When Mack Brown took over the head coaching role in Chapel Hill, he laid the foundation for how to get the Tar Heels back into national relevance, and spoke on what it would take to bring a national championship to Chapel Hill. While he’s achieved the goal of making Carolina nationally relevant once again, this loss proves they still have room to grow to become a serious national contender. After scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, the high powered offense only mustered a field goal after that, and was held scoreless in the second half. That allowed Notre Dame to take control of the tempo, and more importantly the line of scrimmage, wearing out the Tar Heels in a 31-17 road victory. While the Tar Heel offense wasn’t its normal self on Friday, and while the defense held its own, it’s clear that Carolina has to get much better in the trenches if they want to win these types of games.
You knew entering the game, it was going to be a challenge keeping the Fighting Irish out of the Tar Heel backfield, and that proved to be true. Carolina had its worst rushing performance of the season, only totaling 87 yards on the ground. After rushing for a quick 26 yards, Michael Carter was limited to 57 yards on 8 attempts. His counterpart, Javonte Williams, had only 28 on 10 carries, as the nation’s best running back tandem had their worst collective game of the season. Meanwhile, quarterback Sam Howell was sacked 6 times, a big reason why the offense was out of rhythm in the second half. The return of center Brian Anderson wasn’t enough to give this group a boost, and control the line of scrimmage. As has been the case in all the losses this season, if the Tar Heels can’t establish dominance at the point of attack, they aren’t capable of winning football games.
You couldn’t really ask more from the Tar Heels defensively, yet they still left some plays on the field once again. Jay Bateman switched it up, and started Desmond Evans hoping to add more athleticism to his defense, and it didn’t generate the desired results. Notre Dame simply wore down the Tar Heels with their strength and physicality, as Carolina lacks the necessary depth to go to battle with a program like the one from South Bend. Tomon Fox found his way into the box score, registering 2 tackles, including a sack of Ian Book. Raymond Vohasek registered 3 tackles, as he’s continued to play as best he can, despite being undersized and a little banged up. Like on the offensive line, Carolina has made strides, and they have progressed in some areas up front, but to beat the likes of Notre Dame, they are going to be much more deeper and tougher at the line of scrimmage.