Charlottesville, VA—For the first time in three weeks, UNC didn’t have to hold its breath late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, that was because Virginia wouldn’t let them come up for air.
The Cavaliers held the ball for more than 39 minutes and pulled away in the second half to beat Carolina 31-21 at Scott Stadium.
“We just didn’t make enough plays in the second half,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora, who saw his Tar Heels fall to 1-6 on the season, 1-4 in ACC play.
The UNC offense, which gained 522 and 500 yards the previous two weeks, both last-minute three-point losses, sputtered against the Cavs’ defense. Six of Carolina’s 12 drives in the games were three-and-outs, ending in a punt. UNC quarterback Nathan Elliott lost a fumble to end another.
“All the way through the game, we weren’t consistent running the ball,” said Fedora.
The Tar Heels managed just 66 yards on the ground, their lowest output since managing just 54 in a 59-7 loss to Virginia Tech on Oct. 21, 2017.
“I don’t know what our first-down efficiency was,” Fedora said, “but I don’t think it was very good. The drives that we had that were successful, where we picked up first downs … we looked like an offense. Other than that, the majority of the time, we were in third-and-long situations, because we weren’t efficient on first down.”
Other than a 29-yard pass to Dazz Newsome to start a third-quarter possession, the Tar Heels managed just 17 yards on 11 plays to start drives, a 1.5 yards-per-play average. Carolina also drew three of its four penalties for the game on drive-opening plays.
“If you don’t get a positive play, then you’re sitting in second and long,” Elliott said.
The other side of the ball wasn’t any more encouraging. The UNC defense had no answers for mobile Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, who ran for 112 yards and passed for 217. He was responsible for all four Cavs touchdowns, throwing for three and running one in himself.
“He’s a good football player,” Fedora said. “He can really run, and it makes you do some things that open up the passing game.”
For UNC, Elliott threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half, as Carolina went to the break down just 17-14.
In the second half, however, the Cavs seized control of the game, and with it the ACC Coastal Division. UVa leads the Coastal with a 4-1 record and controls its own destiny.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, continue to search for answers.
“Virginia was the better team today,” safety Myles Dorn said. “They don’t have better talent, but they performed better today. They played with more swagger than we did. They played with more of an itch. They were more ready.”