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UNC Football: Carolina defense embarrasses itself in loss to Notre Dame

Well, that was ugly.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Losing to Notre Dame in a normal season is usually a defensible shortcoming. They are a talented group year in and year out, contending for a spot among the nation’s best teams more often than not.

This is not that Notre Dame team, though. They lost their quarterback in a loss to Marshall. They squeaked by Cal by the skin of their teeth. If there were ever a season UNC should maybe feel good about being able to beat the Fighting Irish, this was it.

Carolina’s defense has been squeaking by all season, and the offense finally ran into a situation they couldn’t bail Gene Chizik’s group out of. The struggling Notre Dame offense hung 576 yards on a defense that has bent itself into pretzels without breaking prior to today.

The Tar Heels jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Drake Maye hit the returning Josh Downs for the first points of the game. After the early score, the Carolina defense had Notre Dame facing a 3rd-and-7 with no less than three defenders putting hands on Drew Pyne. He picked up the first down anyway, and everything quickly started going downhill from there. The Fighting Irish scored 24 points in the second quarter to take a commanding lead before halftime that was never threatened in the second half. They’d do everything necessary to continue to tack on from there to put the game solidly out of reach for UNC.

Notre Dame out-scored UNC 45-25* after that early optimism was put to rest. Caveat being that UNC got a big garbage time touchdown to put a bow on the day.

UNC had absolutely nothing working on the ground. They totaled just 66 ground yards to Notre Dame’s 287. Drake Maye was sacked twice and the Heels lost a fumble that resulted in seven points for Notre Dame.

Pyne was able to get almost anything he wanted through the air too, hitting Michael Mayer for 88 yards and a touchdown to lead the Irish. Lorenzo Styles and Logan Diggs each had more than 60 yards and a touchdown each as well. Chris Tyree and Audric Estime ran for 80 and 134 yards, respectively, and combined for three touchdowns.

For UNC, Downs had two touchdowns in his return to action since the first game of the season. Antoine Green had two touchdowns for 150 yards as well, including the garbage time TD, but that was all the scoring to speak of. Maye was the team’s leading rusher with 36 yards on the ground. No one else was able to get much of anything going against the Notre Dame defense. Omarion Hampton did find the end zone in the fourth quarter after the game had been pretty well decided, but it was on a pass instead of via the ground.

Notre Dame was threatening to make a bad situation worse late in the fourth quarter when Estime fumbled as he was heading into the end zone. Carolina was able to recover, so at least there was that.

It’s frustrating to waste an opportunity to beat a team that has beaten up on UNC the last several years, even if it would have meant kicking them while they are down. Allowing as many points as Marshall and Cal combined to this offense is a tough pill to swallow. Apparently a date with UNC’s defense was the cure to what ailed them, though.

I will leave you with a parting thought: