After two consecutive losses by a combined six points, North Carolina thought it was close to getting over the hump and winning one.
Syracuse and Virginia Tech were quality opponents, and late in the fourth quarter of both games, UNC held the lead before its opponents came back to win.
But Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC), which now leads the ACC Coastal Division, had no plans of allowing this game to be close. The Tar Heels could not contain UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins. He spun in and out of tackles, and ran for first downs on third-and-short, and third-and-long plays. He finished Saturday’s game with 112 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, three passing touchdowns and helped hand the Tar Heels their sixth defeat of the season 31-21.
UNC (1-6, 1-4 ACC) has now lost four straight, and any hopes of making it to a bowl game are likely gone. UNC would have to win six games to be bowl eligible. And with four games remaining on the schedule and only one win, becoming bowl eligible is now mathematically impossible.
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UNC could add a 12th game to its schedule at the end of the season. But even then, UNC would have to end the season beating Georgia Tech, Duke, Western Carolina, N.C. State and whichever team it scheduled.
UVA never trailed in this game. Trailing by three points at halftime, UNC had a chance to take the lead. It received the ball at the start of the second half, but had a quick three-and-out.
The Cavaliers went down field and scored a touchdown four plays later to go up 24-14. UVA later increased its lead 31-14 in the fourth quarter.
UNC would add a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but never got closer than 10 points.
Junior quarterback Nathan Elliott finished the game 22-38 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. But he also had a crucial fumble late in the third quarter.
DT Aaron Crawford goes down with an injury
North Carolina junior defensive tackle Aaron Crawford, who missed last week’s game against Syracuse with a knee injury, appeared to re-injure it on Saturday against Virginia.
Crawford lay on the field for a few minutes before he was tended to by trainers. He walked off the field on his own power with a limp.
Coming into the season, Crawford was described by coaches and teammates as UNC’s best run stopper, and arguably its best defensive player. But Crawford went down with a knee injury weeks before the season. He did not return until UNC’s game against Virginia Tech two weeks ago.
In that game he played a handful of snaps.
UNC defensive coordinator John Papuchis said Crawford came back a little too early. Prior to Crawford’s re-injury, he had played two snaps.
UNC’s defense has struggled stopping the run this season. Opponents average 188.5 yards per game against the Tar Heels.