Three Things: Wake Forest 28, UNC 27
1. The absence of Giovani Bernard played an important role for the Carolina offense. Larry Fedora told Jones Angell after the game that Bernard “went out and ran around before the game started and didn’t feel right, so we decided not to put him out there.” A.J. Blue and Romar Morris played well in Bernard's absence, but the sophomore tailback is a singular weapon.
But another interesting part of the Tar Heel offense came in the fourth quarter, when Carolina was unable to run off any clock holding a 27-21 lead. That’s something to watch in the fast-paced Fedora system, which simply isn’t designed to burn time in that area of the game coaches like to call "four minute offense." Carolina took over on its own nine-yard-line with 10:44 left in the game and ran five plays in the next 0:59 before punting. Three of those were incomplete passes that stopped the clock. On the next possession, the Tar Heels ran 1:33 off the clock and managed just one first down. Bernard likely would have made a difference in those drives, but Carolina simply had to find a way to eat some clock and prevent Wake Forest from having plenty of time on their 93-yard game-winning drive. Last week's 62-0 win showed the thrill of a fast-paced offense when it works. This week reminded us all that every system at every level of football has at least one area where it's susceptible.
2. The Larry Fedora mantra of “Fast, Smart, Physical” was tested on Saturday. The Tar Heels played plenty fast and physical, but the “smart” portion of the motto will be emphasized this week after a hailstorm of penalties short-circuited too many drives—or prolonged Wake drives. In what was occasionally a chippy game, the Tar Heels crossed the line too frequently, picking up some bad penalties at some crucial times. With the Deacons pinned inside their own 10 in the fourth quarter, an important 15-yard facemask let them out of the hole. Then, after Wake’s go-ahead touchdown, another personal foul backed up Carolina’s starting position from its own 25 to its own 13. In all, the Tar Heels piled up nine penalties for 88 yards. The most telling stat of the game—for several reasons—may have been that before Carolina’s last desperation drive, the Tar Heels had 27 yards of penalties and just 18 yards of offense in the last 10 minutes of clock time.
3. One of the most unbelievable statistics in this century of Carolina football is that the Tar Heels are now 1-11 in their last dozen ACC openers (those 11 losses have come against six different league foes). If you’re looking for a reason why UNC football can’t seem to get any traction, it’s all summed up in that one stat. It doesn’t just seem like the Tar Heels are constantly playing catch-up…they are constantly playing catch-up. The best way to drop off the national and conference radar early is to lose the first game against a league that doesn’t get much national respect. In 11 of the last 12 years, that’s exactly what Carolina has done.
What did you think were the biggest plays or storylines of the game? Let us know in the comments.