It didn’t end the way the Tar Heels wanted it to, but what an experience for Carolina Football at the Orange Bowl last night. While the 41-27 loss to the Aggies hurts, you leave last night’s game with positive vibes heading into next season. Missing 3 key offensive players, and the leader of the defense, Carolina played about as well as you could expect, and led 27-20 in the fourth quarter. But Texas A&M proved to be as good as they said they were, outscoring the Tar Heels 21-0 to finish the game, and win 41-27. Sam Howell responded after throwing an early first quarter interception, to go 18-31 for 234 yards, and three touchdowns. It was the first time the nation got to see Howell in the spotlight, and he looked every bit the part of a Heisman hopeful for next season. Ultimately, Carolina didn’t have enough to establish the run game consistently, and stop the Aggies rushing attack, which means they lost the battle up front:
It’s not that Carolina didn’t do a good job of run blocking yesterday, inexperience in the back field was a big part as to why they only gained 90 rush yards on 34 carries. The absence of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams was evident on the 4th & 1 where Carolina was stopped short of the line to gain, and effectively lost them the game. British Brooks, a former walk-on, led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 15 carries. Sam Howell was second with 25 yards on 12 attempts. With those numbers, you can see why Carolina wasn’t victorious. The Aggies defensive line was as good as advertised, as they had Sam Howell fleeing the pocket, and having to make plays on the run (which he did). As has been the case all season long when Carolina lost, they couldn’t keep Howell upright, as he was sacked 4 more times last night. It’s clear where Carolina will need to take the next step as a program for next season, luckily Mack Brown addressed the glaring need in his latest recruiting cycle.
Carolina’s defense played as well as you could expect, given missing Chazz Surratt, and being on the field for more than half the game. Texas A&M simply wore them down upfront, which had a physical offensive line, and a dynamic rushing attack, which consisted of 3 players. The back breaking touchdown which gave A&M the lead for good, hurts as Carolina was in position to make a play, and simply failed to do so. Eugene Asante filled in nicely for the NFL bound Surratt, leading the team with 10 tackles. Tomon Fox had a solid game registering 5 total tackles, including a sack. Entering the Orange Bowl, A&M had only allowed 4 sacks of Kellen Mond all season long, Carolina got to him 3 times alone last night. While it’s unknown whether or not Jay Bateman will be leading the defense next fall in Chapel Hill, it is known that Carolina is getting closer to being a team that can play with the big boys of college football on the defensive side of the ball.