Tar Heels upbeat despite bowl game loss to Baylor

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams gave his all in a losing effort. (John Raoux)

When I asked Art Briles how you can prepare a gameplan without your top two quarterbacks, best running back, starting right tackle AND the nation's best wide receiver, he gave me a sparkling answer (paraphrased): "If you're in the mood for bacon and eggs but only have cereal, you eat the cereal."

GAME STORY: BAYLOR RUNS OVER TAR HEELS 49-38

They have some crazy good Wheaties in Waco it appears, because this was domination. The Bears ran over, around and though the Tar Heel defense from the jump on their way to a bowl record 645 (!!) yards rushing. That's not a Russell Athletic Bowl record, that's any bowl ever. The Bears had no real throwing QB, but it never mattered as athlete after athlete jumped into the Wildcat and gutted UNC.

Larry Fedora said after the game, and his players echoed, that they expected a much more balanced attack from Baylor, but as Fedora said 'they may have had that gameplan, but once they realized they could run the ball, they never had to pass.' No they didn't.

The loss of UNC's best DT, Nazair Jones to a concussion this week surely didn't help, but he wouldn't have been nearly enough. The Baylor O-line dominated and backup RB Johnny Jefferson was the beneficiary, galloping to the game MVP award with 299 yards rushing.



Still - despite the onslaught - Carolina had some opportunities to change the tide. They'll certainly want a first-half running-into-the-kicker penalty back after getting a rare stop. Instead of the ball back, UNC watched seven more points go up on the Baylor scoreboard.

TJ Logan's third-quarter fumble as he looked to be going in to score was the real crippler. Down 35-24 at that point, it looked headed to a four-point game. After his fumble gave the Bears the ball on their own 20, Jefferson gashed his way to an immediate 80-yard score that really put the writing on the wall.

There was disappointment from the Tar Heels after the game for obvious reasons, but positivity was far more prevalent. Marquise Williams spoke of being 'too blessed to be stressed', the opportunity to lead this team having been the ultimate joy and privilege in his mind. Shakeel Rashad thanked the underclassmen for helping create such a memorable season and urged them to win not 12, but "14 or 15" games next season. Donnie Miles said that losing might actually stoke the furnace even more between now and spring ball.



Fedora put a point on it in his postgame presser. This UNC senior class "raised the standard" of the program. It's on successive teams now to maintain and surpass the heights reached by this year's Coastal championship group.

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