In a season that has been filled with so many losses, it was, admittedly, nice to see the Tar Heels emerge with a win in today’s game. They were clearly the better of the two teams on the field at Kenan Stadium on Saturday afternoon, roughing up the Catamounts in every quarter of the game.
Western Carolina got on the board first when quarterback Tyrie Adams rushed in from one yard out. He finished the day with 290 passing yards and 104 rushing yards with two touchdowns. UNC’s quarterback, Nathan Elliott, threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions, before being replaced before halftime by Manny Miles. Miles’ introduction to the game came with a bang on a Hail Mary as time expired. The ball was batted into the air before settling into the arms of Jake Bargas for a score.
The Tar Heels were able to gash Western Carolina on the ground, particularly with Javonte Williams, who got into the end zone for three touchdowns. It was the first three-touchdown game by a Tar Heel since Elijah Hood did it against Georgia Tech in 2016. Jordon Brown also ran wild in the game, finishing with 79 yards and a touchdown. Carolina also picked up 358 yards through the air, predominantly by Anthony Ratliff-Williams with 84 yards on the day. Ratliff-Williams didn’t get into the end zone, however.
In all, UNC finished the day with 654 total yards against Western Carolina, which is exactly what they should have done against a team of WCU’s caliber. Unfortunately, they did surrender 26 points to that team, which may not feel like a lot when looking at UNC’s point total but it sure felt like a lot when seeing how bad the Catamounts were playing.
The pessimist in me wonders if winning today will be enough to salvage Larry Fedora’s job in Chapel Hill. Western Carolina was a game you circled at the beginning of the season as an easy win and nothing changed about that. Today went the way that it should have and that shouldn’t be notable. However, if you’re looking for any reason to avoid paying Fedora his buyout...I don’t know. Beyond the final score, there are still things that will drive you mad if you think too long about them.
For instance, Miles was able to come in and immediately pull off a Hail Mary throw. Cade Fortin was used for one snap last week against Duke for such an occasion. If Miles is capable of that throw, wouldn’t it have made more sense to use him for that play in Durham in order to be able to preserve Fortin for the Western Carolina game as a pre-NC State tuneup? Instead, Fortin gets thrown into the fire next week against the Wolfpack having not played a full game. Who does blame for that fall on except Fedora? It was a totally avoidable situation.
No one can blame fans for being checked out on the team in their current state. It almost feels like a coaching shakeup is one of the only things that can reignite the excitement around the program. Nevertheless, it’ll all be over after next week. Then we can await the fate of next season for the next several months.