After struggling to get anything going offensively for a majority of the game, UNC scored 18 unanswered points in the second half to cut a 21-point Wake Forest lead down to three on Friday. The Tar Heels then forced the Demon Deacons to settle for a field goal, which capped off a drive that left just 1:09 for a game-winning touchdown opportunity. Sixty seconds passed, and all UNC had been able to do was get to its own 45-yard line.
Now, imagine you’re Tar Heels coach Mack Brown in this scenario and, thanks to college rules—the clock stopping after a first down, specifically—you maybe have two plays before the end of the game. What do you do? Do you use both plays to take shots at the end zone, or do you use the first play to get as close to the goal line as possible so that the second one requires less of a desperation heave? If you decided on the latter, congrats, you and Brown have the same football mind. If your hypothetical first play was anything but a draw play up the middle, congrats once again, you have a better football mind than Brown.
Unfortunately for Brown, this wasn’t the 2009 Big 12 Championship game, and running back Michael Carter was not Colt McCoy flinging a pass out of bounds, so he didn’t get the one second he was looking for back, even after the ref reviewed the final play. Though, to Brown’s credit, he did have a pretty strong case for getting some time back, as ESPN discovered in a super slow replay shown after the game had been called.
Brown said after the game, “The official on my side held up one second... Next thing I know they are running off the field and I sure would have liked the chance at a Hail Mary.”
That being said, if you subscribe to the belief that the run of play should help dictate a game’s winner and loser, then you might see this result for the Tar Heels as pretty well deserved, even beyond the boneheaded final playcall. UNC produced all of 71 yards in the first half, and had a pretty miserable run of drives to start the game off.
Even if they did manage to claw back to an 21-18 scoreline, the Tar Heels did not do themselves any favors when they allowed Wake Forest to drain five of the game’s final six minutes during the Demon Deacons’ last drive of the game. Any coach worth their shit would see the way this game ended, and realize there were a lot of lessons to be learned on how to better handle a situation like this in the future. Even the players recognized the overall shortcomings, with quarterback Sam Howell telling reporters after the game, “At the end of the day, this was on me. I’ve got to play a lot better for our team to win.”
Don’t be too hard on yourself, Sam. Your coach should also probably call better plays too.