top of page

Heel Tough Blog: Duke’s Mayo Bowl- West Virginia Recap

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

For a second time in three seasons, the Tar Heels had a chance to close out their season on a positive note with a win in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. While this year’s team wasn’t embarrassed in the same fashion that the 2021 team was, they still allowed 379 yards of total offense and were shut out in the second half as they fell 30-10 to the West Virginia Mountaineers. Here are our biggest takeaways from a loss that officially completes another late season collapse for this program. 

There Were Plenty of Opportunities That This Team Couldn’t Take Advantage Of

The final score may not resemble it, but the Tar Heels had plenty of chances in this game, especially the first half, that they couldn’t capitalize on. Eight of the team's eleven drives ended up in West Virginia territory at some point and only two of those resulted in points. The other six possessions that crossed the 50-yard line resulted in two interceptions, three punts and a turnover on downs. This one was there for the taking, but this shorthanded offense simply couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities, something that became a theme of this offense late in the year, even when they were at full strength. Figuring out how to turn those opportunities into points more consistently should be a big focus for this staff this offseason.

Offensive Line Closes Out The Season With Another Rough Showing

One of the other main focuses for this offensive staff this offseason has to be some sort of strides along the offensive line. Similar to the team as a whole, the unit faded down the stretch of the season and tonight might have been their worst overall performance of the season. They allowed a season-high seven sacks and four other quarterback hits and failed to provide running lanes in a game where they needed the run game to carry them. Most of the guys who played tonight will not be back, which could be a blessing in disguise for a room that needs fresh faces. The question is, though, can this staff be trusted to find the right guys to make this a unit that can be trusted again?

Conner Harrell Showed Some Promise, But Set Up QB Battle

The main focus of this game was on quarterback Conner Harrell, who was getting his first career start and hoping to prove to the staff that he is capable of being the team’s next full-time starter. Harrell had his ups and downs, but he showed enough to give him a good start in a battle with incoming transfer Max Johnson. He used his legs well early in the game just like he did earlier in the season against Campbell and will be a dangerous presence in the running game if he is able to win the job. He showcased his big arm and made some great throws in the deep and intermediate passing games, but he threw two important interceptions that ended promising drives. It’s hard to be too critical of his performance, though, with how bad the offensive line played in front of him, but he has at least left the door open for Johnson, who has already been going through practice with the team.

Defense Needs to Make Some Changes

The defense did some good things early, but it was much of the same for this unit on Wednesday night. The defensive line was pushed around most of the night in a game where the team needed them to step up and the secondary, which was nearly at full strength, let up too many explosive plays in the passing game. The run defense struggled once again, something that wasn’t shocking with how good West Virginia’s run game is, but is a reflection of the biggest issue with this defense right now. Mack Brown hinted at staff changes on the defensive side of the ball and Wednesday was the latest example of why those changes are needed for this unit to actually be a unit that can be relied on.

The Bloom is Off the Rose for Mack Brown 2.0

This offseason is going to be a tough one for the program. With Drake Maye departing and three straight years of disappointing second halves, it’s going to be tough for fans to be energized about the program with things trending down. Wednesday night was a harsh display of what can be expected if some sort of changes aren’t made. It’s highly unlikely that Mack Brown will step aside, so he has his work cut out for him to generate some sort of buzz around his program and turn things back in the right direction quickly at the start of next season. If not, the program could be heading towards the spot they were in with Larry Fedora where apathy sets in with the fans and players.


bottom of page