It’s a shame that the player of the game isn’t Sam Howell. UNC’s best quarterback in program history didn’t have enough in the tank to drag this Tar Heel team to victory against a depleted South Carolina program.
It can’t be anyone on a defense that allowed 38 points and 543 yards of total offense against a team that had averaged 22 and 294 respectively. The Gamecocks were undermanned and still put on a performance against the favored Heels in a mostly friendly Bank of America Stadium.
The playmakers that Carolina needed the most--Josh Downs, Ty Chandler, and British Brooks--didn’t do enough to merit much consideration. So who to pick?
Looking for positives in this performance was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but one cameo did prove very interesting, and buoyed my spirits for next season. Freshman tight end Bryson Nesbit (from nearby South Mecklenburg High) made the most of his opportunity in the bowl game.
With no production from the upperclassmen tight ends (until later in the game on Garrett Walston’s trick-play touchdown), UNC put the slight freshman in to see what he could do. Nesbit turned two targets into two catches, both for first downs. He finished the game with 29 yards receiving, good for fourth on the team, but really third if you discount the 37 yards Walston gained on a trick play.
Walston did not end up becoming the receiving threat many (myself included) thought he would this season. Kamari Morales appeared to overtake Walston in the pecking order, but was ineffectual against the Gamecocks, failing to record a catch.
Nesbit does not yet have the frame to block defenders like Walston and Morales, but he has a much higher ceiling catching the ball. In a game with little positive to take into the offseason, the potential flashed by Bryson Nesbit is something to keep the pilot light on during the cold winter months ahead.