The way 2016 ended for the Tar Heels, Happy New Year!
Carolina could not have ended the calendar year on a sourer note. Outsmarted by a Stanford team without its best player in the Sun Bowl and then playing like all five starters had the flu in the ACC basketball opener at Georgia Tech.
Football first. No matter how big of a Larry Fedora fan you are, the truth is the truth. For the third straight season in Chapel Hill, his team ended with a thud. This time may have been the worst, losing three of the last four games after standing 7-2 in early November.
Sure, the Tar Heels were without Elijah Hood, who had been banged up all junior years, but Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffery did not play for the Cardinal. The Heels started fast with a nifty 75-yard drive capped by Trubisky to a Switzer touchdown pass. But uncharacteristic turnovers, including one caused by a bumbling official, left the Heels needing another late comeback. They got it, but then gave it back with Trubisky’s late pick 6.
A fabulous 90-plus yard drive left them a two-point conversion from a tie and overtime, but the play Fedora said they had worked on for two years was completely blown up by Stanford D-tackle Solomon Thomas, a Tar Heel native who thought about UNC before going West. It was frustrating for a defense that played well enough to win but was let down by the offense.
Twenty-four hours later, Roy Williams’ Tar Heels lost their ACC opener in Atlanta with a performance that looked like the entire team had influenza. Shooting 33 percent from the floor and 19 from three-point range, Carolina misfired over the Georgia Tech zone like the basket was moving, which can happen when you are sick. It was as poor of a performance as we have seen in some time, making the ACC bottom-feeder Jackets look like a really good team they are not.
It’s a shame because UNC’s early ACC schedule is favorable with road games against second division opponents and home games against the tougher teams, set up well for a fast start. The only consolation prize: Duke and Louisville also lost their ACC openers.