Before Mack Brown took over the North Carolina Tar Heels program, fourth-quarter disasters became routine for the football team. North Carolina’s old demons returned to haunt it on Friday night.
Many thought the game was over when the Tar Heels trailed 21-3 entering the fourth quarter. Brown’s players, including 18-year-old freshman quarterback Sam Howell, answered in the final minutes as they worked towards a dramatic comeback.
North Carolina scored 15 unanswered points late in the game and got the ball back trailing 24-18 with one minute left, no timeouts and a chance to do the unthinkable. Instead, the Tar Heels ended their own comeback hopes with a ridiculous combo of horrific clock management and a lack of awareness.
Howell burned precious seconds early after falling short of the first down. North Carolina then burned more crucial time before even snapping the football and Carter capped off the series of blunders with his own.
Inexperience can’t be blamed alone for the team’s collective blunder. Football players are instructed in practice every summer the importance of clock management and what to do when every second counts.
North Carolina will argue one second remained on the clock when Carter stepped out, but the final whistle is up to the referee’s discretion and it was far too close to call. A team simply can’t burn that much time only to hope the ref saves them.
Carter had a clear path to sprint out of bounds with a few seconds left and give Howell one shot at a Hail Mary attempt. Howell could have given his team a few more critical seconds by showing far more urgency. Instead, the same problems that haunted this team for years came back to put one final nail in their coffin.