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A valiant effort from the Tar Heels was not enough in their 34-44 loss to Notre Dame

Things looked better…until they didn’t.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Going into tonight’s game against the Irish, it was extremely unclear which team we would get. Playing a ranked Notre Dame team on the road is a dangerous proposition, and truly things could’ve went a lot worse than they actually did. Regardless, the Heels did eventually fall to the Irish, but the game wasn’t without its bright spots.

The Heels started off the night looking like a team that figured some things out during the bye week. The offense was able to get going in the run game, complete short passes, and really played as well as one can play without scoring in the first quarter. On the defensive side, tackling looked much cleaner, and it seemed like more or less the Heels could contain the Irish’s high-powered offense for the rest of the night, as they finished the half only down 0-7.

During the second quarter, however, is when both teams began to trade blows. There were five scoring drives that were a mixed bag of touchdowns and field goals, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to send the Heels into the locker room with a lead. However, Mack Brown’s team was only down 13-17 going into the third quarter, and surely enough adjustments were made that would help tighten things up and get them the lead, right?

Well, kind of. After the incredible 53-yard touchdown run by Ty Chandler, the Irish answered back with two touchdowns to go up by 11. Howell managed to connect with Antoine Green with less than three minutes left in the third quarter for a touchdown, giving themselves a chance to maybe take things over in the fourth quarter.

What actually happened? Notre Dame put the pedal to the metal, and it truly felt like UNC’s defense (and maybe even offense) shattered into a million pieces after Kyren Williams broke free for a 91-yard touchdown run. The Heels managed to score just one more touchdown, and a lot of that had to do with the defense’s inability to get off of the field. With 1:37 left in the game, Notre Dame kicker Jonathan Doerer nailed a 21-yard field goal, and thus put the final nail in the coffin.

When looking at what went wrong with this game, things go a bit deeper than defensive collapses and the offense not putting up enough points. Once again the Heels found ways to have costly penalties at the worst possible moments, and yet they only finished with five miscues. Each one seemed to lead to Notre Dame scoring or stopping UNC from scoring, making this loss especially frustrating. It’ll be really hard to not wonder what could’ve been if the Heels figured out a way to play cleaner, tougher, more disciplined football, but let’s be real: we’ve said this a few times this season already. With Wake Forest and Pitt next on the schedule, it probably won’t be the last time we say it either.

Overall, this game had some fun moments, some frustration moments, and everything in-between. It does feel like there were some things worked out during the bye week, but unfortunately that wasn’t good enough to get the win. The positive is that next week’s game is at home, but it might only be able to save them so much, as Wake Forest is going into this one undefeated. Hopefully Mack Brown can get the guys to shake this loss off quickly, because the next two games won’t be any easier.