Walking into Lane Stadium on September 3, morale was high.
The North Carolina Tar Heels were ranked No. 10 in the nation, and the fans were back after a year of limited capacity.
Life was good.
Until the first drive.
Virginia Tech ate up the clock, scored in the first possession of the game, and held a halftime lead that would be enough of a margin for the eventual victory.
Fast forward through the inconsistent, frustrating, head-scratching, and completely underwhelming season to a Border War condiment bowl game that would decide which Carolina team ended up a game over .500 on the season.
After an impotent first drive, South Carolina took advantage of their first possession with a wide receiver throwing a 69-yard touchdown on just their third offensive play.
It was shaping up to be a long day, and it was.
But mercifully, this completely disappointing 2021 season has come to a close. With that, a final W/L/HM - Duke’s Mayo Bowl edition.
Way back in August, this is what I wrote about British Brooks in the running backs preview:
With all this talent, can Brooks find a way to earn significant action at running back? Brooks was the 2020 Special Teams MVP and special teams captain. Will he remain in that crucial role on special teams? He is a heart and soul player, but he could provide some punch on the offensive side of the ball when the situation arises.
It is a shame that Brooks only totaled 31 carries this season. In the Mayo Bowl, his 63-yard touchdown run got Carolina on the board and gave everyone a tiny bit of hope in the second quarter.
Brooks’s run was the longest touchdown run for a Tar Heels in a bowl game. He broke the record held by Amos Lawrence, who had a 59-yard touchdown run against Texas in the 1980 Bluebonnet Bowl.
He was not able to muster much else on the ground, but the bowl game touchdown run for the former walk-on was one of the few feel-good moments for UNC on Thursday.
Antoine Green was UNC’s leading receiver with four catches and 73 yards. He had some great footwork on a reception late in the second quarter.
Oh my GOD! This throw and catch from Sam Howell to Antoine Green!! pic.twitter.com/I4u4EyKgrl— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 30, 2021
Green’s catch put Carolina in field goal range, and the field goal at the close of the half put the Tar Heels down by only 12!
Something has got to change. It is inconceivable how ill-prepared this team was against a team that had so many personnel issues.
Unless every recruiting service is wrong, this team has talent. So what is missing?
Are the schemes and game plans wrong?
What is going on at practice?
Are the coaches just not connecting?
How could a team that was a 10-point favorite get worked over so bad in that game?
There are too many questions, and not enough answers. But here is one answer: something has got to change.
With a sack on Thursday, Tomon Fox moved up to third place on the all-time UNC sacks list. He has registered 29.5 career sacks.
Grayson Atkins tallied seven points in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. His two field goals and one extra point put him at 109 total points for the season, the most in his five collegiate seasons.