UNC vs. Ohio St. Live Blog: Big Ten-ACC Challenge

Tonight, the Tar Heels play the first of two true road tests this week, as they face the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus tonight as part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Obviously, this isn’t the same Buckeyes team who played in the Final Four last year (most notably without Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Daequan Cook, and Ron Lewis), and whom UNC beat 98-89 last year in Chapel Hill; however, they bring some star freshmen players such as center Kosta Koufos, and bring back talented upperclassmen like point guard Jamar Butler and forward Othello Hunter. Against a inconsistent Tar Heels squad, Carolina needs to be on upset alert tonight.

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9:34 pm: 13-13. Sorry…some tchnical difficulties at the worst possible time. But we’re up and running.

Ellington is left open for a three to give UNC a 16-13 lead.

9:36 pm: 18-13, UNC. Deon Thompson gets an easy shot inside, forcing Ohio State to take a timeout. After UNC started slow, they have outscored the Buckeyes 12-4.

9:38 pm: Michigan State clobbered NC State tonight. Either the Spartans are scary good this year, or NC State was a bit overhyped this year. I think this may be an aberration, but it certainly looks like the Wolfpack aren’t as effective a team without Engin Atsur.

9:41 pm: Hansbrough is struggling on offense to start the game. The Buckeyes have done a good job of keeping him in check.

9:42 pm: 18-15, UNC. After a Butler layup, Koufos get two straight blocks on UNC shots, the second one on Hansbrough.

9:43 pm: 18-17, UNC. How is Othello Hunter left that open inside?

9:44 pm: 21-20, UNC. Ellington hits the three, but the Buckeyes respond immediately.

9:45 pm: 23-21, OSU. Diebler hits a three from what looked like 27 feet out. A huge momentum swing, as the Buckeyes take back the lead.

9:51 pm: 27-23, UNC. Koufos spent time on the bench, and the Heels took advantage. Ellington hits a floater in the lane to take the lead, and then Hansbrough dunks over Hunter to give UNC a four point lead.

9:53 pm: 27-26, UNC. Diebler hits another open three. He’s caught fire tonight.

9:54 pm: Butler blows by Ellington, and he gets the layup and the foul. 29-27, OSU.

9:55 pm: A great pass to hansbrough, who finishes with authority. 29-29.

9:56 pm: Insane. Diebler starts 2-24 from 3 to start the season, and he decides to end his slump against us. his buzzer-beater off the glass gives Ohio State a 32-29 lead at halftime. UNC has not been running at their normally fast pace, and they’ve een taking bad shots. No Ty Lawson at point guard always hurts, but no one outside of Hansbrough and Ellington is getting much of anything done on offense. To win in the second half, Someone else needs to come up big on offense, the Heels need to improve their rebounding, and someone has to guard Diebler at all times.

10:13 pm: The second half starts, as Ohio State’s defense continues to confuse the Tar Heels.

10:14 pm: Ginyard hits a floater in the paint, but Jamar Butler hits a three on the other end.

10:15 pm: Where is Quentin Thomas? In the absence of Lawson, He’s much better at running the transition than Frasor.

10:16 pm: Ellington falls hard on the floor, and he’s shaken up.

The good about the Ohio State Student section: their unique way of distracting the free throw shooter.

The bad about the Ohio State student section: their chants. “YOU-CAN’T DO-THAT!” clap-clap-clapclapclap…

10:19 pm: Hansbrough ties the game at 35 with a three point play.

10:19 pm: Koufos hits his first shot of the game to take a 39-37 lead, but Ginyard ties the game 10 seconds later.

The Buckeyes still aren’t allowing the Tar heels to play their transition game.

10:23 pm: What a steal by Ellington, who gets it to Q, who finds Ginyard for the layup and the foul. See? Quentin Thomas enters the game, and the pace picks up immediately.

10:24 pm: Othello Hunter with a big block on Danny Green. 42-39, UNC.

