There are a couple of prisms through which this game could be viewed. The first Gio Bernard's absence from the game after he was not comfortable running on his injured knee prior to the game. The other is Bryn Renner and whether or not he suffered a concussion when he attempted to rush for a TD midway through the 2nd quarter. Both of these factors is why, to some extent, this game hardly serves as any sort of a red flag for the program. That and the fact it is only one game and the second in the Larry Fedora era. Not to mention, give Wake Forest credit for bouncing back after a tough game last week and making the necessary plays to win the game.
While the offense wasn't nearly as crisp as it was last week(not unexpected) UNC did stake out leads of 7-0 and 14-7 with Renner playing well on both scoring drives. The real issue in the first half was the defense which saw Demon Deacon WR Michael Campanaro finding gaps all throughout the Tar Heel secondary. Wake Forest answered both of UNC's scores but the injury to Renner threw the whole game out of whack for the Heels. Renner was stopped short on run to the goal line by a hard but legal hit. Renner signaled to the bench for help then fell to the turf looking as though he had been knocked unconscious. Backup QB Marquise Williams came in for a 4th and goal play that saw RB Romar Morris score the Heels second touchdown.
After the game Renner maintains he landed on the ball and it knocked the breath out of him. The replay seems to indicate otherwise but ultimately Renner was cleared to return to the game. Once he did, he struggled to make certain passes and looked as though he was a step or two behind mentally. On the third play following his return to the game, Renner double clutched a pass and fumbled as he was sacked to give Wake the ball deep in Tar Heel territory. The Deacs took immediate advantage and staked a 21-14 lead at the half.
[Additional Note: Renner said postgame he never lost consciousness and was not foggy. According to sideline reports, he passed concussions tests which include counting the months backwards. Based on that, it would appear Renner's situation was handled as it should have been. However, the consensus on Twitter among media and bloggers was that (1) Renner looked like he had been knocked out and (2) his play was markedly worse in a way that seem to indicate a concussion. Regardless, it is clear from the stats and observation that play had some sort of impact on Renner and clearly affected the efficiency of the offense as a result.]
It should be noted, we have no idea what the medical staff did or said about Renner who suffered a mild concussion last year versus NC State despite passing to concussion tests at halftime. As noted in the comments his stats before the hit and after it are markedly different. Even watching the game, Renner was making some solid passes prior to the hit but afterwards he was less than sharp. There will certainly be questions about Renner's condition and why he was allowed back in the game. Given Fedora's insistence on not discussing injuries, I highly doubt much will be revealed.
The second half went much better for the defense, up to a point. After the Heels tied the game at 21, Tim Scott picked off a Tanner Price pass to setup the Heels in the red zone. Unfortunately the Heels only got a Casey Barth FG out of it. The following offensive possession, the Heels worked the ball into the red zone but again settled for a Barth FG, his UNC career record 55th. Meanwhile, UNC was able to keep Wake in check offensively until midway through the 4th quarter when Wake launched a 93-yard drive that proved to be the game winner. Renner would throw an interception on the next Tar Heel possession effectively sealing the game for Wake. UNC did get a Hail Mary attempt from with three seconds left but it was batted down.
So what do we take from this? I am not willing to go as far as saying this is "same old, same old" for UNC football or regard much of what we saw as a reason to panic. The biggest questions will be about the defense and unfortunately for UNC there is no weak sister waiting next week. The Heels travel to Louisville which is a solid team. Heading there at 1-1 complicates matters since falling to 1-2 is a real possibility and the confidence of the team could suffer as a result.
Larry Fedora talks about meeting adversity head-on. Well, now the Heels get the chance to do that.