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Friday January 22nd

After a six-overtime loss to Virginia Tech, where does UNC football go from here?

<p>UNC quarterback Sam Howell (7) cradles the ball on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 in Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC beat Miami 28-25.</p>
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UNC quarterback Sam Howell (7) cradles the ball on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 in Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC beat Miami 28-25.

It's hard to imagine a sextuple overtime game that wouldn't be considered a bad loss for the losing team. Nonetheless, when the dust settled and the North Carolina football team fell to Virginia Tech on Saturday, 43-41, the Tar Heels had plenty to think about — plenty of missed opportunities, plenty of what-ifs, plenty of if-onlys.

Here's what UNC will likely look to address in the week to come before a crucial Coastal division matchup with Duke this Saturday.

Clock management

You probably forgot, but here's how North Carolina ended regulation in Blacksburg:

With the game tied at 31, Mack Brown's defense got a third-down stop with a minute and a half remaining. Instead of using one of his three timeouts to stop the clock, Brown let VT burn time, and the Tar Heels got the ball back on their 20-yard line with just 38 seconds left.

It was then, and only then, that the head coach used his timeouts, stopping the clock so that Sam Howell, pinned deep in his own territory, could... run multiple QB draw plays?

It didn't make sense in the moment, and it doesn't make sense now. It ultimately led to the Hokies getting the ball back with two seconds left near midfield, where they could have attempted a Hail Mary to win the game in regulation. 

They elected to take a knee instead. 

Two-point conversions

The Tar Heels had ample opportunities in the overtime periods — plus 60 minutes of regulation football — to separate themselves from the Hokies, but their chances in the fifth and six overtimes stick out. That was when the teams began trading two-point conversion attempts, a new rule this season seemingly in response to the seven-overtime game between LSU and Texas A&M last season.

UNC's first attempt, which would have won the game if converted, saw Howell fake an end-around to receiver Rontavius "Toe" Groves, then pitch it out to running back Michael Carter. The Hokies didn't bite, however, and Carter was tackled in space.

The Tar Heels then had to turn around and go for two again in the sixth overtime. This time, Howell took the snap in shotgun and wasn't able to find an open man to the left, then took off to the right before being wrapped up. Virginia Tech won on the ensuing play with a 3-yard run up the middle.

Hindsight is 20/20, but North Carolina could have been better served by trying to run it up the gut on at least one of those two attempts. Carter averaged seven yards per carry on 13 attempts on Saturday, while the team as a whole averaged 3.6 yards on the ground.

Capitalizing on opportunities

UNC won the turnover battle against the Hokies — VT lost two fumbles, while the Tar Heels didn't cough it up once — but only manufactured three points to show for it.

In the first quarter, Virginia Tech set up North Carolina at the 34-yard line, but the team only advanced 25 yards and settled for a field goal. After halftime, another VT fumble gave the Tar Heels the ball near midfield. They gained just eight yards and turned it over on downs.

After a six-overtime loss, those are just a few of the things that will keep Brown and the Tar Heels up at night.

@ryantwilcox

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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