10:26 pm: What was Green thinking throwing that pass?

Carolina has some serious issues on the defensive boards. They just gave Ohio State four different opportunities in the paint, and now Hunter is at the line.

10:28 pm: Deon Thompson gets a huge dunk on the offensive rebound. Where has he been all game?

Ellington hits a three pointer off the gall on the next possession to make it 47-40, UNC.

10:31 pm: Thompson gets another offensive rebound, and he gets a shot off of the glass. UNC now has a 49-40 lead, the biggest margin of the game.

10:35 pm: Thompson hits another one, this time a mid-range jumper. He’s finally come into his own tonight.

10:36 pm: Deon gets another defensive rebound, and then he hits a hook jumper to give UNC a double digit lead. Thompson now has 12 points and 5 rebounds, as the Tar Heels may have figured out this zone.

10;38 pm: Now it’s the Tar heels defense that’ seems to be giving the Buckeyes fits, but it looks like no one on the court outside of Thompson can hit their shots right now.

10:40 pm: Or, maybe not. Deon’s free throws were ugg-lee, and we’re still at 53-42 with less than 8 minutes left.

10:44 pm: Why wasn’t there anyone behind Hansbrough for him to dump the ball and restart the offense.

10:45 pm: Ellington hits a nice jumper on the right side. 55-43, UNC, as absolutely no shots are falling for Ohio State.

10:43 pm: Hansbrough with the tough shot in the middle. He has 13 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heels have a 14 point lead with less than 6 minutes left.

10:47 pm: Ohio State’s drought is broken by–guess who?–Jon Diebler. 57-46, UNC.

10:48 pm: Lighty hits a three, Diebler gets a dunk, and suddenly the Buckeyes are within 6, getting 8 points in 54 seconds, but who cares? I just found out that Roy Williams is a Yankees fan! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

10:49 pm: Thompson stops the bleeding, but Othello Hunter scores on a putback. 59-53, UNC, with 3:52 left. How did the Heels let Ohio State back into this game so quickly.

10:53 pm: The Heels do nothing for 30 seconds, and then Ellington simply drains the three with a guy in his face. 62-53, UNC.

10:54 pm: Uh-oh. Hansbrough missed his last three free throws. Is he out of gas?

10:56 pm: Diebler with the tough dunk, but he lands awkwardly on his elbow. UNC takes advantage on the other end with an easy shot. 64-55, UNC.

10:57 pm: Inside the paint, UNC and OSU have been playing the last few minutes like a football game rather than a basketball game.

10:59 pm: 64-55, UNC, 35 seconds left. After Diebler misses a three, Ellington gets a rebound, and that should about seal this game.

11:01 pm: The game is over, and UNC wins, 66-55. Aside from the quick 10-2 run with about 5-6 minutes left, Ohio State could not get anything done on offense in the second half. The Tar heels dominated the end of the game, outscoring them 28-11 until the Buckeyes run. Ellington and Thompson really stepped up, which they will need to do throughout the season for Carolina to live up to expectations. Overall, this was an important road win for the Tar Heels as they develop throughout the season.

Dook Week: The Battle For Who Sucks Less

Yep, that pretty much sums up this matchup in the post-Mack era. As much as we would like to say that we were thisclose to a 9-2 record to this point (and we were), the fact remains that we’re 3-8 coming into this matchup against 1-11 Duke. However, the good news is that a win would still place us ahead of Miami in the ACC Coastal Division to end the year. So there’s that motivation for the team to win big and for fans to go to the game…along with the consequences to modern civilization as we know it if we lose to Duke in Kenan Stadium.

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National Champions

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The UNC Field hockey team finished their perfect season today, beating Penn State 3-0 in National Final in College Park, Md. to secure their fifth national championship and only the fifth time in Division I history that a field hockey team has gone undefeated. Congratulations to the Tar Heels.

