I mean, we all knew how this was going to turn out, right? No one had a real expectation that the Tar Heels were going to take out Georgia Tech, not when they were so depleted on defense and only having one week to get ready for the triple option. This same team effectively knocked out Virginia Tech from the ACC Coastal, and the fact Carolina didn’t get completely steamrolled at least ranks as some sort of moral victory, right?
Bah. Enough. Let’s take a look at who shone brightly, who stunk it up to heaven, and who else deserves a mention.
Cole Holcomb: Dude was a beast on Saturday, and along with the next person on defense probably kept Carolina in the game because the rest of the defense had their problems. What else can you say about someone who had 22...that’s right 22...total tackles, 12 of them solo and also forced three fumbles from the Yellow Jackets. Holcomb was a straight-up beast on Saturday, and when he’s submitting tape for scouts in the NFL draft he needs to make sure each one of them look at this game. He’s been a huge bright spot for a corps that has just not been up to par this year, and it’s a shame his effort came in a loss.
Malik Carney: Responsible for the other forced fumble, this one started off the scoring in the game for Carolina. On a normal day, ten total tackles and one fumble return for a touchdown would earn you a player of the game status, but the defense is clearly better when Carney is on the field. So much so that Tech quickly learned to run away from him when they could, and it bit Carolina multiple times. Carney wrecked havoc, though, as he added 1.5 solo sacks to his total as well. Now that Tomon Fox has finally finished his suspension, being back on the field paired with Carney should cause some headaches for Carolina’s remaining opponents.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams: So, no lie, while we were chatting in our Slack about the football game, I was doing my early list for this column and I had ARW on the bad side. I mean, he earned it, losing a fight for a ball, having a rough day in the returns, and losing yardage while in the Wildcat for 3rd down when just tossing the ball away was probably a better call. Then he straight up fought off a GT defender for a 44 yard gain, ended the day with 103 yards in the air, and came up with a sensational catch for a two point conversion while getting interfered with. Everyone in the Slack channel wanted me to start listing other players to start showing me wrong, sadly it didn’t work. ARW served me a plate of crow, though, and for that he gets the Winner designation.
Nathan Elliott: Bless your heart. You just had a bad day, getting benched for Jace Ruder, and throwing for only 128 yards and three picks, and probably should have had two more. I know that you are a good kid, are answerable for your shortcomings, and you quickly have become the only option UNC has at quarterback. I just don’t want to pile on, I really don’t, but as it’s been made plainly clear by now, Carolina just isn’t going to succeed with you at quarterback. And look, Will...er, Nathan, it’s not your fault. It’s clear by now you were never meant to be a starter. Sadly, as we are about to get to, it would appear the rest of the year is going to be about how we can work around your limitations on offense.
Quarterbacks not named Nathan Elliott: I made this point on Saturday:
I’m convinced Elliott has a voodoo doll, and just takes out each one of them. “Look at me. I’m the QB now.”— Al Hood (@albhood) November 3, 2018
First Chazz Surratt against Miami, then Cade Fortin against Virginia Tech, and now Jace Ruder against Georgia Tech. Each one did not survive the first game they were put in before suffering, at minimum, a multiple-game injury. It’s clear by now that the coaching staff understands that Elliott is not going to give the team the best chance to win, but injuries have just kept them from exploring those options. The good news is that Fortin was spotted walking under his own power pretty well on Saturday, but one would suspect that he’s going to sit out at least one more game to preserve his four-game redshirt. Either way, one does wonder if Kelly Bryant saw this squad and thought “I know I can make a difference here.”
Rush Defense: Four Hundred and Seventy-Four Yards. Four Touchdowns. A rush of 52 yards and another of 44. You expect to give up a lot of ground to the Yellow Jackets but the depleted defense just didn’t fully hold up their end of the bargain. Looking back, it’s actually remarkable they only gave up 38 points with this putrid display. And yes, I’m using putrid despite the efforts of Carney, Holcomb and Allen Artis, who I will get to. Honestly, if they could have shaved about a hundred yards off that the Heels had a real chance, but you aren’t going to win giving up nearly 500 yards in rushing.
Allen Artis had a day that would normally have you ben the stand out on defense, with fourteen total tackles and six solos, He was a beast and again, it’s shame that effort came in a loss...The running backs were having a rough day, but then Micheal Carter had 46 yard run that should have been for 47 and a touchdown. The run brought the UNC run total to 166 on the day, so it’s tough to say the backs had a bad day over all. Antonio Williams finished the drive ultimately getting the only rushing TD for the Heels on the day...Red Zone Coaching was abysmal with two horrid play calls inside the ten that lead to field goals instead of touchdowns when that extra eight points would have been helpful..Jace Ruder brought some electricity when he was out there, and for the first time it’s worth saying that if Bryant doesn’t come to Chapel Hill, the future at quarterback looks solid. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if one of them left should Bryant come because thanks to the redshirt rules, both of them will be on the same cycle and it’s clear both could be a starter for a Power Five team.