Ranking UNC’s 2016 football season

Ranking UNC’s 2016 football season

With football season just around the corner, we decided to reflect on some of the best (and worst) memories from an emotional 2016 UNC football season.

With football season just around the corner, we decided to reflect on some of the most memorable (and most painful) memories from an emotional 2016 UNC football season. Here’s our ranking of UNC’s performances last season, from worst to best (with GIFs!). 

13. vs. Virginia Tech (L, 3-34)

Hurricane Matthew proved to be the Heels’ biggest opponent in this game, as players and fans alike were drenched at Kenan Memorial Stadium. A rain-soaked field and ball forced UNC to run the ball against an excellent Hokie defense that also caused four turnovers. While there is no way to know for sure, it seems the results of the game would have been very different had it been rescheduled for non-hurricane weather. Unfortunately for heartbroken Heels fans, the game would go on to decide the winner of the division, as the Hokies traveled to Orlando to face Clemson in the conference championship.

Mother Nature won this one.

12. at Duke (L, 27-28)

Few things sting more than a loss to a rival, especially when that rival is one of the worst teams in the conference. What should have been an easy victory for the Tar Heels at Wallace Wade soon turned into heartbreak. The Blue Devils’ possession-heavy strategy kept a superior UNC offense off of the field while keeping the game close. The UNC defense could not stop Duke, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky was unable to even put the Heels in field goal range in the fourth quarter. While the late season game meant little for conference standings, the upset gave Blue Devil fans a lot of ammunition in their insults leading up to basketball season.

A live look at me leaving Wallace Wade Stadium:

11. vs. N.C. State (L, 21-28)

The Heels suffered another crushing defeat at the hands of a rival (granted, a much more talented one). The UNC offense struggled to catch up to the Wolfpack after they took an early 14-0 lead, despite an excellent three touchdown game from Trubisky. A horrendous defensive effort against the run, coupled with a small student section and low attendance due to Thanksgiving break, hurt the Tar Heels even more. While the rivalry loss hurt, it was even more painful to see the Wolfpack propel themselves to bowl eligibility with the win.

But the Heels got revenge in basketball. Twice.

10. vs. Georgia (L, 24-33)

It’s always tough to start the season with a loss, even if it is to a better team. Both teams struggled in the air, but Georgia dominated the ground game as Nick Chubb rushed for an absurd 222 yards and two touchdowns. While Georgia controlled most of the game, UNC had a few chances to cut the lead but were unable to capitalize on their second half positions. However, the Heels put up a valiant effort against a superior Georgia team and were able to build off of the mistakes in this game.

It’s tough to beat a guy who can do this:

9. vs. Stanford (L, 23-25)

Late-season collapses against N.C. State and Duke kept the Heels out of a top-tier bowl game, so UNC fans were disappointed going into the mid-tier Sun Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. The Heels dominated the Cardinal offensively, but a stifling Stanford defense caused costly UNC turnovers, and the slow, methodical Stanford offense converted on most of their possessions. Fans were even more heartbroken when the Heels were unable to convert on a game-tying two-point conversion after a late-game touchdown drive.

It’s just demeaning to lose to this thing.

8. vs. The Citadel (W, 41-7)

The Tar Heels tore through an undefeated Citadel team with outstanding performances from Trubisky and Switzer. That being said, it’s a little embarrassing for a major conference team to play two FCS teams in a season. Plus, this was the second to last regular season game. UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham needs to step up his scheduling abilities to give the Heels a stronger resume.

To “quote” Ryan Switzer: No no no, Bubba.

7. vs. James Madison (W, 56-28)

Hey, UNC beat the future national champions! (Uh, the FCS national champions.) The Heels destroyed the Dukes through the air and on the ground. Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan combined for five rush touchdowns, while Trubisky found his favorite targets for 462 yards and three touchdowns. UNC was able to avoid the notorious early season FCS upset, and in the process saw a season-defining performance from Trubisky, the future top-drafted quarterback.

Look at that arm:

6. at Virginia (W, 35-14)

Although Virginia was hands-down the worst team in the ACC, anything can happen in conference play, especially on the road. The Tar Heels dominated the struggling Cavaliers in all facets of the game, leading to UNC’s 700th victory in program history. Students in Chapel Hill were treated to a relaxing Saturday on TV, and got to see a cool new face mask design in its first use.  

That might have been the most exciting part of this game:

5. at Illinois (W, 48-23)

After a disappointing neutral site loss to Georgia in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game, the Tar Heels were able to rebound on the road in Champaign. Elijah Hood’s two touchdowns helped UNC overcome an early deficit to the Illini, and the Heels controlled the pace of the game after the first quarter. Avoiding another early non-conference loss, the Heels were able to muster some momentum heading into conference play and kept fans hopeful for a successful season.

Actual footage from the Illinois game:

4. vs. Georgia Tech (W, 48-20)

It’s crucial to ensure a victory at Homecoming to keep students and returning alumni happy, and the Heels put on a great performance against a solid Georgia Tech team. Again, the Tar Heel defense struggled against the run, letting up nearly 400 rush yards. But they kept the Yellow Jacket ground game out of the end zone on all but one drive. Offensively, the Tar Heels strayed from their usual game plan and dominated the run game, as Elijah Hood rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns. It was refreshing for UNC fans to see the team diversify the offense and not rely so heavily on the pass game, something the Heels could not do against opponents like Virginia Tech.

Dab on them Jackets, Coach.

3. at Miami (W, 20-13)

It was anything but sunny in the Sunshine State. Despite their previous rain-soaked troubles, the Heels took an early lead against the Hurricanes behind solid offensive and defensive performances. The Heels’ defense stopped a late-game Miami comeback and secured another important conference road win against a ranked opponent. If the Heels had gone on to win easy conference games against Duke and N.C. State, who knows where they would have ended up in the postseason.

The Heels could actually win against these Hurricanes.

2. vs. Pittsburgh (W, 37-36)

While it wasn’t the upset that the Miami game was, the Tar Heels earned an important first conference victory in dramatic fashion. Pummeled by Pitt’s methodical offense and down for the majority of the game, victory felt as unlikely as making it across campus without tripping over a brick. Miraculously, the Heels mounted two successful late-game drives, capped off with a game-tying Bug Howard end zone reception with only two seconds to go. It’s safe to say many fingernails were bitten in the student section as Nick Weiler lined up to kick the game-winning extra point.

No words necessary:

1. at Florida State (W, 37-35)

This was by far the best win of the season — and a win fans will not forget for years to come. On the road against a heavily favored Seminoles team, the Heels came out swinging, taking an early 21-7 lead. However, the Heels struggled against the run again, and three Dalvin Cook touchdowns and a late-game drive put the Seminoles up one with 23 seconds to go. A few quick completions placed the Heels on the edge of field goal range with only two seconds to go. Up to kick the 54-yard attempt was Nick Weiler, who struggled throughout the past season with long field goals. But, miraculously, Weiler nailed it through the uprights, and his now-famous Tomahawk Chop mock made him forever a Tar Heel legend.

Chop chop, ‘Noles.

Payne Lubbers
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