The Tar Heels lost for the first time this season in what all and all was a brutal game against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were dominant in the first half, and held their ground long enough for the final second to run off the clock. Oh, wait, the final second did NOT run off of the clock. In fact, in theory the game is still taking place despite everyone leaving the field. We’ll get more into that in a moment.
First, let’s discuss the first half. Sam Howell and UNC’s offense had a lot of trouble getting anything going against what was a very stout Wake Forest defense. The Heels were only able to log 22 yards through the air for the entire half, and 49 yards on the ground. It was the first time this year that we saw Howell truly look like a freshman, as he looked rattled on just about every play. At some point it seemed like he had just given up on going through his progressions and tried scrambling multiple times without much luck.
As far as the defense goes, Wake’s delayed read-option offense left the Heels confused, and imaginably frustrated. Chazz Surratt’s brother, Sage, had a field day all game long, and finished the first half with 157 receiving yards. Yes, you are reading that correctly. He proved a dominant force in the passing attack to say the least, and coupled with quarterback Jamie Newman’s two tough runs into the end zone, it was hard to imagine a world where UNC would be able to get many stops going into the second half.
However, the Heels did indeed get stops in the second half, and held the Deacs to just three points for the rest of the game. They dug deep and fought hard, and Myles Dorn even managed to get a pick off of Newman to give the team a huge boost. After being replaced by Ruder in the second quarter, Howell started the second half and got the offense moving a bit. The Heels were finally able to get on the board in the third, and in the fourth quarter things started to look better and better.
Carrying the reputation of being dangerous in the fourth quarter on their shoulders, UNC looked like they were going to be almost impossible to stop. The defense continued to be stingy against Newman & Co., and Howell started to tear apart Wake’s defense. Heels RB Michael Carter broke free for a big run that led to Howell throwing a strike to Dyami Brown to make it a three-point game following the two-point conversion. Unfortunately Wake Forest was able to march down the field and kick a field goal to extend their lead to six, and that’s when things got a little messy.
Howell did a good job putting the Heels in a decent situation in the final seconds of the game, despite not much time actually being left. On the final play, however, UNC opted to run the ball, and Michael Carter was stopped and stepped out of bounds with one second left on the clock. The whistle blew following the play, and the game was....over? Without review, the refs called the game, which makes no sense considering the two scenarios that could’ve transpired:
1.) Carter stepped out of bounds, which he did, and there was one second left on the clock.
2.) The refs blew the whistle via forward progress, in which case it was a first down and the clock should’ve stopped anyway.
Naturally there are going to be fans and maybe even Tar Heels themselves that will be upset with how this one ended, but one thing stands true: Wake Forest did everything they could to earn that win, and credit should be given where credit is due. However, I can’t help but leave that game with a lot of questions. Why didn’t the refs review the play? Why would the Heels run the ball on the final play of the game? Does Chazz Surratt “New number, who dis?” his own brother after losing to him? Who knows if we get answers to any of these questions, but what we do know is that the Heels’ dreams of sweeping the in-state ACC opponents on their schedule ended swiftly.
Next up on the schedule will be App State back at Kenan Stadium. Look for the Heels to do everything they can to bounce back after what was one of the more unusual endings that we’ll probably see this college football season.