When it comes to the most disappointing losses in program history, the Tar Heels 45-22 loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday night might be right near the top. After a crushing loss to begin the season against Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels had to rebound to put themselves in position to still win the ACC Coastal and potentially even more with Clemson falling earlier in the day to NC State, opening the door in the ACC. Now, all of those goals and expectations may be gone thanks to one of the most unacceptable and disheartening losses in recent memory.
Goals Need to Be Readjusted
The loss to open the season to Virginia Tech was one that didn’t completely damage the preseason goals of making it to Charlotte and possibly a NY6 bowl game and winning double-digit games. After Saturday night’s loss, though, those goals seem to be all but gone for the Tar Heels leaving fans disappointed and the team to readjust those goals for this season. The goals for the team now should be to take care of the in-state opponents, starting next week when they face Duke, and find a way to get back to last year’s eight win total. If they could at least do that, there could be some expectations for this team again next season.
Offensive Line Has a Lot of Questions to Answer
Following the best performance of the season a week ago, this unit took another significant step back on Saturday night that has many people questioning the job security of Stacy Searls. While quarterback Sam Howell definitely had instances where he held onto the football too long, this unit was a big reason why the Tar Heel offense allowed 13 tackles for loss and eight sacks to the Georgia Tech defense. Brian Anderson had another brutal night on the inside, struggling to provide any push or communication up front and both Asim Richards and Jordan Tucker had their issues at tackle on the night, as well. The best the Tar Heel offense looked was when the trio of Quiron Johnson, Ed Montilus and William Barnes, the three players who started in place of the injured guys a week ago, entered the game. There could be a case, and a strong one at that, that they should have started again tonight and is one of the reasons that Mack Brown needs to take a serious look at Searls job right now. Regardless of that situation, this group needs to find their footing and fast if this Tar Heel team wants to get back to consistently moving the football.
Jay Bateman’s Job Security May Be Getting Less Secure
After the first two games of the season, there was some palpable optimism around the Tar Heels defense, especially with some of the young talent that had been brought in. However, the last two weeks have raised some major concerns about the team’s defensive scheme and the postgame comment from Jeremiah Gemmel might be the most concerning part of it all. In the postgame presser when asked about the success of Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims on the ground, Gemmel said “"We thought Yates was going to be the guy but we didn't prepare really for Sims or dual QBs." This is an extremely concerning comment from Gemmel considering the fact that Sims was available to play and Georgia Tech had stated last week that the goal was to play both quarterbacks at some point. The other scary part of that statement is that Jordan Yates, who started the game, also has a mobility aspect to his game. If this is the truth, which it appears to be, then there may be a little bit of heat on the seat of Jay Bateman going forward this season.
Road Woes for This Program Are Concerning
The stats around this Tar Heel team on the road, especially in primetime, under Mack Brown during his second tenure certainly are alarming. Since 2020, ranked Tar Heel teams on the road or in neutral sites are just 2-5 and many of the games have looked similar, at least out of the gate, in terms of offensive struggles and blunders. In primetime, the numbers are even worse, as the Tar Heels are just 1-6 in primetime road games since Brown’s return to Chapel Hill. If the Tar Heels want to take that next step towards becoming a contender and a consistent threat to win the ACC if Clemson’s dynasty comes to an end at some point, they need to find a way to start winning these games.
Sam Howell Stock Takes Another Hit
After two really strong performances for the Tar Heels star quarterback, he had another tough performance, finishing with three costly turnovers in the loss. His offensive line didn’t do him many favors, but you could tell that there were moments where he was forcing things, an issue that we have seen plague him at times. He coughed up the football three times on Saturday night, all of which resulted in points for the Yellow Jackets. Trying to do too much is really the one flaw that he has to his game right now, but it’s a big one and last night was another blow to his already falling draft stock. The question now becomes can he stabilize it over the next few months or is there a chance that he could be back for a senior season in Chapel Hill?
The Direction of the Program is Questionable Right Now
This is a program that came in with some monumental expectations this season and while they may have been a bit premature in just the third year of a rebuild, this loss is one that calls a lot of things into question. The Tar Heels are a team that many see as one on the rise and arguably the biggest threat long term to Clemson in the ACC, but a loss to the caliber of a team like the one that the team fell to on Saturday night, especially in the fashion that they did, is one that a team on the rise simply can’t have many of to keep that mantra. This isn’t the end all be all for this program on the rise, but these types of losses have to start turning into wins sooner rather than later.
The ”Stormtrooper“ Uniforms Should Never Be Worn Again
As the great Michael Gary Scott once said, I’m not superstitious but I am a little ‘stitious. The Tar Heels wore the all whites for the fourth time under Mack Brown on Saturday night and for the fourth time the Tar Heels lost while wearing this combination. Since 2015 when the school revealed their new jersey design, the team is now 3-7 when wearing the all-whites and has lost the last six games that they have worn this combo. That is clearly the least of the worries for this team right now, but this is a uniform combo that simply needs to take a break, at least for the remainder of the Mack Brown era.