WINSTON-SALEM — The question of whether Bryn Renner was injured or not hung over the second half, as grim and gray as the clouds that interrupted warm-ups and soaked any fan unlucky enough to leave the parking lots early.
It wasnt the uncertain health of the North Carolina quarterback that cost the Tar Heels in a 28-27 loss to Wake Forest Saturday, nor the health of another key player, running back Giovani Bernard, who didnt play at all.
The Tar Heels were undone by a classic bit of coaching from Jim Grobe and Steed Lobotzke, the Wake Forest coach and offensive coordinator, who played one of their programs themes over and over, like the guy who keeps punching up the same song on the jukebox.
From the days of Kenny Moore right on through to Chris Givens this past season, the Demon Deacons have always excelled at getting the ball to their playmakers in open positions. Wake Forest has never been overloaded with game-breaking talent, but theres usually one guy who can do it, and this season that guy is Michael Campanaro.
The white-gloved Campanaro caught 13 passes for 164 yards, carrying the Deacons during the large swaths of the game when the offense otherwise struggled.
The guy is amazing, Grobe said. Hes got a knack for getting in the creases and getting open.
Price administered the killer blow, catching the North Carolina defense off guard with a quick snap on the goal line, allowing him to squirm through for the go-ahead touchdown. A similar play late in the second half left Renner flat on his face and his status for the rest of the game uncertain.
Renner was met by Duran Lowe at the one-yard line and appeared to take the hit directly on his helmet. Renner got to his hands and knees, waved to the sideline, then collapsed on his stomach.
It was more just my ribs, Renner said. I got the wind knocked out of me. I kind of fell on the ball sideways. That was basically it.
Renner only missed one play, but struggled mightily on the next two series, getting sacked three times and fumbling the ball away, leading to a Wake Forest touchdown.
After Renner opened the second half by nearly throwing the ball straight to Wake Forests Joey Ehrmann for what would have been a certain touchdown, the Tar Heels kept the ball mostly on the ground, pressing the advantage against the Deacons decimated defensive line all-everything nose guard Nikita Whitlock missed most of the game with an ankle injury with Blue and Romar Morris doing a credible job filling in for Bernard, albeit without the same big-play threat.
Still, Fedora acknowledged that Renner didnt quite look right in the second half.
Thats one that Ive got to go back and look at myself, because I made the call at the end to put him back out there, Fedora said. We felt like he was ready to go. The medical staff felt like he was ready to go. All indications, he was. He took a pretty good lick down there. Im sure he got rattled a little bit.
Even with Renner at full strength and Bernard on the field, North Carolina may not have beaten Wake Forest too many mistakes, too many penalties, too many busted plays from a team thats still learning an offense that requires precise execution to operate at its intended speed. And neither of them would ever provide the answer for Campanaro the Tar Heels never had.
DeCock: 919-829-8947 firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @LukeDeCock,