Maryland’s offense was on the field more than double the time of UNC’s offense. In fact, the 40-plus minutes of possession time was the most an opponent has posted on UNC since the 1992 Clemson game.
“It felt like we were out there all day,” senior linebacker Mark Paschal said. “I don’t think fatigue was that big of a factor. By this time of year, it starts getting cool and we’re getting more and more conditioned. We just have to make more stops on defense and put our offense in a better position to score.”
A heavy contributor to the lopsided time of possession was UNC’s inability to convert third downs.
“When you go 1-for-11 on third down chances, you have got no chance to win a football game,” Butch Davis said.
While UNC went 1-of-11 on third downs, Maryland converted half of its third down attempts.
Could Offensive Woes Lead to Quarterback Change?
In the less than 20 minutes that UNC had possession of the ball, the offense was ineffective. Running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston combined to rush for 56 yards, while Cam Sexton completed 42.9 percent of his 24 passes – his worst completion percentage of the season.
“Maryland has a very physical front-seven football team,” Davis said. “They have given a lot of teams a difficult time trying to run the football. Certainly the weather conditions didn’t help us at all. It negated a little bit of our passing game and our speed.”
The lack of offensive production contributed to UNC’s first second half shutout of the season.
“We had some opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on them,” junior quarterback Cam Sexton said. “…They’re a good football team. They played us well. They did a good job defending us. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Sexton was adamant about the weather not being a factor in his play.
“We were playing a good football team,” Sexton said. “I don’t know. I don’t really know. I didn’t have a good day. I didn’t play really well. I just couldn’t get into rhythm.”
Coupling Sexton’s performance with the fact that T.J. Yates’ injured ankle is getting closer to 100 percent with each passing day, the whispers for Yates to return to the starting lineup are certain to amplify.
UNC Finds Answer to Terps Running Game Too Late
While UNC’s rushing attack sputtered, Maryland running backs were able to provide significant contributions to the time-of-possession battle. Da’Rel Scott averaged 4.4 yards on 29 carries, while Davin Meggett boasted a 6.6-yard average on 13 carries.
“Maryland ran the ball very effectively and that hurt us,” Davis said.
In the first half, Scott and Meggett rushed for a combined 147 yards on the ground.
“They were trapping our defensive tackle, which is a look we haven’t seen,” Paschal said. “… That was the hardest thing that they had for us. It’s a good football play and they ran it pretty well.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to face that kind of offense again. That’s the strange, tricky kind of running game they play.”
However, the Terrapin ‘backs returned in the second half to a more unyielding defense. In the final 30 minutes of play, Scott and Meggett were collectively held to 68 yards rushing.
“In the second half, we made some adjustments,” sophomore defensive tackle Marvin Austin said. “The plays that we didn’t see [prior to the game], the coaches got us ready [during halftime] to play against those plays.”
Lose the Turnover Battle, Lose the Ball Game
Although turnovers didn’t play as big of a role in the game as it has throughout the season, the trend of the turnover battle predicting the victor continued for UNC.
Maryland recovered a Sexton fumble and made a game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter, while Quinton Coples recovered a fumble for UNC to open up the final stanza. Neither team, though, turned any of the turnovers into points.
Additional turnover chances were there for UNC, however. Kendric Burney dropped an interception opportunity in the first quarter, while Deunta Williams and Trimaine Goddard batted around an overthrown pass.
Field Position Keeps UNC in the Game
With all that went wrong, how did UNC hold the lead for all but 5 minutes and 47 seconds of the game? UNC won the field possession battle – plus an unforced safety directly and indirectly resulted in five of UNC’s 15 points.
Half of UNC’s drives – including all three scoring possessions – began at the Tar Heels’ 35-yard line or better.
On the other hand, only one of Maryland’s drives – their final drive in which the Terrapins ran just a kneel play – started outside of Maryland’s 35-yard line.