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UNC vs. Virginia: Three Things Learned

A disastrous performance in Chapel Hill leaves the Tar Heels crushed and puzzled.

NCAA Football: Virginia at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

-08Words are hard to come by right now. If you are reading this, I am right there with you. North Carolina just suffered arguably the most disappointing and significant loss in program history. What was just hours ago an undefeated season with a Heisman hopeful is now a lot of broken pieces that are hard to pick up and sort through. Feeling frustrated, betrayed, shocked? Me too. Virginia came into Chapel Hill with a (1-5) record, sat at 24-point underdogs, and was overwhelmed with injuries. It mattered not. We learned a lot from what happened Saturday night in Kenan Stadium, but not one notch or bullet point can describe the historic letdown that just occurred for Drake Maye and North Carolina. I will try to unpack a loss that is leaving this awful feeling in all of us, one we seem to know all too well. I cannot believe it happened again.

The supporting cast is crucial to prolonged success.

Up until last night, Drake Maye has consistently made throws look so easy that I’ve been convinced (multiple times) that I could have reeled in the big gain or touchdown. Tonight, everything flipped upside down. Drake Maye was not as sharp as he typically is. A few crucial overthrows and uncharacteristic mistakes set this offense back into the danger zone. But when times were tough, no one was there to help.

Nate McCollum dropped a handful of targets tonight, and many other route runners just could not make the grab when someone needed to step up. Also, Drake Maye has been so spectacular up to this point that the Tar Heels do not regularly dial up many plays requiring excellent playmaking after the catch. Tonight, North Carolina desperately needed the skill players to make the big catch or break that extra tackle. Unfortunately, they were far from that.

In order to make the jump from good to great, as the staff discussed so much this offseason, the supporting cast around Drake Maye has to be more reliable and consistent in games like what we saw against Virginia. There seemed to be an assumption that the big play would come from the arm of Drake Maye, but that, unfortunately, is the style of play that will get you burned. And once again, it did.

Mid-game scheme adjustments are nonexistent.

Earlier this year, we wondered why Drake was not throwing it more. Now, I sit here and wonder why Omarion Hampton had less than 20 attempts against one of the worst run defenses in the entire country. After running for nearly 200 yards against a stout Miami front, Chip Lindsey seemed to go away from the run game and continued to throw the football when Drake Maye and the receiving core were hitting a wall.

Why? I do not get it. I have less of an issue with the original plan, but it is hard to grasp how there was no reevaluation of the game script when Virginia was picking us apart.

Also, in situations where the run has been so effective, it was nowhere to be found. When it felt like Drake Maye had attacked the secondary and opened up a run opportunity, they would go right back to the air. The game plan was flawed, but worst of all, it was not altered until it was too late.

North Carolina football creates its own trap games.

If someone told you this was a trap game before it started, they were wrong. A trap game indicates that external situations may sneak up on a team, causing some struggle. This could not have been a more straightforward task for the Tar Heels; somehow, they still blew it. To reiterate what we have said all week, Virginia is not a good football team. And they have shown no signs whatsoever of being one, until tonight.

This is North Carolina’s sixth loss as a double-digit favorite in the last four seasons. That is absolutely ridiculous. This is not a trap game issue, but a coaching and culture issue. Mack Brown preached to “not eat the cheese” all week long. As ironic as all of this is, the ‘cheese’ that Carolina ate may not have been the same type that the staff continued to hark on. There is no understandable explanation for this loss, but I do not think it was because UNC fell for the hype. I think it is because the Heels were out-coached, out-performed, and under-prepared.

Getting beat in almost all facets of the game by a (1-5) team is not because they fell for a trap. It is because of an issue within the culture of Carolina Football that is continuously creating self-inflicted issues that lead to heart-shattering losses.

Same story, different year.