Five ob­ser­va­tions from UNC’s 31-21 road loss to UVA

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - College Football - BY JONATHAN M. ALEXAN­DER jalexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com Alexan­der, 919-829-4822; @jon­malexan­der

North Carolina fell to 1-6 on the sea­son with its 31-21 loss to Vir­ginia on Satur­day at Scott Sta­dium.

This loss was dif­fer­ent than UNC’s pre­vi­ous two losses against Syra­cuse and Vir­ginia Tech. In those games, the Tar Heels should have won. They led late but gave up the lead.

The Tar Heels never led in this game though. Af­ter the Hok­ies took a 14-7 lead in the first quar­ter, the Tar Heels never got within three points.

Here are five ob­ser­va­tions from the game:

1. UNC COULDN’T CON­TAIN BRYCE PERKINS

Ju­nior quar­ter­back Bryce Perkins did it all for Vir­ginia.

Ev­ery time the Tar Heels got close to bring­ing him down, Perkins found a way to wig­gle free or avoid the de­fender and run for the first down. At times he made it look easy as he coasted for first down af­ter first down.

“He can re­ally run,” UNC coach Larry Fe­dora said. “There were times there when he got out on the edge, and we have some guys that can run, and he out­ran them.”

Perkins fin­ished with 112 rush­ing yards and a touch­down on 21 car­ries. With Perkins be­ing a threat to run, it helped his pass­ing game too, Fe­dora said.

“You have to worry about caging and con­tain­ing him in a pass rush,” Fe­dora said. “You’re re­ally not try­ing to get sacks as much as you are try­ing not to let him get out.

Perkins passed for 217 yards, three touch­downs and had one in­ter­cep­tion. Perkins’ four to­tal touch- downs are tied for the most he has had in a game this sea­son. He had two pass­ing touch­downs and two rush­ing touch­downs on Sept. 1 against Rich­mond.

2. RUN­NING GAME STRUG­GLED

UNC’s run­ning game had been its strong­est as­set on of­fense. UNC came into the game av­er­ag­ing 5.08 yards per carry, which was ranked 31st out of 130 teams in the coun­try. But on Satur­day, UVA sti­fled UNC’s run­ning game.

The Tar Heels av­er­aged only three yards per carry. UNC sopho­more run­ning back Michael Carter had eight car­ries for 42 yards. Ju­nior run­ning back An­to­nio Wil­liams had seven car­ries for 21 yards and Jor­don Brown had four car­ries for seven yards.

Wide re­ceiver Dazz New­some and ju­nior quar­ter­back Nathan El­liott also had rushes that went for neg­a­tive yards.

As a team, UNC had 66 rush­ing yards on 22 rush­ing at­tempts. That was a sea­son-low. Prior to that, its sea­son-low in rush­ing yards was 161 yards against East Carolina on Sept. 8.

Fe­dora said the Tar Heels have to be able to run in or­der to be suc­cess­ful. He cred­ited Vir­ginia’s de­fense.

“They did a nice job of mov­ing the front, chang­ing the front, twist­ing, bring­ing back­ers, get­ting safeties down in the box,” Fe­dora said.

3. THIRD DOWN CON­VER­SIONS

UNC was 4-for-14 on third down sit­u­a­tions on Satur­day. Many of its drives were three-and­outs, and it quickly gave the ball back to its op­po­nent.

Fe­dora said the run­ning game was one of the rea­sons UNC wasn’t ef­fi­cient on third downs.

“I don’t know what our first-down ef­fi­ciency was, but I don’t think it was very good,” he said. “The drives that we had were suc­cess­ful, where we would pick up first downs and get our tempo go­ing, 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 downs.”

Third down con­ver­sions has been a prob­lem for UNC all sea­son though. En­ter­ing the game, UNC was 31.6 per­cent on third down con­ver­sions. That ranks 125th out of 130 teams in the coun­try.

“You know it’s first down, if you don’t get that first pos­i­tive play it’s hard to build tempo, and we want to build tempo,” El­liott said. “If you don’t get a pos­i­tive play, then you’re sit­ting in sec­ond and long and you’re try­ing to go fast, but there’s a lit­tle more thought process in­volved, or you’ll be in a third and long.”

4. TURNOVERS

Turnovers had been the Achilles’ heel for the Tar Heels this sea­son. It was why UNC lost so badly in its first few games.

UNC had four turnovers against Cal­i­for­nia on Sept. 1, an em­bar­rass­ing 24-17 de­feat. UNC had six turnovers against Mi­ami on Sept. 27.

Since that 47-10 loss to Mi­ami though, El­liott had been turnover-free. And as a re­sult, the Tar Heels found them­selves in some close games with their op­po­nents.

But late in the third quar­ter, with UNC down 24-14, Vir­ginia line­backer Chris Peace sacked El­liott, who fum­bled. The Cava­liers re­cov­ered the foot­ball and later scored. The Cava­liers went up 31-14 early in the fourth quar­ter and the Tar Heels couldn’t climb back.

5. UNC’S BOWL CHANCES

UNC has now lost four straight, and any hopes of mak­ing it to a bowl game are likely gone. UNC would have to win six games to be bowl el­i­gi­ble, and with four games re­main­ing on the sched­ule and only one win, be­com­ing bowl el­i­gi­ble is now math­e­mat­i­cally im­pos­si­ble.

There still is a chance UNC could add a 12th game to its sea­son.

UNC’s game against UCF on Sept. 15 was can­celed be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Florence. If UNC adds a 12th game, that means it would have to end the sea­son beat­ing Ge­or­gia Tech, Duke, Western Carolina, N.C. State, and which­ever team it sched­uled to make a bowl game.

Also, if UNC adds a 12th game, the play­ers who were ini­tially sus­pended for four games for sell­ing team-is­sued sneak­ers in Jan­uary, will have to sit out an­other game af­ter the 12th game is an­nounced.

Those play­ers were sus­pended for 30 per­cent of the sea­son.

Fe­dora said af­ter the game that he was un­sure about a 12th game.

ROBERT WILLETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Vir­ginia’s Evan Butts (46) pulls in a 16-yard pass from quar­ter­back Bryce Perkins (3) over North Carolina’s Cole Holcomb in the fourth quar­ter (36) to seal the Cav­a­lier’s 31-21 vic­tory over North Carolina on Satur­day.

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