By the time Jordon Brown touched the ball, he was already surrounded.
A few seconds earlier, Saturday’s game between North Carolina and No. 16 Notre Dame was different. UNC had survived seven fruitless possessions and five consecutive three-and-outs to pull within seven points of the Fighting Irish.
Now, trailing 14-7 at its own one-yard line with 38 seconds left in the half, it was time for UNC (1-5) to execute a simple strategy.
“What I wanted to do was get out of the half without any problems,” head coach Larry Fedora said.
One play removed from a failed deep lob to Anthony Ratliff-Williams, the offense lined up in the shotgun. It was a simple zone read play that the team has run countless times this season. Surratt took the snap and stuck the ball into the stomach of his sophomore running back.
596 combined pounds of unblocked Notre Dame defenders met him at the mesh point.
Brown put his head down and tried to power forward, but it was a lost cause. Defensive linemen Jay Hayes and Jerry Tillery threw Brown to the ground, right on top of the UNC end zone paint that spelled out ‘CAROLINA’ in tall, capital letters. Safety.
Notre Dame increased its lead to 16-7, and the ESPN crew calling the game was stupefied.
“Play-calling going from bad to worse from first down to second down,” commentator Bob Wischusen said, his previously calm voice now loud and commanding. “Jerry Tillery and Jay Hayes score two for the Irish after back-to-back plays that, quite frankly, are mind-numbing in terms of what you’re doing strategically.”