UNC scored a touchdown on their first drive of the ACC Championship Game with just under nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. Unfortunately, it was pretty much all downhill from there for the guys in light blue, as they dropped the game 39-10 to the Clemson Tigers.
The 78-yard drive that ended with Drake Maye rushing into the end zone for a score felt like a promising omen for Carolina before the tables quickly turned. They seemed to turn, at least for the most part, when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney benched DJ Uiagalelei for Cade Klubnik. Uiagalelei started the game 2-5 after also struggling mightily against South Carolina last week. Swinney’s quick trigger with his quarterback paid off because it was like a shot of energy for the Clemson offense.
As the Tigers’ offense surged, the Tar Heel defense seemed to crumble. Against Uiagalelei, it looked like they knew everything about what was coming and how to contain it. Against Klubnik, it looked like they were taking a test they never studied for. Backup, third string, fourth string, etc, quarterbacks have been the bane of Gene Chizik’s defense all season, and Klubnik flummoxed them for the remainder of the game.
To make matters worse, the Tar Heel offense also sputtered to a halt. Clemson was able to profit time and time again off Carolina miscues. A blocked field goal attempt, a fumble, and a pick six by Maye all added insult to injury. The Tar Heels didn’t score in the second half and got just one Noah Burnette field goal after the team’s opening drive touchdown.
Maye passed for 268 yards with two interceptions and 24 yards on the ground. He hit Josh Downs for 100 yards in the game, but the two were not able to connect for any touchdowns.
There is no denying that the Carolina offense we’ve seen lately is not the one we saw most of the year. It’s difficult to nail down exactly what has happened to them, but it has been a struggle to get absolutely anything going since halftime of the Wake Forest game.
Take these two statistics for example:
UNC has now scored 7 TDs in its last 41 offensive possessions.— Tar Heel Illustrated (@HeelIllustrated) December 4, 2022
Entering the Wake Forest game, North Carolina scored a touchdown on 79% of redzone drives, 6th in FBS.— Bryan Ives (@awaytoworthy) December 4, 2022
Since the Wake Forest game, North Carolina scored a touchdown on 40% of redzone drives, 112th in FBS.
Something happened in that game and the Tar Heels have not been the same.
It was clear all season that the defense required an other-worldly offense in order for the team to be successful. When that other-worldly offense turned into a pumpkin, you have the losses to Georgia Tech, NC State, and tonight against Clemson. If nothing changes between now and whatever bowl the Tar Heels are sent to, the result will likely be the same there too.
For now we wait to find out where UNC will be playing, but it will undoubtedly be without at least some of the current roster. Guys with NFL aspirations will likely opt to sit out to prepare for the draft, and the transfer portal has given guys a reason to already look for the door if they plan on playing elsewhere next season.