Having Notre Dame come to town to face the injury-depleted Tar Heels always seemed like a game that would end in pain, but even that feels like it was understatement. Carolina’s defense did its very best to keep their team in the game, but the offense failed to gain any traction in what turned into a bit of a dumpster fire in Kenan Stadium.
First off, the weather turned atrocious. The skies opened up on two different occasions during the game, forcing flashbacks for anyone who witnessed the devastation of last year’s game against Virginia Tech in Hurricane Matthew. That kind of game is obviously difficult enough for an experienced group, but it’s a step past impossible for a team that seems like its on its sixth string player at every position.
To add insult to injury, the injuries piled up even more. Punter Tom Sheldon was forced out of the game in the first half with some sort of leg injury and safety Donnie Miles had to leave in the second half with what looked like it might be a broken arm or wrist. Several other players were forced out of the game for a play here or there along the way. UNC’s injury report is a mile long already and they weren’t able to escape this one without adding to it.
For those who want a description of the events beyond “it was terrible” - Chazz Surratt threw for just 179 yards with one interception. Jordon Brown picked up just 28 yards on the ground while Anthony Ratliff-Williams led the way through the air with 55 receiving yards.
Myles Dorn was the star of the show for the guys in light blue, picking up two big interceptions. The defense really did play their butts off in spite of being forced onto the field for nearly the entire game. The odds were so stacked against them because of the offensive ineptitude that they did as much as could reasonably be expected.
It would be completely unfair to not mention the play-calling disasters that took place this afternoon. No, those are not the sole reason Carolina lost the game, but man, they did not help things. Down just seven points right before the half, with Carolina set to receive after halftime, Carolina inexplicably decided to get cute with 38 seconds left backed up against their own end zone. This resulted in Brown being tackled for a safety that put Notre Dame up 16-7.
Carolina was fortunate at that moment to be down just a touchdown with the ball set to be theirs after the half. There was absolutely no reason to take any kind of chance there and they paid for failing to do so. That’s obviously not the only example of poor play-calling from the afternoon, but it was easily the most egregious. It can’t be easy to find the right buttons to push for a team that is so depleted by injuries, but self-inflicted failure is completely avoidable.
So, the play calls were bad, Surratt looked bad, the offense could do nothing with the chances their defense gave them, and it all resulted in a soggy loss that most expected. Notre Dame didn’t play amazing with a backup quarterback, making the game surprisingly winnable if the offense had been able to do anything at all. They weren’t.
The Tar Heels welcome Virginia to town next weekend with the Cavaliers looking pretty strong in their wins to this point. What once seemed like it would be a win for UNC now looks like anything but.