Well, that was frustrating.
North Carolina started off the new season with an absolute clunker at Virginia Tech. After the preseason hype, UNC’s defense had a bad first half, especially when Tech ran the ball, putting the Heels in a big hole. They steadied themselves in the second half and held the Hokies to three points the rest of the way, some costly turnovers and questionable decisions made it so that they came up short, despite outgaining tech for the game.
As a result, there’s not a ton of choices for player of the game. However, there was one obvious standout on the defensive side of the ball, and that was sophomore defensive back Ja’Qurious Conley.
Conley was a standout on the defensive side of the field all game for the Tar Heels. He tied for the team lead in tackles with seven, one of which was a tackle for a loss. He also came up with an interception on a circus catch as Carolina tried to mount a rally. Unfortunately, UNC gave it right back to Tech two plays later.
In general, Conley and the secondary is maybe the part of the team that gets the least blame for the loss. Tech did get some yards and a touchdown through the air, but that came in large part after the Hokies had set that up by running all over the Heels early. In the second half, Braxton Burmeister was 5-11 for just 43 yards and Conley’s aforementioned interception.
If you’re looking for other contenders, it’s certainly not the preseason Heisman hopeful Sam Howell. He had one of his worst games as a Tar Heel, throwing three interceptions and barely completed 50% of his passes, going 17-32. If you want to highlight anyone on the offense, the only real contender is probably Josh Downs. The receiver was the only one on the offense who had something close to resembling a big game. He caught eight passes for 123 yards and scored UNC’s lone touchdown on the game.
Other than that....well, uh, Ben Kiernan had a pretty good day punting. It was that kind of game.
UNC will have a lot to work on over the rest of the season if they want to come close to living up to their preseason expectations. However, if you can take away one positive from the loss, it was the play of Ja’Qurious Conley.