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Tar Heel Hangover: UNC’s Week 6 loss to Notre Dame

Thoughts on starting to dread Saturdays.

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

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened in week six.

The game was tied 0-0 after the first quarter (although Notre Dame was driving) with the defense really stepping up. The offense was stagnant for the first quarter. It went downhill from there.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

With 6:58 left in the second quarter, the North Carolina offense finally put together a few big plays and drove to the Fighting Irish 19 yard line. Down 14-0, this was a critical time for the Heels. Most fans would have been on the edge of their seat in anticipation of making it a one score game.

My Grumpy Dad, on first down, said, “they should kick the field goal now.” It seemed like humorous pessimism.

The next play, Chazz Surratt fumbled and Notre Dame recovered with a return to nearly midfield.

This is more than a personal anecdote, it is the same sense of hopelessness that is slowly sweeping Tar Heel Nation. One-win seasons are very difficult. This team could realistically have two or maybe three wins remaining, but this is without question a disappointingly long slog. What maintains hope, and a fan base, through these types of rebuilding stretches is the view that the team is actually rebuilding. Losses are more tolerable where there is progress toward wins.

Right now, there seems to be very little progress.

Everyone understands that the injuries affecting this team are historic and borderline cataclysmic. There is a pall of bad luck draped over every ligament, joint, and muscle. Nevertheless, rays of sunshine have to break through at some point to maintain any semblance of upward trajectory on the program.

The first step has been entirely investing in Chazz Surratt at quarterback. He is learning even if not as quickly as we would like. The playmakers may not be there to catch the ball, but it is the decision making that continues to be concerning. The staff has to find a way to show progress with a modicum of success.

Some of that starts with preparation and teaching during the week but a lot of it falls on the in-game coaching decisions. Especially related to . . .

Lying In Bed, I Wish I Could Change . . .

The play-calling.

Down 14-7 in the final moments of the first half and having just scored a touchdown and forced a punt, the Heels took over on their own 1 yard line. Three snaps from center with a quarterback lunge would have run the clock out and UNC was set to receive the second half kickoff.

Instead, it was a deep pass on first down that was incomplete and a draw from the shotgun on second down. Now, I know that Fedora only runs plays from the shotgun. I also know that asking a banged up offensive line to pull in both directions with no margin for error is a recipe for disaster. Two missed blocks resulted in a safety and total loss of momentum heading into the locker room. This was a lost opportunity for a small victory.

Perhaps there is simply no confidence left in the running game. Maybe that is why third and one has turned into a passing down. But do those passes have to be flanker screens all the way across the field? Slow developing passes against pressing defenses just don’t work.

34 total points in the last three games is not getting the job done.

Looking Forward: Virginia

This is a realistic chance for a victory. We need a victory. Virginia is mired in a multi-year rebuilding effort and Carolina will likely be favored. Execute and win; it is as simple as that.

Final Thoughts

Most teams have down years. This is either a transition to the next level or a regression to sub-mediocrity. I have no confidence which one the team is in.