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UNC’s woes against in-state FBS opponents continue in frustrating loss to Appalachian State

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The Tar Heels start hot but can’t stop the Mountaineers late.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels started Saturday’s game against Appalachian State with a bang. Michael Carter ran the opening kickoff back 75 yards to set UNC up for an early score. Things changed quickly from there, however. Appalachian State responded immediately with a field goal of their own on their opening drive, and it was pretty much all Mountaineers from there. UNC could never quite do enough to get over the hump.

Carolina had quite a bit of playing catch up to do throughout the first half. A touchdown before halftime made it look doable for UNC, but they seemed to not be able to make the big play when they needed it most on the defensive side of the ball. The Heels pulled within three at one point late in the third quarter, but their accomplishment was met almost immediately with another Appalachian State touchdown.

Long drives chewed up large chunks of clock. Carolina took an extra play to get into the end zone to make it a three-point game again, but they opted to kick it away with 3:01 left and three timeouts remaining. UNC’s defense managed to get Appalachian State into a 3rd and 5 situation that would have given the offense more time to try and get into field goal range for Noah Ruggles, but a quarterback keeper extended the Mountaineers’ drive.

A late attempt at a miracle by the Tar Heels was thwarted when Ruggles was forced to attempt a 56-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. The kick was deflected and the game was over.

It was a tough day at the office for the Tar Heels. Things improved dramatically in the second half when it came to their ability to move the football, but finishing the first half with under 100 yards of offense ultimately came back to bite them. Sounds a little familiar, eh? Overall, the Heels finished with 469 yards of total offense. It wasn’t enough.

It didn’t help matters that UNC shot themselves in the foot with 40 yards worth of penalties and three turnovers. Two of those were interceptions by Sam Howell and the other was a strip sack. In all, those turnovers directly resulted in 14 points for the Mountaineers.

Javonte Williams had a strong showing in the ground game, totaling 94 yards with 5.9 yards per attempt. Carter’s main accomplishment came at the start and he was quiet for most of the rest of the game. Howell was able to get something good going with Beau Corrales for 84 yards in the game, and Dazz Newsome finished the game ahead of all the receivers with 88 yards. Unfortunately, there were a number of drops by receivers that really should have been caught. The numbers would look a bit different if they had been.

All told, it was another game of frustrating missed tackles, glaring depth issues, and a couple back-breaking miscues. The drought of wins against North Carolina-based FBS opponents will continue until at least the Duke game when Carolina will get another shot at breaking the ugly streak.