stops and added a QB hit and hurry. Safety Dallas Lloyd hauled in two interceptions, including a pick-six on an HB wheel-route in the second half.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Quarterback grade: Mitch Trubisky, 72.6

Trubisky flashes arm strength

Mitch Trubisky completed 24 of 38 pass attempts for 283 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Tar Heels QB flashed his arm strength, completing five of his 14 attempts of 20 yards or more downfield (with two drops) for 142 yards and a touchdown. When under pressure, Trubisky completed four of his eight pass attempts for 46 yards.

UNC QB Mitch Trubisky vs. pressure in Sun Bowl

Mitch Trubisky vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

WR Austin Proehl, 80.1

QB Mitch Trubisky, 72.6

WR Ryan Switzer, 69.5

WR Thomas Jackson, 66.9

HB T.J. Logan, 66.0

UNC offense comes up just short

North Carolina’s offense showed flashes of high performance, with Austin Proehl hauling in seven catches for 91 yards, including a great catch on the last drive, while WR Ryan Switzer caught six passes, including three receptions down the seam for 74 yards and a touchdown. Tar Heels QB Mitch Trubisky flashed his big arm talent with connections on post/seam routes, but also struggled with two interceptions, including a coverage misread on a HB wheel-route out of the backfield.

Top defensive grades:

LB Cole Holcomb, 82.0

LB Cayson Collins, 81.8

ED Malik Carney, 79.5

DI Nazir Jones, 78.4

CB Des Lawrence, 78.0

North Carolina Defense proves tough in loss

Tar Heels LB Cayson Collins produced five stops on only 22 snaps in run defense, while LB Cole Holcomb forced four stops in run defense; the duo helped North Carolina’s defensive front-seven to contain Stanford’s rushing attack most of the day. DT Nazir Jones produced two stops in run defense while adding a sack and QB hit. The Tar Heels’ defense was stingy most of the game, but gave up a few big plays that helped Stanford get a win in the Sun Bowl.

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. 

| Analyst

Taylor is an offensive line and run-game specialist at Pro Football Focus. He has coached at every level of college football, with experience at Mississippi Gulf Coast, Central Missouri, and Wyoming.

  • a57se

    Fun game to watch!
    Soloman Thomas made some money in this one, he was a one man wrecking crew.
    Trubisky needs another year in college…

    • Mike J.

      Thomas is a junior, but I don’t see his name on any draft-prospect lists; odd. He looks like a natural three-technique in a 43.

      • a57se

        He is listed as an edge or DE on most lists…

        • Mike J.