UNC Football ends 2023 season with loss in Duke's Mayo Bowl

With a depleted roster, the UNC football program ended its 2023 season with a loss to West Virginia in the Duke's Mayo Bowl.
Duke's Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v West Virginia
Duke's Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v West Virginia / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

The UNC football program ended its season with a 20-point loss to West Virginia in the annual Duke's Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Final. 10. 838. UNC/WV. 30. 469

Coming into the game, we knew the Tar Heels would look a lot different, as 13 starters either opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft or to pursue opportunities elsewhere via the transfer portal.

Nonetheless, the loss had a very similar feel to what we saw in the second half of the regular season, as the year will go down as one that started with so much promise but ended with just a huge amount of disappointment.

For a game in Charlotte, you would think that the crowd would favor the UNC football program. However, similar to the players, the fans seemed to opt out as well, as the support wasn't even close to what we saw on opening weekend when the Tar Heels took on South Carolina in the same stadium.

Right away, West Virginia wasted no time getting on the board. Just 11 seconds into the game, the Mountaineers scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Greene to Traylon Ray, as West Virginia would never lose that lead it earned so early in the contest.

Conner Harrell made his first collegiate start at quarterback, replacing Drake Maye. The redshirt freshman did some good things, especially with his legs, but showed his inexperience at times, as he threw two interceptions (one in the end zone) and took six sacks. Overall, Harrell completed 18 of his 27 attempts for 199 yards and a touchdown pass while adding 25 yards on 17 attempts on the ground.

Costly mistakes hurt the Tar Heels (as we've seen essentially every week over the second half of the 2023 season).

From allowing punt returns for touchdowns to punts hitting off Tar Heel players to give the Mountaineers the ball back, North Carolina once again got in its own way. Yes, there were plenty of guys who were seeing significant playing time for the first time all season, but the UNC football program still looked like an unprepared football team, which falls solely on the coaching staff.

In this new era of college football, bowl games like these feel absolutely meaningless. Yes, they are a great opportunity for some student-athletes to get their chance to play, but it ultimately serves as a game that fans clearly have lost interest in, and could you really blame them?

The UNC football program now is in offseason mode, as Mack Brown will look to re-write the ugly end of this season to help this group improve heading into a fresh 2024 season.

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