Frus­tra­tion the buzz­word as Tar Heels con­clude rough sea­son

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - College Football - BY JONAS POPE IV [email protected]

At the con­clu­sion of N.C. State’s 34-28 win over North Carolina, some push­ing and shov­ing took place in the end zone be­tween both teams.

It was part Wolf­pack cel­e­bra­tion, part Tar Heels let­ting off frus­tra­tion of yet an­other game slip­ping away from them. UNC (2-9, 1-7) ends an­other long sea­son with a loss to their ri­val, and head into the off sea­son, again, ask­ing what if?

Last year in­juries ripped apart the Tar Heels’ ros­ter. This sea­son the in­juries were there, but so were many more op­por­tu­ni­ties to come away with a bet­ter record than what’s on pa­per. Carolina lost five games this sea­son by one posses­sion or less, and two games in over­time, in­clud­ing the sea­son­fi­nale against the Wolf­pack (8-3, 5-3).

Once again, UNC had a late lead, and fans hop­ing that, de­spite all the bad breaks, some luck would fi­nally go their way. Fresh­man quar­ter­back Cade Fortin ran in for a 1-yard score with 9:29 re­main­ing in the game to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the day, 28-21. It capped off an im­pres­sive sec­ond half in which UNC moved the ball with ease, scor­ing on three straight pos­ses­sions af­ter only manag­ing two Free­man Jones field goals in the first half.

The Tar Heels were click­ing af­ter the break, but af­ter Fortin’s touch­down, the of­fense stalled while the Wolf­pack rolled to a vic­tory thanks to a fifth touch­down from Reg­gie Gal­laspy, the last one com­ing in over­time af­ter Jones missed a 37yard field goal at­tempt.

Af­ter Fortin’s score, UNC only man­aged only 63 yards on 16 plays the rest of the way.

“We just couldn’t make enough plays to win a foot­ball game,” UNC head coach Larry Fe­dora said. “We left a lot of points out there on the foot­ball field to­day.”

That’s a song the Tar Heels have been singing all sea­son, a feel­ing that Fe­dora called “frus­trat- ing.”

“It’s frus­trat­ing to ev­ery­one in that locker room,” Fe­dora said.

On a day when the UNC de­fense held N.C. State quar­ter­back Ryan Fin­ley out of the end­zone, and got a big day from a pair of fresh­men, Fortin (1940-276) and run­ning back Javonte Wil­liams (16 car­ries, 84 yards, 1TD), it wasn’t enough to end the sea­son on a high note … again.

Fe­dora was asked to pick a word to de­scribe the 2018 sea­son and af­ter some thought he came up with the most ob­vi­ous one - frus­tra­tion. His play­ers echoed those thoughts.

“Frus­tra­tion would be the same thing for me,” se­nior J.K. Britt said. “Com­ing close in so many games. I mean we had two games this year where we went to over­time, we’ve lost games on the last drive of the game, just be­ing this close ev­ery time and not be­ing able to cap­i­tal­ize.”

Britt was clear when he fol­lowed that up by say­ing some­thing has to change for the Tar Heels to get over the hump. Many be­lieve that change might come at the top with Fe­dora af­ter con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons and a pre­sea­son sneaker scan­dal that cost him mul­ti­ple play­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral starters, at var­i­ous points of the sea­son.

Fe­dora said he didn’t know how to­day’s out­come would af­fect his fu­ture at UNC, sim­ply stat­ing, “we’ll find out.”

Fe­dora said he plans on be­ing here and the re­turn­ing play­ers, like wide re­ceiver An­thony Ratlif­fWil­liams, plan on us­ing this sea­son as fuel for 2019.

“This off­sea­son we plan on mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is fine-tuned,” Ratlif­fWil­liams said. “Let this be a build­ing block or a step­ping stone.”

Fe­dora and Ratliff-Wil­liams ad­mit­ted their were too many plays left on the field, too many dropped balls, and once again, a sea­son with just one ACC win, just three sea­sons re­moved from an ACC Coastal Di­vi­sion ti­tle.

“We had op­por­tu­ni­ties to put the game away and failed to do it,” Fe­dora said.

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