This isn’t a player of the game article as much as it is a moment of the game article. There was not a ton to cheer about from a UNC perspective in the first three quarters. The fourth quarter was better, but even then, things that happened then should be given some side eye. Cal had definitely let up off the gas at that point.
You’re not going to give a player of the game to anyone on the offense. Maybe if you squint, there was Jordon Brown and Anthony Ratliff-Williams having acceptable games, but neither of them were too great to overlook.
On the defensive side of things, UNC did have a good game, and there are some players who deserve praise. Malik Carney had two sacks. Jonathan Smith had 1.5 and had another tackle for loss. As a whole, the secondary allowed just 119 yards on 32 passing attempts.
However in a game as frustrating as this one was, you have to overlook “pretty good” and just go with the guy who did something cool.
Late in the second quarter with UNC down 17-0, the Tar Heels punted the ball away on fourth down. Johnathon Sutton then did this on the attempted return:
It was the only play really resembling a “highlight” for the Tar Heels.
Sutton is a back-up running back who had been converted from a linebacker prior to the 2017 season. He did not get any carries or catches, and this is the lone tackle he recorded. This was the only thing of note he did in this game, but he made it count.