For graduate center Corey Gaynor, the game of football is incredibly fickle. One touchdown or one sack can change an entire game. One loss, and a team's narrative changes for the entire season.
"You wouldn't believe, you feel on top of the world one day, right?" Gaynor warned in a press conference on Tuesday. "And everyone's patting you on the back. You lose one time. You give up one sack, you give up one TFL, and the narrative changes on you."
On Saturday, the narrative completely shifted for then-No. 10 North Carolina after falling, 31-27, to an underwhelming Virginia team with nothing to lose. However, it was not one sack or one touchdown — it wasn't even that last-ditch drive in the final minute — that lost it for the Tar Heels. It was a series of missteps and miscommunication that led to the downfall of a potential dreamlike season for UNC.
The first sign of trouble appeared just four minutes into the game. After failing to score on their opening drive, the Tar Heels allowed Virginia to march down the field and score in just seven plays — the first time an opponent has scored in the opening quarter at Kenan Stadium this season.
After the game, sophomore quarterback Drake Maye was asked when he first sensed things were off with the team.
He pointed to the first quarter.
"Just that first drive of lackadaisical [offense] and then they came down and scored," Maye said. "And, you know from there, it's like we're in a dogfight."
For the remainder of that dogfight, head coach Mack Brown said his team employed the perfect “formula for losing.”
UNC allowed the Cavaliers to dominate possession (roughly 37 to 23 minutes), had poor field position due to inconsistent punting, gave up 228 rushing yards against a previously sputtering Virginia offense and dropped passes.