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Quick Hitters - North Carolina vs. Texas A&M (Orange Bowl)

Isaac Schade presents Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 41-27 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday evening in the Orange Bowl.

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s he 41-27 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday evening in the Orange Bowl.

Highlights:

  • I wrote this during the first half: Win or lose, make no mistake that Carolina passed the eye test. These Tar Heels look like they belong on the field with the number five in the country (even down four of the team’s most dynamic players). Keep in mind, this A&M team was one that many believed should have been in the College Football Playoff.
  • There is no way to replace Chazz Surratt, Dyami Brown, Michael Carter, and Javonte Williams; particularly in a year where those four had such a dynamic impact at their particular positions. Guys can step in and fill a role, but as Coach Brown said postgame, “that’s 4,000 yards”.
  • In the end, the Tar Heel defense ran out of steam. As Carolina continues to build (talented) depth (on both sides of the ball), expect to see a more robust, full-game defensive attack.
  • The offense needed just one or two more big plays to stay with the Aggies. For example, the ball that Khafre Brown dropped in the fourth quarter would’ve likely kept the Tar Heel scoring going, but Carolina was never able to put any more points on the board. Another example was the trick play that A&M blew up in which tight end Garrett Walston was wide open on the opposite side of the formation.
  • While the defense was still operating at a high level, they forced some things that hadn’t happened to A&M much this year. Coming into the game, the Aggie offensive line had only given up four sacks all season. Carolina had three tonight (one each by Trey Morrison, Tomon Fox, and Tony Grimes).
  • Also, coming into the game, the Aggies only had 15 three-and-outs on the year. Carolina forced five tonight.
  • Get excited for the future Tar Heels; the youth was on display tonight. In addition to his sack, the aforementioned Tony Grimes (who isn’t even a ‘true freshman’, but actually a high school senior) had three total tackles, a tackle for loss, and two pass break ups. Freshman Ja’Qurious Conley had five more tackles. Freshman Josh Downs scored two of Carolina’s three touchdowns. The list goes on.
  • Sophomore Euguene Asante, stepping in for Chazz Surratt, led the team in tackles with 10. If things go according to plan, Asante and Jeremiah Gemmel should be the starting linebackers next season. 
  • The game got off to a rather inauspicious start offensively for Carolina. Facing third-and-17 from his own 11 on the first drive, Sam Howell threw just his seventh interception of the season. A&M started at the Carolina 28. A few plays later, the Aggies were in the end zone. Howell settled in though and played a really strong game, especially considering all the new personnel pieces he was working with. Howell finished 18-for-31 for 234 yards and three touchdowns. He also picked up 50 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
  • Adding to the Sam Howell lore, he picked up three more passing touchdowns tonight. That gives him 30 for the year and 68 total through his first two years. The 67th touchdown set a new ACC record for most touchdown passes through a quarterback’s sophomore year, beating out…current Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
  • Carolina’s first touchdown is going to receive a lot of praise for Dazz Newsome’s bobbled and re-caught pass. What you might forget is Sam Howell’s run on the play immediately before. The run itself is nice, but what you can’t miss is the pump fake. Watch this:
  • On a night where Texas A&M had four different unsportsmanlike penalties and a total of nine infractions for 87 yards, the Tar Heels limited themselves to just five penalties for 38 yards. Removing self-inflicted wounds is one key to continuing to grow for Carolina.
  • Following the first possession interception, Carolina did a nice job of avoiding turnovers the rest of the game (aside from back-to-back turnovers on downs late in the game). Unfortunately, in what has been a semester long theme, UNC couldn’t force any turnovers of their own.
  • Aggie tight end Jalen Wydermyer came into the game with the most receptions this season amongst SEC tight ends. The Tar Heels held him to just one catch for four yards.
  • It was unfortunate to surrender a touchdown just before halftime. Had Carolina been able to stop A&M, or even hold them to a field goal, it would have changed at least some of the tenor of the second half.
  • After a shaky start to the season, Grayson Atkins has been a really solid kicker. He was 2-2 tonight.
  • Jonathan Kim was such a weapon for UNC this year. He finished off the season by kicking six touchbacks in six attempts in the Orange Bowl.
  • Thanks to the seniors, who have stuck it through for the past several years. You have helped set the tone and usher in a new era of Carolina football. To imagine the pendulum swing they’ve seen first-hand over the past two years is nothing short of incredible. 

Mack Brown postgame press conference

Players postgame press conference

Sam Howell 

Dazz Newsome 

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Jeremiah Gemmel 

Tomon Fox 

Eugene Asante

The Orange Bowl ends the 2020-21 UNC football season. Stay tuned to AllTarHeels for all your offseason Carolina football information and updates. 

And remember that Quick Hitters will carry on with basketball season and be back for the 2021 college football season.

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