Lamar Jackson threw for 393 yards and ran for 132 more yards as UNC fell to Louisville 35-47 on Saturday. He accounted for six touchdowns on the afternoon. In front of a star studded crowd, UNC gave an inspired performance but were ultimately outmatched by the gifted Louisville quarterback. UNC now moves to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
A whole host of former Tar Heels, from James Worthy to Danny Green, were on hand to present the 2017 men’s basketball team their championship rings. Even in the loss, it was a festive day as Roy Williams, Joel Berry, and company debuted their dazzling new rings at halftime.
In a strange game that saw a number of flashy plays and momentum swings, UNC seemed to always be a step behind the Cardinals. Starting quarterback Chazz Surratt played well in the first half, going 12 of 14 for 168 and two touchdowns, but did not see the field again after injuring his leg.
Brandon Harris played surprisingly well in the second half, completing 17 of 23 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown, but came up short in the end.
Louisville’s potent offense thoroughly dismantled UNC all afternoon. They finished with 705 total yards to UNC’s 401.
The game started well for the Heels. Louisville was forced to kick a field goal on their opening drive and UNC’s Anthony Ratliff-Williams nearly took it to the house on the ensuing kickoff. Daz Newsome picked up where Ratliff-Williams left off, snagging a shovel pass from Chazz Surratt and taking it 54 yards for a first and goal. Two players later, Surratt threw a touchdown to a wide open Brandon Fritts to take a 7-3 lead.
But Jackson had a number of Heisman moments over the afternoon that UNC simply could not overcome. Midway through the first quarter, Jackson somehow escaped pressure, stumbled, and dumped it off to Micky Crum for a crucial first down, then scored a few plays later. The Cardinals were stopped at the goal line on their next drive and kicked a field goal to go up 7-13.
Carolina would not go away. The Tar Heels marched down the field their next drive as Surratt threw another touchdown to Fritts midway through the second quarter. The very next play, Lamar Jackson threw a 75 yard bomb to Jaylen Smith, seizing back any momentum Carolina had gained. The touchdown comes after UNC was dismantled by Cal’s passing attack last week.
It is a blaring weakness that has no obvious fix. UNC got out of the half down 20-14. They had -20 rushing yards going into the locker room, and finished with just 17 rushing yards for the day
Brandon Harris started at quarterback to open the second half, after an injury to Surratt. A three and out was the result. Lamar Jackson burned Patrice Rene on the next possession, taking it 43 yards to the house to make it 14-27. KJ Sails was visibly frustrated as Jackson coasted into the end zone.
Kenan Stadium was silent. It felt like things were on the verge of getting ugly, until Anthony Ratliff-Williams took the next kick off 94 yards for the touchdown. Weaving through the coverage, Ratliff-Williams beat out the kicker and glided into the end zone. 21-27, Louisville.
Brandon Harris zipped in a touchdown to Thomas Jackson on the next drive and somehow, being outplayed by Louisville all afternoon, UNC found themselves in the lead going into the fourth, 28-27.
Louisville then scored 20 straight to slam the door on the Heels. UNC failed its last ditch fourth down conversion midway through the fourth and Lamar Jackson rushed for his third touchdown of the day to make it 47-28. Jackson is well on his way to repeating as Heisman winner and ended up with one of his best games of his legendary college career. Despite UNC’s best efforts, it indeed ended up being the Lamar Jackson show.
It’s hard to pull away any positives from a game like this, but, at least offensively, there were some bright spots. Quarterback play from both Surratt and Harris was sound, with no interceptions from either of them. Austin Proehl had one of his best games as a Tar Heel, gaining 120 yards on eight catches, as did Brandon Fritts, catching a pair of touchdown passes.
For most of the afternoon, the UNC front seven did a decent job of containing Lamar Jackson’s run game. That changed after Jackson’s long 43 yard touchdown, and Louisville ran wild after that. Overall, it was Carolina’s worst defensive performance since Baylor put up 756 yards of total offense in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl.
UNC goes on the road next week in a matchup against FCS Old Dominion.