NC State could only last 30 minutes with UNC-Chapel Hill, as a faltering offense and depleted defense were run out of the building in Carolina’s 41-10 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday night.
The Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC) put together 620 total yards of offense while only allowing 289 to NC State (4-8, 1-7 ACC). The victory also marked Carolina’s first win over the Wolfpack in the last three years.
A real question facing this team is, ‘Where does it go from here?’ In regard to staff or quarterback changes, head coach Dave Doeren didn’t have any answers.
“I’m not going to talk about any of that right now,” Doeren said. “It’s been a long year for all of us. First thing I need to do is get out of here and watch the film, watch a lot of film. Look at our players, look at how we coached, look at the offseason and look at our summer program. We need to look at it all. The last thing I’m going to do is make any type of emotional decision … There’s a million things I have to look at. I don’t have the answers for you tonight.”
The defense gave its all in the first half, holding UNC to only six points on 24 rushing yards. However, it was struggling in the air to slot receivers and long balls.
Despite surrendering 216 passing yards, the defense still made the important stops when it was called upon, holding UNC to only a 33% success rate on third-down conversions and giving the team a real chance heading into halftime.
While the defense put in a solid effort, the offense lacked any sort of direction. Freshmen running backs Zonovan Knight and Jordan Houston represented bright spots for the offense, each attaining over 40 yards in the first half.
Redshirt freshman Devin Leary continued to have a lackluster performance, throwing for a measly 98 yards on 7-for-20 passing along with two interceptions on throws into double coverage.
The only positive for Leary came on a break for the Pack, as after a drive resulting from a forced interception, graduate wide receiver Tabari Hines found himself alone in the endzone for a 39-yard completion as the Carolina secondary completely blew its coverage.
“I’ll definitely remember that moment,” Hines said. “I try to finish everything I start, and that was just a good way to finish it. Obviously, I would have liked the win, but it was a good way individually for me to go out and show the world what I can still do.”
If anybody had hoped for a big victory over UNC to crush any of its dreams of bowl eligibility after leaving the first half up 10-6, the third quarter sapped all of that ignorant bliss.
The Wolfpack got the ball to start the quarter, lost it on a three-and-out and proceeded to fail to muster up a drive over three plays for the remainder of the quarter, putting together only 43 yards of total offense.
Meanwhile, Carolina balled out for 219 yards of total offense in the third, nearly doubling its total for the entire first half, and was good for four touchdowns.
“Without a doubt, we fell apart there in the third quarter,” Doeren said. “There were three straight drives with turnovers offensively, and we did not stop them defensively. The first half had a lot of good things happen, and in the second half, no good things happened. We didn’t make anything good happen. We’ve got a lot to fix.”
A big part of UNC’s offense in the quarter came at the expense of NC State’s poor offense, which surrendered two interceptions and a fumble, all of which resulted in touchdowns for the Tar Heels on their ensuing drives.
The defense had done a good job in the first half, but with seven players of the defensive corp out due to injuries, the remaining players just couldn’t keep up the pace. After an initial three-and-out on UNC’s first drive of the second half, the Heels proceeded to score on the next five consecutive drives.
“We can blame it all on injuries, but at the end of the day, all of us are D1 players,” said graduate tackle Larrell Murchison. “Me as a leader, I need to step up, and I need to lead the younger ones that don’t know how it works out here. It’s all about staying focused and just doing what we were supposed to do.”
After his second interception, Leary was pulled due to injury, and redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman came into the game. Hockman started to put together a drive, racing out of the pocket and throwing wild passes into double or triple coverage, but his vibes were finally checked as another wild throw was picked off by Myles Dorn, brother of former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn, and UNC then ran out the clock to end the game.
NC State finishes the season as the worst team in the ACC, with a 1-7 ACC record and a 4-8 overall record. The team looks to rebuild and work toward next season in hopes of putting this truly abysmal season behind them.