It’s happening again. For a second straight season the Tar Heels appear to be spiraling out of control after an amazing start to the season. For a third straight season, the Tar Heels lost as double-digits favorite to the Georgia Tec Yellow Jackets, falling 46-42 on the road in a place that has been a house of horrors for the program. Here are our biggest takeaways from a loss that could signify the beginning of the end.
This Loss May Have Been More Disastrous Than Last Week
Don’t get it wrong: last week’s loss is still the worst loss in program history. This loss, however, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Not only was this the seventh loss as a double-digit favorite under Mack Brown, but it came in a game where the team had two score leads in both the first and second half. That is unacceptable. This was supposed to be this team’s chance to turn things back around and get the season and program back on track. Instead, it likely signals another lost season and the start of the end of the Mack Brown 2.0 era.
Phantom Holding Call on Diego Pounds Completely Turned the Game
Placing the blame solely on the refs for this loss would be irresponsible, but it has to be pointed out how big this call was. At no point on the play did Pounds grab the defensive end, instead just giving him a shove to the shoulder that knocked him to the ground. The penalty wiped away another big pass play to Bryson Nesbit that would have set the Tar Heels back up inside the Georgia Tech 40 and put them on the way to potentially being up three possessions after the first three drives. While it would not have meant the game was over, especially since the team blew a three possession lead last year at home, but you have to wonder how much different this game would have been.
Defense Has Collapsed
The biggest culprit behind the Tar Heels two losses in the past eight days has been the defense falling apart. After a promising start to the year, the unit put together one of the worst performances in program history leading to this loss. The Tar Heels allowed 635 yards of total offense to the Yellow Jackets, the second-most in the history of that program. Even more sickening is the fact that the majority of it came in the second and fourth quarters. The Tar Heels allowed all 46 points and 537 of the 635 yards in those two quarters alone, including a fourth quarter where they allowed 246 rushing yards. After this performance on Saturday night, it’s hard to feel like this unit isn’t back to being a liability that will force this offense to score on nearly every possession moving forward.
The Program is Wasting Another Great Quarterback
With this team falling apart for a second consecutive season, it’s hard to feel like the program isn’t wasting another legendary quarterback. Drake Maye is the best quarterback to put on a Tar Heel uniform, but much like his predecessor Sam Howell, it appears that he won’t be able to leave the type of legacy that he should have been able to with his talent. With a return trip to Charlotte and a NY6 bowl game all but gone, it appears the Tar Heels are letting another all-time great go to waste.
Most Important Thing is the Health of Tez Walker
For a second straight week, the Tar Heels turned the ball over on their final offensive possession of the game, but this one was understandable. Walker made a huge catch over the middle on 3rd and 17 but was hit hard by Georgia Tech corner Ahmari Harvey in the mid-section, forcing him to fumble the ball and allowing the Yellow Jackets to jump on it. Walker laid flat on the field for about five minutes following the hit before getting to his feet and being helped off by the training staff. Following the game, the program announced that he had been transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. The good news is that he is out of the hospital and is on his way back to Chapel Hill via a commercial flight this morning. After everything that Walker went through to get on the field this season, hopefully this is not the way his Tar Heel career comes to an end.