UNC vs. Georgia Tech Live Blog: Hey, At Least We Don’t Have to Travel to Boise on New Year’s Eve

Last week’s loss to NC State took us out of bowl contention, but this game is still important for several reasons. First, the Tar Heels could still finish in the top half of the ACC Coastal division with a win today and against Duke. Second, the Heels could use some momentum when going into the offseason, the recruiting schedule, and next year’s spring practice. Third is an interesting stat you may have suspected, but not quite realized: Since the departure of Mack Brown, in a full decade of football North Carolina has only won 1 conference game out-of-state: a 38-3 victory at Clemson in 2001, when the likes of Julius Peppers, Ronald Curry, Darian Durant, Sam Aiken, Kory Bailey, Willie Parker, Ryan Sims, Sedrick Hodge, Dexter Reid, and Joey Evans (remember that guy?) ended Woody Dantzler’s Heisman hopes in Death Valley. I remember that game because Dantzler had such a bad day that on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, he was hit in the back of the head by his backup’s errant warmup throw.

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But back to my point. Aside from the picture above, all other ACC road wins in the post-Mack era have been against intra-state opponents (Wake, Duke, and NC State). A win today over the Yellow Jackets, believe it or not, would be a true statement game for the future of this program.

12:10 pm: UNC wins the toss, and they will kick off to start the game, which means T.J. Yates will definitely not turn the ball over in the first minute of the game.

12:14 pm: 3-and out! The UNC defense steps up with two sacks, the latest by Aleric Mullins, and Carolina actually some momentum to start a game. They will start at the 39 after GT’s punt.

12:15 pm: Greg Little is starting at tailback. An odd move, but his speed could be just what we need to jump start the running game.

12:16 pm: The Heels start with two short passes. yates throws a quick pass to Brandon Tate, and he fights his way to a first down.

12;17 pm: Greg Littles first carry is about as successful as most of our carries this season.

12:18 pm: Play action to the left side, and Yates finds Tate again. He runs out of bounds inside the 30, and UNC has a first down in scoring range.

12:19 pm: After a sack for a short loss, Yates finds Bobby Rome in the flat, but it’s still 3rd and 7 from the 25.

12:20 pm: T.J. Yates, for the love of all things football, THROW IT AWAY! You;re lucky the defender stepped out of bounds, or else that would have been another pick.

Connor Barth kicks the field goal, and UNC is up 3-0. This entire sentence is in bold because it’s a miracle for us to have a lead in the first quarter. Honest.

12:25 pm: Tech finally give the ball to all-ACC running back Tashard Choice, and he gets big run for a first down.

12:26 pm: Wow. A wide receiver was wide open for a touchdown, but Taylor Bennett badly overthrew it.

12:27 pm: Bennett runs the play action, and he throws…to no one in particular. The Jackets are forced to punt. Carolina will start at the 20 after a touchback.

12:30 pm: Greg Little gets the screen pass and runs for a first down. His next carry out of the backfield gets 5 yards.

12:32 pm: Hakeem Nicks, you cannot drop that pass. If you made that catch, it wasn’t just a first down, it might have been a touchdown. Instead, the Heels must punt.

12:37 pm: Tech runs the play action again. This time Bennett finds a wide open Demerius Thomas on the right side for 13 yards.

12:38 pm: UNC blitzes…and Choice makes them pay with a long run.

12:41 pm: How is Thomas wide open again? All he has to do is make the catch on 3rd and 7, and the Jackets have a first down at the UNC 21.

12:45 pm: Just when I think UNC is going to have a tie or lead to end the first quarter…Choice takes the direct snap motions toward the line of scrimmage, steps back, and finds an open Taylor bennett for a TOUCHDOWN. With 9 seconds left in the first, Georgia Tech leads 7-3.

12:49 pm: The first quarter ends with Greg Little getting a huge run to the outside. Along with the squib kick, the run will put UNC in enemy territory to start the second quarter. Georgia Tech leads, 7-3 after one quarter.

