North Carolina’s 30-10 loss to West Virginia in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl wraps up another season of Tar Heel football. It wasn’t a pretty outing for Mack Brown and his depleted squad, as the Mountaineers scored eleven seconds in and never looked back. There were a handful of issues to consider when analyzing what led to Carolina’s third straight loss, and hopefully, these position grades will quickly sum up where UNC went wrong and more.
Conner Harrell got his first career start and showed flashes of being a dangerous dual-threat signal caller. He’s got some wheels. He also showed a promising touch on some throws, including a really impressive deep ball to Gavin Blackwell in the second quarter. Harrell still made redshirt freshman mistakes, though. Two interceptions inside the WVU 30 stung. It was a display of raw talent from the young QB, but I think it’s fair to say the Tar Heels got a good one.
Running Backs: B
It was not the typical dominance many expected from the North Carolina backs with Drake Maye out. Omarion Hampton had a quiet 19 carries for 74 yards but never really seemed to establish much of a rhythm. British Brooks and the legs of Conner Harrell were the only other options on the ground, and the lack of offense overall hurt the production of this position group as a whole.
Wide Receivers: B-
Gavin Blackwell had a solid day and, as I mentioned, a great grab. There wasn’t much to note besides that and a JJ Jones touchdown. We saw some new faces in Christian Hamilton and Paul Billups, but the inexperience was evident. There were a few drops and some chemistry issues with the new personnel, and these growing pains weren’t exactly in the recipe for success.
Tight Ends: F
There was not a single catch from a tight end. The two that were intended for one were intercepted. Next.
Offensive Line: F
I know there were losses and shifts in terms of who played where, but seven sacks are simply unacceptable. For a position group whose struggle has been blurred by past quarterback success, it unfortunately had nowhere to hide tonight.
Defensive Line: C+
West Virginia actually didn’t run as wild as I assumed they would. Garrett Greene got loose a few times, but that wasn’t exactly the reason why the Tar Heels got beat. Desmond Evans had a sack, and there were a couple of eye-opening plays on the line. It still wasn’t enough to be impressed.
Week in and week out, these dudes continue to be the backbone of this skirmishing defense. Power Echols had eleven tackles, and Kaimon Rucker had multiple tackles for losses. Amari Gainer also forced a fumble. Never ever can question the effort from this position group.
There were some new faces, as we expected, and besides the first play 75-yard touchdown, it wasn’t all that bad. Garrett Greene only had twelve completions, and there were some hard hits and crucial tackles on plays that got into the second level. But again, nothing spectacular.
Special Teams: F
A muffed punt, a kick catch interference, and allowing a punt return TD is precisely the type of performance that will result in the worst possible grade. It seems minor sometimes in the larger scope of a football team, but this area has been a serious concern all year long, and this was just the icing on the cake.
In Mack Brown’s defense, this roster was missing double-digit starters and multiple future NFL Draft selections. There was a good reason for the lack of production. Some facets of the game are still embarrassing and head-scratching, and that’s where I draw the line. Gene Chizik probably needs to start packing his bags, and he shouldn’t be the only one to be fired in the coming days. The offensive play calling was sometimes perplexing, and a new quarterback can’t excuse that. There are heaps of questions and issues to be addressed by the staff if the Tar Heels want to be competitive with a similar roster we saw tonight.