Three Things: Louisville 39, Carolina 34
1. That was very nearly the most stunning—not one of the most stunning, but the most stunning—comeback in Tar Heel football history (the school record for largest deficit overcome was 20-3 on two separate occasions). Carolina trailed 36-7 at halftime in a 30-minute performance that Larry Fedora described as “about as bad as we can play.”
Then, somehow, Fedora managed to muster his team for a final 30 minutes that saw the Heels outscore Louisville 27-3 and come within four yards of the miracle finish. That final sequence was remarkably similar to the 2010 near-miss against LSU in the Georgia Dome, when an end zone pass for Zack Pianalto brushed off his fingertips.
Carolina fans, unfortunately, are accustomed to near-misses. The question now becomes how Fedora can get the program to the point that it finishes this type of incredible comeback. Think about how you feel when Carolina basketball begins to mount a rally—it’s destined to happen. How do you feel when it’s the football team clawing back? There’s quite a bit of history there that makes it tougher to feel that same confidence. The reversal of that sense of foreboding is one of Fedora’s toughest tasks.
2. A player you might not know much about who deserves some of the credit for igniting the energy that propelled the late comeback is linebacker Tommy Heffernan. A walk-on from Miami, Heffernan started in place of Travis Hughes at inside linebacker. It paid off, as Heffernan picked up a sack early, stuffed Senorise Perry on a second-half fourth-and-1, and finished with 12 tackles.
Heffernan’s offensive counterpart was Romar Morris. Giovani Bernard did not make the trip to Louisville, but Morris picked up the role of touchdown-waiting-to-happen and piled up 149 receiving yards on five catches, two touchdowns, and 23 rushing yards on four carries. Oh, and he also blocked a punt late in the second half that Carolina immediately turned into a touchdown. “Romar has a lot of talent,” Larry Fedora told Jones Angell after the game. “He is going to help this football team and he proved it today. He did a lot of things to give us a chance to win.”
Incidentally, the Angell call of Morris’s 50-yard touchdown catch-and-sprint up the middle was an instant classic. “Renner to Morris, Morris at the 40…35…30, Morris is going to go! Go, Romar, go!”
3. This may seem like a minor problem, but it hurt the Tar Heels at some critical times on Saturday: Carolina struggled with the shotgun snap from center Russell Bodine. Multiple snaps were mishandled, including one that went over Bryn Renner’s head for a loss of 24 yards in the snowballing first half. Then, with the Tar Heels suddenly catching fire in the fourth quarter and trailing 39-28, Renner wanted the snap from Bodine but never got it, and the Tar Heels had to burn a precious timeout—that would’ve been very nice to have as Louisville ran out the clock deep in its own territory. In an offense that depends on operating out of the shotgun, that’s a fundamental play that has to work flawlessly.
All in all, it was one of the strangest games in Carolina football history. What's your takeaway--an encouraging finish or the discouraging start?