There are two kinds of people: those who began to hope today might be the day when UNC tied the game in the fourth quarter and those who knew better than to believe. Regardless of which side you fall on, today was frustrating. Today was winnable and poor decision-making and execution made it so that it ended like most other games this season.
UNC got on the board first when Malik Carney picked up a stripped ball and hauled it into the end zone. It was a big play for a defense that would swing wildly between coming up with huge plays at crucial times and giving up back-breaking gains to the Yellow Jackets. Cole Holcomb led the way on defense with 22 tackles and three forced fumbles. He was a huge reason why the Tar Heels even had a chance.
Jace Ruder entered the game for an ineffective Nathan Elliott and seemed to be able to lead the offense competently. Unfortunately, Larry Fedora decided to call for a wildcat play once Ruder got his offense down to the one-yard line and the play ended up as expected. Carolina was forced to settle for a field goal despite their promising field position. That was the first of such situations that would result in three points instead of six when the Heels desperately needed touchdowns.
To add insult to injury, literally, Ruder had to leave the game with an injured left arm. He returned to the field in street clothes with his arm in a sling. That meant that Elliott had to finish the game and, well, it didn’t go well. Elliott threw two crippling interceptions (with three total on the day) in two passes to put the dagger in any chance UNC had of pulling out a win.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams finished the day with 103 yards receiving, as well as a 12-yard run that help important at the time. On a day when the run game was not working pretty much at all, the wide receivers needed help. They didn’t get much of it from Elliott.
UNC surrendered an atrocious 565 yards to Georgia Tech with an incredible 461 of those yards coming on the ground. They had nothing to stop the Yellow Jackets’ run game and they ran all over them, quite literally. Carolina managed to possess the ball for just 23 minutes of game time, owed mainly to the fact that they had so many quick possession that ended in turnovers.
It’s getting harder and harder to imagine a season with more than one or two wins. Time is running out to make it happen and the level of competition left will make it difficult. Is Larry Fedora a dead man walking, so to speak? The buyout makes it difficult, but his coaching miscues continue to fuel a frustrating fire. It’s a familiar refrain that could be part of the postgame wrap up on a near-weekly basis.
The next opportunity to salvage something comes next weekend in Durham versus Duke.