WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – North Carolina defensive end Hilee Taylor isn't usually one for dramatic post-game comments.
But after the Tar Heels lost 37-10 to Wake Forest at Groves Stadium, even Taylor couldn't hide his disgust with the team's effort.
"It's frustrating and it's embarrassing," Taylor said. "It's the worst game we've played. We should be getting better. This week was like we went downhill."
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The Tar Heels (2-6, 1-3 in the ACC) figured to be well prepared after a week off leading up to this game.
Instead, the Demon Deacons (6-2, 4-1) were the ones who looked like they'd had the extra rest right from the start.
After a week of what coach Butch Davis called some of the best practices of the season, Carolina came out flat, and several players said they thought their effort was lacking.
That, of course, included the agitated Taylor.
"I tend to agree with a little bit of Hilee's assessment," said UNC head coach Butch Davis. "But as a coach it's up to me to make sure they are prepared and to find a way during the course of the ball game or at halftime to snap them out of it. I'm very disappointed with the way we played today."
It didn't take long things to go wrong for the Tar Heels.
On the first play of the game, UNC quarterback T.J. Yates threw an interception to Wake linebacker Aaron Curry, which set up a Demon Deacon field goal.
"It was a bad decision on my part," Yates said. "You can't start the game like that. Everything went downhill from there."
Appropriately, Curry sealed the Wake Forest victory when he intercepted Yates again in the fourth quarter and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown.
It was one of two non-offensive touchdowns in the game – the other was a 98-yard kickoff return by Kevin Marion in the second quarter – for the Demon Deacons, who lead the ACC this season with nine.
The Marion return quickly sucked any life out of the Tar Heels that might have been gained from a 38-yard Connor Barth field goal.
"It's like a dagger," Taylor said. "It kills the momentum and gives the other guys confidence."
Nothing went well for Carolina against the opportunistic Demon Deacons.
Three turnovers and a season-high nine penalties for 60 yards all but destroyed any chance the Tar Heels had to gain some sort of traction.
Five of those penalties were first-half false starts, something Davis said the team knew to be ready for because of Wake's shiftiness in the defensive front.
Being ready – and theoretically even more ready than usual thanks to the week off – didn't make a difference.
"I think we just beat ourselves today," UNC center Scott Lenahan said.
Yates established UNC freshman single-season records for passing yards and completions, but that was no consolation for a complete inability to move the ball up until a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to fullback Bobby Rome.
Even the momentum of that touchdown was short lived. Marion returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to set up a 14-yard touchdown run by Wake tailback Josh Adams.
"Wake Forest played a hell of a game, and we didn't," Yates said.
That was just one version of the same game summary offered up by several Tar Heels.
But Taylor, a senior, seemed more hurt by the performance than most. He knows there are just four more games left in his college career, and to have this kind of showing in the second half of the season was just baffling to him.
"It doesn't make sense," Taylor said. "Two weeks (to prepare). To come out like this, it's embarrassing."