For the first time in Mack Brown’s second stint at North Carolina, the hype generated throughout the year appeared to be earned.
The Tar Heels entered this season unranked. After falling to Notre Dame in late September, the Tar Heels ripped off six consecutive wins en route to clinching the ACC Coastal Division.
Redshirt first-year Drake Maye sat close to — or atop — the rankings in nearly every statistical category among D-I quarterbacks, turning the possibility of winning the Heisman Trophy from a dream to a reality.
But after North Carolina dropped its second straight game to a backup quarterback — this time at the hands of rival N.C. State in the Tar Heels’ 30-27 double overtime loss — a glaring issue has resurfaced in Chapel Hill.
This year’s team, and maybe even the program, isn’t ready to handle the spotlight.
Throughout the course of the Tar Heels’ regular-season finale, North Carolina found itself in the same action-packed battle the team has become accustomed to.
Maye displayed his late-game heroics once again, as the young signal caller found senior wide receiver Antoine Green in the back of the end zone on the final play of regulation. But after forcing overtime — and then another overtime — sophomore kicker Noah Burnette’s 35-yard attempt hooked left, letting N.C. State sneak away from Kenan Stadium with a three-point win.
“We’ve come down to a play or two in every game,” Brown said. “We made (the play) in all the others — except Notre Dame, they whooped us good. Every other game has come down to the last play. We made the plays before and haven't made the plays the last two weeks.”
However, Friday night’s loss was not solely decided by the game's final play.