UNC Wakes up

Ranked Top 10 preseason, but muddling thru with a .500 record, Heels end Deacons dream season

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The Tar Heels slipped past Wake Forest 58-55.
The Tar Heels slipped past Wake Forest 58-55.
Image: Getty Images

Say what you will about college football, but Saturdays are never boring.

Wake Forest’s out-of-the-blue undefeated run and CFP campaign came to a thrilling and tragic end on this one, as in-conference opponent North Carolina defeated the Demon Deacons, 58-55, in what was technically a non-conference game. It was a battle of quarterbacks — Sam Howell vs. Sam Hartman — both of whom finished second in rushing for their respective teams, Howell with 104 yards on 21 carries and Hartman with 78 yards on 12 carries. Hartman was just short of reaching 400 passing yards, but even that effort wasn’t enough to stop UNC from digging themselves out of an 18-point deficit in the second half.

Wake had some close calls earlier this season, with their most impressive W coming at Virginia. After allowing Army to put up 56 points last weekend, the Tar Heels came a-knocking, and sealed off the comeback with a 50-yard touchdown from Ty Chandler with under two minutes left in the game, putting UNC up 10. Despite an improbable drive from Hartman and the Deacons that put them within 3 with less than a minute left, the deficit was too much to overcome in such a short time after UNC put up a 31-3 run in the second half.

Defense was laid by the wayside today in an impressive imitation of a Big 12 football game. My condolences go out to anyone who bet the under today (fun fact: In 2020, this matchup finished 59-53, Tar Heels). Both teams’ defensive lines were virtually nonexistent, and the secondaries didn’t look all that much better — the defensive highlight was UNC’s Cam’Ron Kelly pulling off two picks. It’s clear that the Wake defense wouldn’t have been able to hold any higher-ranked offense to anything remotely resembling a respectable showing, so perhaps it’s for the best that we got to have some fun watching this one instead of cringing as some SEC team embarrassed them.


With Clemson having fallen to ultimate irrelevancy this season, the ACC will not be able to put up a viable candidate for the Playoff. UNC, which began the season ranked in the preseason polls but, before today, was only at a .500 record, pulled off a rare feat:

That’s just the fun of college football!

And Nebraska — it pains me to write it — so close, and yet, so far. Again. As we all saw them stay within one score of No. 5 Ohio State and flipped the channel to watch them, we told ourselves, “Don’t have hope. You know how every Nebraska game ends.” But deep down, our hearts said, “What if this is the day it changes? What if they finally pull it off?” Our heads were right, but our hearts were still broken, as the Cornhuskers put up a great fight only to drop the game 26-17 to the Buckeyes.


The Nebraska Cornhuskers are the best 3-7 team in college football — just like they were the best 3-6 team, and the best 3-5 team, but you get the idea. It’s hard to say what’s not clicking for them — it might be Scott Frost’s coaching decisions, it might be their incredibly poor kicking game (really, it’s the stuff of nightmares), or it might just be plain old bad luck — but they have been thiiiis close so many times against very good teams throughout this season without being able to close.

I, for one, believed today might be the day. QuarterbackAdrian Rodriguezhad an excellent game, throwing for 248 yards and running for 51 with no turnovers, and the Nebraska secondary was all over CJ Stroud, but the Buckeyes outperformed them today despite two Huskers’ interceptions. Nebraska also missed two field goals — one at a crucial point in the game after a great drive downfield. It was the perfect metaphor for the Huskers’ season — right there, but can’t finish. We’ll see if the CFP committee counts this as a “quality win,” but the Buckeyes face three tough conference opponents to finish out the season. They looked good today, but not dominant.


And with the way this season has been going — well, I know now not to have any expectations. We’re just along for the ride.