Sloppy loss leaves UNC needing help to attain its Coastal title goal

To a man, UNCs players are resolute in proclaiming their goal is still attainable. But after losing on their home field to a division rival, theyre not going to need some help to get it done

Bob Donnan—X02835
Virginia Tech has won four straight against UNC since the Tar Heels spoiled former Hokies coach Frank Beamer's Blacksburg farewell in 2015 (AP file photo)

CHAPEL HILL — If there’s one definitive takeaway from Saturday’s 34-3 drubbing at the hands of Virginia Tech, it’s that the North Carolina football team doesn’t handle hurricanes very well. That could be a problem, considering that the Tar Heels’ next game is against an opponent known as the Hurricanes. Okay, so the threat presented by the Miami team UNC will be facing in Coral Gables on Saturday will be significantly different than the that of the storm named Matthew that bombarded the Carolinas with torrential rain and damaging wind last weekend. But even under the best of conditions, coach Larry Fedora’s team will have its work cut out for it in bouncing back from a truly dismal performance against the Hokies. “After looking at the film it wasn’t any better,” Fedora said at his regular weekly press conference Monday. “You know the old saying that it’s never as good as you think it is or it’s never as bad? Well, it was.” Though there were a few positives, most notably a defense that yielded only 264 yards, UNC was as bad as the weather in losing at home for the first time since November 2014. The Tar Heels were held without a touchdown for the first time in five years under Fedora and only the second time in his 58 games in which they scored fewer than 10 points. Their 131 total yards were their fewest in a game since 1999 and quarterback Mitch Trubisky was intercepted twice, ending a school-record streak of 243 passes without a pick. UNC also lost two fumbles. The four turnovers, combined with a botched punt snap at the 4-yard line, led directly to 27 of Virginia Tech’s 34 points. “You could just pick and choose anything and something was going wrong,” Fedora said. “We never did get going. It wasn’t just one guy, it was multiple guys throughout the game.” Because the dismal performance was so out of character for a team that came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 17 in the nation, Fedora said his players should “just put it away and hopefully it will never happen again. The Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 ACC) will need a short memory if they want to have any chance at repeating as ACC Coastal Division champions. To a man Saturday, UNC’s players were resolute in proclaiming their goal is still attainable. But after losing on their home field to a division rival, they’re not going to need some help to get it done. Because Virginia Tech holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Tar Heels, the Hokies (4-1, 2-0) would have to lose twice to give UNC a shot at the division title. That might be asking a lot, since Tech has an advantageous schedule that avoids any of the Atlantic Division’s three heavyweights — Clemson, Louisville or Florida State. “We just have to control what we can control,” Trubisky said. “We can’t control who beats who.” Regardless of what anybody else does, the Tar Heels understand that they no longer have any margin for error from here on out. “Absolutely none,” defensive tackle Nazair Jones said. “We know we have to win out to accomplish our goals.” In order to do that, the Tar Heels will have to go the road and beat a Miami team ranked 17th this week. It will be their third straight game against a ranked opponent. As motivated as UNC might be to make amends for its loss on Saturday, its opponent may be even more as fired up after dropping a one-point decision to rival Florida State on a blocked extra point with 1:38 remaining. The loser will be all but eliminated from Coastal Division title contention. “You saw how we lost. You saw how they lost,” Trubisky said. “We’re both going to come in hungry for a win.”