Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels had their chances, but an exciting 2nd half wasn’t enough to overcome an early deficit and UNC loses to rival NC State 28-21 on Senior Day. Here’s why:
First, give the wolfpack *some* credit
Dave Doeren and his coaching staff did a pretty good job in game planning against the Heels. There’s no secret in what opposing teams will try to do against Chizik’s defense (run the dang football), and I’m guessing that the Tar Heels came out determined to stuff the NC State running attack which means defensive backs have to keep their eyes in the backfield. So what does Doeren do? He comes out throwing. And even more confusing for the Tar Heels, he does it with a trick play from Jaylen Samuels on the first touchdown. State came out with a terrific gameplan that went for three touchdowns in the first four drives, and honestly if it weren’t for a fumble on the fifth drive and a horribly managed possession to end the first half, it should have been a lot worse.
But don’t give them too much credit
North Carolina should have won the game, or at least should have been playing overtime at home for a chance to win the game. State’s hot start aside, the game felt more like “UNC lost” than “NC State won” and there’s certainly not a shortage of supporting evidence …
unsustainable formula for success
North Carolina wins football games in two ways and two ways only … an explosive start takes their opponent completely out of their gameplan and crushes their will to live, or a semi-close shootout that keeps UNC in the game long enough for the inevitable quick-strike touchdown (or more, like we saw in the Pitt game). There is no “grind in out” in Larry Fedora’s playbook, and when either of the first two plans go awry, there is seemingly zero chance for success. The Tar Heels had a chance to calm the game early by grinding out a few extended drives, but Trubisky dropped back to pass on 10 of the first 14 plays of the game trying for that early knockout or the back-and-forth offensive shootout. Before the game settled in, it was 21-0 Wolfpack.
smart, fast, physi … ah screw it let’s get weird
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before …
Down 28-7, on UNC’s first drive of the 2nd half the Heels put together a nice string of plays and finally started to show signs of life. On 3rd and 1 from the 8 yard line, the Tar Heels let a tired NC State defense off of the hook by not getting a play in and having to call timeout to save 5 yards from a delay of game penalty. Fedora’s offense comes out with Logan in the wildcat and gets stuffed at the line. On the next play, the Heels turn it over on downs when Ryan Switzer can’t find Mitch Trubisky on a throwback pass off of a reverse on 4th and 2. Forget not giving the ball to Elijah Hood who is one of the best yards after contact running backs in America, that’s nothing new. Aside from that, you have a 1st round draft pick as your quarterback and you’d rather your punt returner throw a potentially game-changing pass on 4th down. Whatever money Dave Doeren had squirreled away to cover moving expenses this weekend, he should use it on the finest bottle of whatever Larry Fedora mixes with Red Bull as a thank you.
we probably should have appreciated marquise more than we did
Yes, Trubisky had an amazing season and will likely be one of the first QBs taken in this year’s NFL draft. But man, Quise was something special. Do you think he’s allowing his team to lose to Duke and NC State? His leadership and enthusiasm gave the Tar Heels personality last year, and that goes a long way in an emotional game like college football. NC State has personality, as boring as it might be. They’re a blue collar team who will body blow you to death if you don’t counter. But what’s UNC’s personality? Last year they were a group of guys who were having fun playing backyard football with their friends and it won them the Coastal division. This year they were turning into a kind of never-say-die team with those Pitt and Florida State comeback wins, but what happened to that identity? State looked like a team who had no doubt about who they were, but UNC was simply not sure who to be. It’s no one’s fault, because honestly it’s probably more of the norm, but with all of the talk about UNC being better than last year at the quarterback position, we probably should have paid more respect to Marquise Williams and his ability to define and personify the identity of his football team. Because this team certainly doesn’t have one and it cost them two winnable rivalry games and a very winnable Coastal championship.