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Good, Bad, and Ugly Report: NC State

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If nothing else, you can count on UNC/NC State games being pretty close ones.

For most of the series history, which now totals 100 games, the margin of victory is often very close and this year's edition was no exception. UNC led early and ended the game dominating the stat sheet, but a fluke 4th down Hail Mary and a punt return for TD gave the Wolfpack a come-from-behind win.

It's hard to get past the raw emotion of losing a game in this manner, but looking beyond the final score, UNC actually did some things very well, Unfortunately, the final score is all that matters.

Still, trying to find the positives in an otherwise gut-wrenching loss, here is this week's GBU report:

GOOD

Taylor Jonathan Yates: Think his "I am a Tar Heel" promo will get booed now? Yates did everything he could to will his team to victory, going 33-44 for 411 yards and 2 touchdowns, most of that with white shirts in his face or scrambling for his life or getting knocked on his can. Yates is now UNC's career passing leader in pretty much every relevant category.

Anthony Elzy: You can't ask much more from your 4th-string running back. He posted 210 yards of total offense (172 receiving but only 32 rushing).

Casey Barth: Connor's little brother was 4-4 on field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder. Barth is now 13-15 for the season on field goals.

Defensive game plan: Giving credit where it is due, Everett Withers and his staff had a solid game plan for the Wolfpack. UNC brought pressure successfully and flushed and hurried Russell Wilson while notching four sacks.

Jabari Price: The true freshman was picked on repeatedly last week against Virginia Tech, and State tried to do the same on Saturday. This time Price was up to the task and had a couple of key defensive plays that bode well for the future of the secondary.

BAD

3rd-down conversions: UNC was 3-15 on 3rd down, including 0-for its last 9 attempts.

Red-zone offense: And this is why red zone percentage is misleading - UNC was 100% (4-4) in the red zone, but only scored one touchdown. NCSU was also 4-4 in the red zone, but scored TDs on 3 of their 4 chances. If UNC converts just one more TD, that covers the final margin.

Running game: UNC only generated only 46 yards from its running backs on just 18 attempts. After a while, you just start throwing the ball because running gets nothing.

UGLY

Offensive line: Less than 3 yards per carry rushing. Seven sacks surrendered. Most of the time the O-line was simply overwhelmed by an undersized Pack D-line and their linebackers. A completely putrid, embarrassing performance.

Kick coverage: UNC gave up 188 yards on only 7 kick and punt returns, including the game-changing 87-yard punt return for a touchdown. State's entire offense only gained 275 in 62 plays.

*****

This will be the point at which I encourage you to not be like your lupine cousins and put all the emphasis on this one single game, even though I know this kind of loss is gut-wrenching. Should UNC win at Duke next week and win the bowl game, the Tar Heels will have posted their 3rd-straight 8-win season for only the 3rd time since the Choo Choo Justice era. And they will have done it against an aggressive schedule with a QB few thought should start in August, a 4th-team running back, a 3rd-team fullback, 2nd-team tight ends and H-backs, and true and redshirt freshmen peppered all throughout the defense.  A team that was hampered by suspensions and has been crippled by injury still has a shot at an 8-win season. That's impressive. Regardless of how or why the situation occurred, you can only play the hand you've been dealt and for the most part UNC has played it well.

There is still important football to be played this season, and plenty of issues to be sorted out after the season. So now UNC has to go back to the drawing board to snap this two-game losing streak, and Tar Heel fans just need to focus on something they are pretty good at: hating Duke.