Another week. Another strong fourth quarter. This time, though, it just wouldn’t be enough as the Tar Heels would fall 24-18 to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to fall to 2-1 on the young season. Let’s take a look at what we learned during Friday night’s first loss of the season in Winston-Salem.
Sam Howell Loves the 4th Quarter
As Jake Lawrence of Keeping It Heel said on Twitter after the game, someone should tell Howell every quarter is the fourth quarter. Why? Howell had another great fourth quarter on Friday night, completing six of his ten 4th quarter passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Howell continues to be remarkable in the fourth quarter this season (16-23, 286 yds, 5-0 INT in fourth quarters), but his slow start came back to hurt the Tar Heels in the end. Howell is still a true freshman, so consistency will come with time, but this young man continues to show that he is a special talent that the Tar Heels will have under center for at least three years.
This Offensive Line Misses Nick Polino
As Inside Carolina pointed out at halftime on Friday night, the Tar Heels were averaging just 3.4 yards per play since Polino went down with the lower body injury in the second quarter last week. While Brian Anderson hasn’t been awful, he has struggled to open up holes for the running game, something Polino excelled at, especially early this year. Anderson has a lot of upside and should continue to improve as the season goes along, but right now Polino’s absence is being felt.
Health Will Be a Problem Once Again for the 2019 Tar Heels
The Tar Heels may have started the season the healthiest they have in a while, but the injury issues are beginning to stack up. Prior to Friday’s game, the Tar Heels announced their third season-ending injury of the year, as linebacker Matthew Flint hits the shelf with a leg fracture. Meanwhile, three major starters missed the game with injuries, including star defensive end Jason Strowbridge, who was sorely missed the whole night, especially on passing downs. There were a few injuries early in the game, but every player who exited the game returned at some point, which is a good sign. Still, this team is banged up and right now there is no relief in site until October. The question will be can the Tar Heels weather the storm, especially on the defensive side of the football and get to that bye week on October 12th still relatively healthy?
Sage Surratt Was a Big Miss By the Previous Staff
In the battle of the Surratt brothers, Sage clearly owned the edge on Friday night. Not only did the Demon Deacons pull out the victory, but Sage was a key contributor to their big first half. Sage finished with the game with nine catches for 169 yards and a touchdown, dominating in the first half, setting a first half record for the Demon Deacons with 152 receiving yards. Sage is quietly becoming one of college football’s most purely talented catchers of the football and the fact that Larry Fedora did not go all in for his services is baffling.
This May, Believe It Or Not, Help The Tar Heels In the Long Run
It always sounds strange to say that a loss can make a team better, but it is true. Winning streaks are exciting, but can help teams to develop bad habits. The team has to improve on first and second down early in the game and in turn execute on third downs, an area where they have really struggled so far this season. The team also needs to develop some better tackling habits defensively after what has been a rough two games since the season opener. This loss also likely means that the Clemson game will be out of contention for that 7:30 primetime spot on September 28th. As we’ve seen in the past, Clemson is always well prepared and highly motivated for those primetime matchups and one against an undefeated upstart like the Tar Heels would have been no different. With the game likely to be played earlier in the day now, that may actually favor the Tar Heels to be a little more competitive with the defending national champs.