But with an opportunity to right all of their wrongs in the final minutes, North Carolina reverted back to the mistakes that put it behind in the first place, falling 28-21 to the Wolfpack.
Every time the Tar Heels (8-4, 5-3 ACC) got something going against N.C. State (6-6, 3-5 ACC), a mistake set them back. North Carolina’s last possession was, in many ways, a condensed version of the entire game.
Just as they did to start the contest, the Tar Heels were moving backward before the final drive ever got going.
A stuffed play and a penalty had the offense in an unfavorable down-and-distance — something that had plagued the team throughout the game.
“We just got behind the chains,” Switzer said. “We felt like if we were in front of the chains and we got them in their base defense that we would be okay.”
Forced into obvious passing situations, the Tar Heels had to rely on splash plays from their stars to pull them out of tough spots. And throughout the game, UNC’s stars delivered big plays to keep them in it.
Switzer finished with a game-high 171 receiving yards and a touchdown, including a 15-yard grab on the final drive that finally got the Tar Heels moving.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky, despite struggling early, made plays with his legs and through the air late in the game. He also bailed the Tar Heels out on the final possession with a 16-yard scramble on 3rd-and-10 to keep the drive alive.
UNC’s impact players nearly willed their team to victory, helping build momentum and move the ball on the final drive. But an untimely holding penalty on a 10-yard Trubisky scramble set the Tar Heels back yet again.
This time, it was too much to overcome.
The costly 20-yard swing on the holding call doomed the promising final push, as the Tar Heels eventually turned the ball over on downs.
In the final two heaves — on 3rd-and-20 and 4th-and-20 — UNC’s stars couldn’t make another play to keep their team in the game.
“We just continued to shoot ourselves in the foot,” redshirt junior Naz Jones said. “Penalties, doing stupid things, whatever it may be. When you do that, you don’t have a chance to win the game.”
In the end, the Tar Heels did have a chance to win against N.C. State. But they beat themselves instead.