Darian Durant – Durant was on track for perhaps his best overall game as a Tar Heel before suffering what is likely a season-ending injury to his fractured right thumb. He had completed 14 of 18 passes for 226 yards and three TDs. The Florence, S.C. native also had some success on the ground and appeared as in control of the team from a leadership standpoint than at any time since arriving to Chapel Hill.
Sam Aiken – Unfortunately Aiken's fumble in the third quarter played a major role in the loss, but overall he still had a terrific game. The senior hauled in seven passes for 179 yards and a pair of scores, one good for 78 yards - the longest catch of his career. It would be ideal if Aiken would close out his career with at least seven receptions in each of the next five games. It would also be a huge boost to the team's chances at possibly avoiding a losing season. The more the Heels utilize his skills the better off they are. Maybe a reverse could be in his future ...
Mahlon Carey – With Andre Williams redshirting and Jacque Lewis banged up (which makes one wonder why he was healthy enough for special teams action), UNC took the redshirt off of Carey. The freshman followed his blockers well and appeared to have good vision as he chose his holes fairly well. With 67 yards on 15 carries, it was one of the better performances from a UNC tailback this fall.
Tight ends – Maybe there will be a game this year in which tight ends Zach Hilton and Bobby Blizzard catch at least five passes each. They are extremely difficult to defend yet get few opportunities a game. On Saturday, each caught just two passes but made both worth the effort. Hilton's receptions were for 39 yards with a long of 28 when seemingly every Wahoo tried to bring him down before a collection of dark blue shirts did. Blizzard's receptions totaled 38 yards, of which 24 came on a fake field goal. Blizzard, who has one big play a game, should have a few more thrown his way. His skills are such that he could really become a huge factor, and provide even more big plays for the Heels.
Fake FG – What a sweet call by Bunting and Gary Tranquill. It took guts to go for it instead of taking a certain three points. Two fakes in two weeks, and both worked.
1st half defense – The Cavaliers were held to just 127 yards in the first half, and 35 came on a scramble from UVa QB Matt Schaub. The Heels were quick, rushed the passer hard all half, and even had two sacks and caused a fumble on a crunching sack by Larry Jessup. The Heels defended the long ball well and overall looked a lot more like the 2001 defense than anything seen prior to Saturday. It was easily the unit's best half of the season.
Dexter Reid – What else is new? Reid was in on 13 tackles and was again the best player on the field for the Tar Heels. This will be copied and pasted for each of the final five games, just like the first seven.
Michael Waddell – Waddell was beaten in ugly fashion when Billy McMullen scored UVa's second TD. But consider that with Schaub scrambling, Waddell was forced to defend the future pro for a few extra seconds. Not many DBs would have made that play. Over all, he held McMullen to just three receptions for 35 yards. All told, UVa's three main wide receivers combined for just seven receptions. Looking for a silver lining? There's one.
C.J. Stephens – Stephens hinted after the game at being rusty when he entered after Durant got hurt, but once he broke a nice sweat and was dropped for a couple of sacks he got going. He completed just one of his first six attempts, although there were two big drops in the third and fourth misses. He finished completing eight of his final nine passes and was 9-15 for the game with 103 yards and a score. He also converted a 2-point conversion to Chesley Borders, but it was called back because of pass interference on No. 38 according to the officials, although UNC has no No. 38. Borders wears No. 39.
Durant's injury – Durant suffered what is likely a season-ending injury by fracturing his right thumb in the third quarter. The injury is unfortunate in many respects, most importantly because Durant has been able to move the offense, despite numerous turnovers. It also means UNC could be in serious trouble if Stephens and even Matt Baker aren't able to move the team as well as Durant did. Personally, Durant was closing in on some impressive statistical marks, including all-time TD passes as a Tar Heel, which he is currently three away from tying Chris Keldorf for the record at 35.
2nd half defense – As was the case against N.C. State, Carolina's defense did little in the second half. Yet against the Wahoos, UNC didn't get torn up primarily on the ground. The Heels did surrender 142 rushing yards on 24 attempts (5.9 per carry) in the second half, but also allowed 154 yards passing on 9-14 accuracy. UVa had 15 first downs in the final two periods and had 298 total yards. UVa scored 23 points over a 10-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, and tallied 37 points in a 27-minute span of the final half. The same old reasons can be attributed to UNC's struggles: poor tackling, too slow to the ball, missed assignments, and the morale of the unit appeared to decline as the half wore on. On a somewhat positive note, especially considering how things have been of late, the pass coverage wasn't all that awful. UVa's longest receptions were for 42 and 35 yards, with the 35-yarder a short pass play that went for the long score because DeFonte Coleman wasn't able to bring Ottawa Anderson to the turf.
UVa freshman tailback Wali Lundy's 108-yard performance for the game was the third 100-yard game by a freshman against UNC in the last four weeks.
Kickoff returns – The Tar Heels returned all seven of Virginia's kickoffs, but just one past their own 21, and that was to the 27. UNC's field position after kickoffs: 16, 27, 19, 20, 15, 17, and 21, with an average field position of the 17.9 yard-line.
No imagination – This is in no way a critique of the overall play calling, but perhaps the Heels would be more successful, especially during ugly stretches when they aren't moving the ball, if they tried a little trickery every so often. The second half of the last two games offered numerous situations where some imaginative plays could have jump-started stalemated offenses.
Another meltdown – For the second consecutive week UNC had a total meltdown in the second half. Last week the Heels led N.C. State 10-7 at the half and 17-7 after their first possession of the third quarter. This weekend they led UVa 21-0 at the intermission. After both leads, which combined for a 38-7 advantage, UNC was outscored 64-0 in the second half until its final touchdown with just over a minute left on Saturday. Everyone in the program can take some blame for these collapses, but it is probably as mental as anything else. Will Chapman said after the game in Charlottesville that he thought the defense was fragile. He was speaking mentally as well as physically.
Red zone turnovers – The Heels turned the ball over in either red zone again. Aiken's fumble at the two-yard-line and Willie Parker's fumble at UNC's own 16.
The Tar Heels travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest in a crucial game for both teams. The Heels need a win to get steered on the right track, but also need positive results from new starting QB C.J. Stephens if they are to make anything of the rest of the season. Wake needs the game to close in on being bowl eligible.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.