Tar Heel fans, forget about the College Football Playoff. UNC’s 31-27 meltdown against a one-win Virginia team derailed that hype train on Saturday.
The embarrassing home loss, which saw the Cavaliers overcome a second-half, double-digit deficit against the 23.5-point favored Tar Heels all but confirmed that North Carolina was never meant to contend for a national title this year.
But depending on how quickly UNC can regroup, the season isn’t a lost cause (yet).
“What we're destined for and what we were striving for this offseason was the ACC Championship,” sophomore quarterback Drake Maye said. “That’s still in reach. We’re trying to put this one behind us, learn from it and get back after it because that’s [our end goal].”
Looking ahead, there’s hope for the Tar Heels, who can still end conference play with just one loss and potentially earn a trip to the ACC title game. But with regards to Saturday's loss, how much can be learned, realistically?
Virginia is bad. Like, really bad. Plenty of metrics would corroborate, the simplest of which is points scored and allowed. The Cavaliers entered Saturday ranked dead-last in the ACC in scoring offense and defense.
So with just over nine minutes left to play in the third quarter and a 24-14 lead, all North Carolina needed to seal the game was to get a stop and put the ball back in Maye’s hands. But instead, the Cavaliers went on a 74-yard drive, capped off by UVA running back Mike Hollins’ third touchdown of the night.
“If some of you aren’t ready to play, then you start getting relaxed again,” head coach Mack Brown said. “That’s a time when the defense had to step up and stop them immediately, get a three-and-out and extend the score, and we didn’t.”
After that, everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong and North Carolina never reached the end zone in the game’s final 24 minutes.