Picking Up The Pieces

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina had reclaimed the Victory Bell, regained bowl eligibility and rebounded after a slow start to the season. There were plenty of reasons for excitement heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale against N.C. State. Now, there are just plenty of questions.

“We just came out flat,” UNC senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer said after the Wolfpack whipped the Tar Heels 35-7 at Kenan Stadium.

As poorly as they played against N.C. State, the Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC) are still a bowl team. That means they will have a chance to put Saturday’s performance in the past and put a more appealing finishing touch on a season that began with ACC Coastal Division championship aspirations.

But the excitement about bowl possibilities, as one might expect, was minimal in the aftermath of the crushing defeat at the hands of a bitter rival.

“Guys are going to be excited probably when we hear which bowl game we’re going to, but right now we’re down for the seniors because this is their last home game, and they went out with a loss,” wide receiver Quinshad Davis said. “My heart goes out to them.”

Adding injury to insult, the Tar Heels face uncertainty about some of their key players heading into the postseason. Center Lucas Crowley went down favoring his left leg on UNC’s second offensive possession. Quarterback Marquise Williams was injured on the first series of the second half after being slammed to the ground on a sack by defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. And Ryan Switzer headed to the locker room after taking a vicious (and illegal) hit by Josh Jones while trying to field a punt in the fourth quarter.

Coach Larry Fedora said after the game that he had no information on the injuries, but the good news for the Tar Heels is that they will have nearly a month to lick their literal and figurative wounds before the bowl game.

“Everyone is pretty upset and disappointed about this game,” UNC right guard Landon Turner said. “But moving forward, that’s all we really can do. We’re going to respond how I know we can respond. We’re going to pick ourselves up and go get into this bowl game.”

The flip side of time to heal is time to dwell, and the Tar Heels aren’t simply going to be able to forget what happened against the Wolfpack (7-5, 3-5) as they prepare for their next game. The offense was anemic. The defense was shredded. And the kicking game, once again, was a liability.

No matter how the bowl game turns out, Saturday’s performance will remain memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“It’s probably going to stick with me forever, especially the seniors going out like that,” Farmer said. “It’s going to put a burden on us. We’ve just got to get ready to play our last and final game in the bowl season.”

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