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Saturday May 28th

UNC struggles defensively, surrenders 543 yards in Mayo Bowl loss to South Carolina

Senior wide receiver Antoine Green (3) catches the ball at the Duke's Mayo Bowl against South Carolina at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 30, 2021. UNC lost 21-38.
Buy Photos Senior wide receiver Antoine Green (3) catches the ball at the Duke's Mayo Bowl against South Carolina at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 30, 2021. UNC lost 21-38.

It’s commonplace in football for the head coach to be doused in water or Gatorade after securing a big win.

How about mayonnaise?

Most people would pass, but not North Carolina head coach Mack Brown. A week before the Duke's Mayo Bowl game against South Carolina, he said a victory would be worth the oily bath.

"We need to win,” Brown said to WRAL's Pat Welter. “I said somewhere I'd let someone hit me with a frying pan 365 days if we won. Mayonnaise is easy."

And based on how the Tar Heels' football team played on Thursday, it almost seemed like they were trying to protect their beloved coach from meeting such a greasy fate.

The Gamecocks routed UNC, 38-21, in a border battle at the Bank of America Stadium. In the first eight minutes, the Tar Heels welcomed the Gamecocks into their end zone three times — two touchdowns for tight end Jaheim Bell and a two-point conversion for tight end Nick Muse.

“We just got beat on the first (touchdown),” Brown said. “The second one was a busted coverage. We didn’t tackle well, so there were a couple of long runs, too. We didn’t play consistently well throughout the day on defense.”

Before today, the Gamecocks ranked second-worst in the SEC with 321.7 yards per game. The Tar Heels surrendered 543 yards on Thursday, which was only their third-worst performance of the season as they gave up 574 to Virginia and 615 to Wake Forest.

“Our game plan was 100 percent to stop the run today,” Brown said. “The most disappointing thing was that (South Carolina) rushed for 301 yards, and we only rushed for 128. And you’re not gonna win football games if that’s the case.”

South Carolina’s Dakereon Joyner was named the bowl’s Most Valuable Player, completing all nine of his pass attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown, along with 64 rushing yards on 10 carries. Joyner, traditionally a receiver, hadn’t passed the football in a game since 2019.

“When (Joyner) first came in, we thought it was gonna be more of a Wildcat type offense,” graduate linebacker Tomon Fox said. “But obviously he was very efficient at running their actual offense.”

North Carolina’s weak defense has been a story that fans have become all too familiar with the past two seasons. They allowed 29.4 points per game in their 2020 season, and 32.1 points per game this season. In its last regular season game, the Tar Heels blew a nine-point lead against N.C. State with just over two minutes to play, allowing two long passing touchdowns.

The first quarter’s similar defensive meltdown, coupled with three UNC punts, gave South Carolina an early 18-0 lead. From there, the Gamecocks never looked back.

“We had another slow start today,” junior quarterback Sam Howell said. “Which can’t happen if you’re trying to win a game.”

In college football, where each loss exponentially diminishes playoff chances, a team can’t have a slow start to their season if they’re trying to win a national championship. After dropping its first game to Virginia Tech and defeating Georgia State and Virginia, the Tar Heels would not win back to back games for the remainder of the season.

After nearly upsetting powerhouse Texas A&M in last year’s Orange Bowl without future NFL players Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, Chazz Surratt and Dyami Brown, fans were wondering, “What if?” The future looked bright for the Tar Heels, and preseason rankings even had them at No. 10 in the country.

But after a disappointing year, with Howell’s likely departure and a defense which has shown virtually no improvement, fans are asking, “Now what?”

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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