Brownlow: Go Figure
The Carolina defense did an excellent job of forcing Wake Forest into third-and-long scenarios: the problem was, they converted too many of them. Wake Forest faced 10 third downs of seven or more yards and converted four of them, all in the first half. And one wasn’t counted as a conversion because it was a Carolina personal foul that gave them a first down, but it counted nonetheless.
On 3rd and 9, Wake got a first down when Wake managed just eight yards, but Kevin Reddick was whistled for a personal foul. Later in that drive when the Deacons faced 3rd and 16 on the Carolina 36-yard line, quarterback Tanner Price found Michael Campanaro for a 21-yard strike and a first down at the North Carolina 15-yard line. Wake would score a few plays later to tie the game at 7.
To give the Carolina defense credit, it forced Wake Forest into an average third down and 7.7 to go and allowed just one conversion (on a 3rd and 1) in the second half. But perhaps the most telling stat of the second half is that on the Deacons’ go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth, they didn’t face a single third down.
On the other side, the Tar Heels converted 7-of-18 third downs. But their misses were costly. In the first half, they converted just 3-of-8 but 2-of-2 fourth-down tries. They were 4-of-10 on third down in the second half, but after the Tar Heels scored their final touchdown to tie it at 21 in the third quarter, they converted just one their final six tries.
And Bryn Renner on third down was just 1-of-5 for 24 yards and one conversion in that span. Prior to that, Renner had completed 5-of-7 passes for 67 yards and four first downs on third down.
Carolina’s failure to convert third downs was a big factor in having to settle for field goals late in the game when touchdowns were needed, and head coach Larry Fedora said that getting three points instead of a six was one of the biggest factors in Carolina’s loss.
“That’s the difference in the game, really. It’s about as disappointing as it gets. You score a touchdown and we’re all sitting here and I’ve got a smile on my face,” Fedora said. “Just because you get the ball down there doesn’t mean it’s going to go in. You’ve got to make it go in. You’ve got to have - when you get in the score zone, there’s got to be something that comes on in your mind. You can’t be turned down. You’ve got to get the ball in the end zone.”