Charlottesville, Va. — It may have seemed like a routine field goal and Virginia made it look that way, until they didn’t. Place Holder Matt Johns received the snap and, using last year’s QB experience, floated a pass to Evan Butts in the end zone. The unexpected trick play caused an uproar at Scott Stadium as the Cavaliers tied the Tar Heels, in the South’s Oldest Rivalry, 7-7.
Unfortunately, that was the only true excitement for the Cavaliers on Saturday. From there, Mitch Trubisky passed for 310 yards to keep North Carolina strongly ahead. With less than three minutes remaining in the first half, Trubisky threw a 40-yard pass to Bug Howard for the touchdown, quieting the crowd and the Cavalier sideline.
UVA had its moments in the game, though. In the first quarter, Virginia stopped the Tar Heels in the red zone, as Juan Thornhill forced a fumble, which was quickly wrapped up by Bryce Hall. A great defensive play lost its thrill, as the offense failed to earn a first down.
Another big hit by Micah Kiser in the third quarter caused Ryan Switzer to fumble the ball. Even with the momentum gained by having the officials side with Virginia on a lengthy review, the Hoos were unable to convert a score on the ensuing drive.
Coach Mendenhall claimed that his young team is not yet capable of capturing moments like this.
“We’re learning to be more consistent, but yet there are some things right now that are simply above our threshold…We need to capitalize on every one of those opportunities.”
Virginia was less than perfect and made their fair share of errors. A more mature UNC team capitalized on these mistakes by putting points on the board. During the third quarter, Kurt Benkert fumbled the ball while handing it off to Taquan Mizzell. At Virginia’s 41-yard line, North Carolina’s TJ Logan rushed 4 yards for a touchdown.
Mizzell later commented that this “was just a mistake” as the play could have gone either as a run or pass. Benkert and Mizzell were clearly not on the same page.
Staying in the game after half time seems to be a problem for the Hoos, as they went into the fourth quarter down three scores. Surprisingly, Coach Mendenhall decided to switch quarterbacks at the start of the fourth, putting in back-up Connor Brewer. Brewer’s last appearance for the Hoos was a lone play at Miami last season where he handed the ball off for a 15-yard gain.
Coach Mendenhall felt Benkert’s departure from the game was necessary “just to have him step back and… see it from a different perspective.”
Brewer was able to lead the team down the field for an early fourth quarter touchdown, after a short punt by North Carolina’s Sheldon. After a carefully executed, sustained drive by the Hoos, UNC’s Trubisky threw up a 46-yard lob to Austin Proehl, putting the Tar Heels up 35- 14.
The faithful Wahoo fans quietly exited the Stadium to the visitor’s resonating cheer of “Tar…Heels.”
The Hoos are capable of making the big plays, but Saturday they could not keep up with UNC’s offense. No. 5 Louisville comes to Charlottesville next weekend after defeating the Wolfpack 54-13. Lamar Jackson leads one of the fastest, high scoring offenses in the nation and ACC, so Virginia has a challenge ahead of them. They will need to stabilize their offensive plays and pick a QB in order to have a chance at this one, with just a few days of practice.