It was supposed to be different. This team has passed every test so far. They got over the 3-0 hump. They beat Pittsburgh on the road for the first time in Mack Brown’s second stint. They won a game against a ranked opponent while being 3-0 or better for the first time since 1939. It isn’t, though. This is Tar Heel football, folks.
This Is the Worst Loss in Program History
There have been some bad losses in the history of the Tar Heel football program, but nothing will top this one folks. The team entered this game as a 23.5-point favorite and feeling as good as they have since the 1997 season. Instead of doing what they should have done as a top 10 team to a 1-5 football team that had yet to beat an FBS opponent, they fell back into old habits on both sides of the ball and suffered the most inexcusable loss in program history.
Mack Brown’s Second Stint Grows Even More Complex to Figure Out
The second stint of Mack Brown in Chapel Hill is one of the most confusing in college football. The team has had multiple stints of being ranked in the top 10 (albeit short ones) and have made a NY6 bowl for the first time since his first stint here. At the same time, though, the team has suffered the program’s two worst losses and has now lost six games where they have been double-digit favorties. Brown has done a lot of good for this program since his return in 2019, but it’s hard to overlook these moments, especially when it’s happening every year.
Offensive Staff Has to Take Responsibility for Gameplan
Mack Brown said in his postgame presser that he and the staff did not have this team ready and while he is right, it’s not all on them. Offensively, the coaching staff needs to shoulder the majority of the blame. The gameplan seemed simple against a Virginia team that couldn’t stop the run all season: run the ball until they prove they can stop it. Apparently Chip Lindsey didn’t get that memo. Omarion Hampton averaged 5.9 yards per carry, but only carried the ball 19 times, including just five times in the second half. The team called just 15 runs on 36 first down plays despite their success on the ground despite averaging 5.9 yards on those carries. Did the pass catchers struggle mightily in this one? Sure. However, the fact that this coaching staff refused to run the ball more consistently is inexcusable.
Defensive Coaches and Players Need to Share the Blame
On this side of the ball, player execution was the main problem, but the coaching doesn’t go without blame. After a really strong performance the last two weeks against the run, the team was gashed for 228 yards by a Virginia running game that was averaging just 99.5 rushing yards per game coming in. As bad as the run defense was, the inability to stop the Cavaliers on crucial downs was the real difference in this one. Virginia was 8-18 on third down and 2-3 on fourth down after coming in ranked outside of the top 100 in third down percentage and ranked in the mid-60s on 4th down. You can’t place all the blame on the players, though, especially when you had not one, but two illegal substitution penalties.
The Program is Once Again at an Important Crossroads
It may seem crazy to think this after a 6-0 start, but this type of loss can completely turn a season. Need some evidence? Just look at last year. The Tar Heels didn’t win a game after the loss to 22-point underdog Georgia Tech and left many questions about the direction of the program. The staff and players need to use last year as a learning tool and rally start next week, ironically, against Georgia Tech.