Finishing the season with a disappointing loss to a bitter rival takes momentum down a notch within the program, but there were a few bright spots.
Jacoby Brissett had an up-and-down game, as he was highly successful running the ball, but had his lowest completion percentage of the season, completing 17 of his 37 passes. He accounted for every touchdown, two on the ground and two through the air. He did throw one tipped interception, but was mostly effective.
This game was huge for the future, but sure could have used Matt Dayes' explosive ability. Reggie Gallaspy had a solid performance with 77 yards on 14 carries and Dakwa Nichols had 10 on 4. Luckily Brissett and Nyheim Hines had a significant impact, rushing for more than 160 yards combined.
The receivers were not explosive outside of Hines (and Johnathon Alston sweeps) and only had 7 total receptions. Hines and former walk-on Gavin Locklear were the only receivers who averaged more than 10 yards per reception. Their struggles to get separation were a big part of Brissett running 20 times.
David Grinnage scored both touchdowns through the air and averaged 18 yards on the two plays, so he was a bright spot. Once again, it would have been interesting to see if the Pack looked his way more often. Benson Browne caught one pass and Cole Cook was badly missed on a wide open route, so outside of Grinnage, it's hard to judge the others' performance. The run blocking was relatively successful, due in some part to this position group.
The do-it-all ACC first teamer had a highly successful game in the passing attack, with 6 catches for 97 yards, but had only 5 yards on 3 carries. He had a huge play to set up points, but was limited on the ground, likely to give him some rest. He has been relied on heavily since Matt Dayes went down.
Scoring points was not the problem for the Wolfpack on Saturday, but the first half hole they dug was problematic. Brissett getting sacked four times is never a number you want to see, even against an improved UNC defense. The run blocking was adequate, with 308 yards accrued on the ground.
This was supposed to be one of the strengths of the team, but they had one of their toughest performances on Saturday. They did not record a single sack and were mostly dominated up front, leading to the big days from Elijah Hood and TJ Logan. One saving grace was the three turnovers forced, with Kentavius Street forcing a big fumble in the second half.
This was also not a bright day for the linebackers, but they were maybe the best performers on the night. Airius Moore had a fumble recovery and Jerod Fernandez had an interception in the red zone, both of which kept the Pack somewhat in the game. Those two and Riley Nicholson combined for 13 tackles as well.
This group has been a constant struggle this year, and while not getting shredded through the oar, they were a liability in the run game. Juston Burris was a pretty constant competitor, making a few nice tackles and recovering a fumble. However, the rest of the back 5 struggled all night. There may be more rotation in this unit heading into the bowl game.
Kyle Bambard had his best game of the season, making both field goal attempts, albeit the longest was 34 yards. AJ Cole averaged 43.5 yards per punt, with a long of 60. Hines had 3 returns for a modest 66 yards, but a 29 yarder was a nice sight to see. Bra'lon Cherry had no attempts at returning punts.