12:52 pm: Yates passes to a wide open Hakeem Nicks, and only the sidelines prevent a touchdown. First and goal at the 3 yard line.

12:54 pm: The Heels are stuffed on two run plays. It’s third and goal at the 1.

12:54 pm: QUINN DROPS IT! QUINN DROPS IT! Yates throws the touchdown pass, and Quinn had it in his hands. He looked away, and it fell out of his hands.

12:55 pm: UNC goes for it on fourth down. Yates throws under pressure and it’s incomplete. After a very nice drive, UNC comes up empty. Unbelieveable. I like the decision to go for it, but you’re telling me that this team can’t get three yards in four chances?

12:58 pm: The defense forces a 3-and-out deep in GT territory, but the Jackets punt it 76 yards to put UNC inside their own 20. That punt was incredible.

1:01 pm: Nicks gets the first down on the opening play of the drive, making a diving catch on the sidelines.

1:03 pm: Yates completes the pass on third down fo 20 yards. The only problem is, they needed 22. The Heels have to punt.

1:07 pm: After the opening drives, the UNC defensive line hasn;t put much pressure on Taylor Bennett, who finds Thomas open along the sidelines again.

1:10 pm: FUMBLE! Bennett tries to run for the first down, but Trimane Goddard strips the ball loose, and Darrius Powell recovers for North Carolina close to midfield. Bennett was holding the ball much too far from his body.

1:13 pm: Just when we get an opportunity, we immediately turn the ball back over, putting the Jackets inside the UNC 25 yard line. It was the result of a terrible pitch, but Little tried ti pick it up instead of falling on it, and even worse, Yates didn’t even try to get to the loose ball. A very frustrating play from start to finish.

1:17 pm: A holding penalty takes Tech out of field goal range, but an pass to Colin Peek up the middle put them back into field goal range. Georgia Tech leads, 10-3 after the kick goes through the uprights.

1:20 pm: Brandon Tate returns the kick to the 48 yard line, and is now the all-time ACC leader in kickoff return yardage. Congratulations to Brandon.

1;23 pm: Yates finds Nicks slanting up the middle, and he runs all the way down to the 7 yard line. He’s also lucky that he didn’t fumble, as there were three defenders trying to strip the ball away.

1:24 pm: After two short runs, Carolina calls a timeout before third and goal at the 3.

1:27 pm: Yates throws a fade route, and and is nearly picked off for a second time today. This time the Tar Heels opt for a field goal. Carolina trails, 10-6 as their third down woes continue.

1:29 pm: Connor Barth calls a timeout on a kickoff. ON A KICKOFF. Now I’ve seen everything.

1:33 pm: Mike Hogewood, I will not let you downplay our incompetence. It’s FIVE losses by seven points or less, not four.

1:35 pm: Georgia Tech runs the clock out, and heads into halftime with a 10-6 lead. We’ve kept it close in the first half. Considering previous starts to our games this season, that’s all we could ask for.

1:58 pm: UNC gets the ball at the 5 yard line to start the game, after a flag on the opening kickoff return, which invariably means a holding or block in the back.

2:00 pm: After a first down on two plays, Hakeem Nicks takes the quick pass and gets a huge gain after the catch. First down at the 36.

2:01 pm: Yates tries the deep pass to Nicks. This time Burnett breaks the play up.

2:02 pm: That is the third near-interception for Yates in this game. Someone must be watching over him today to stop those three interceptions. In the red zone, not so much.

2:03 pm: Tate makes the catch, but he makes the mistake of stepping out of bounds. Another mistake means that the Tar Heels have to punt.

2:08 pm: Bennett fires a deep ball to Greg Smith for a huge gain, as the Tar Hells leave him all kinds of time.

2:09 pm: FUMBLE! Choice is stripped of the ball, and Durrell Mapp recovers inside the GT 40. Carolina now must take advantage on offense.

2:10 pm: A delay of game is inexcusable. I don’t care who you are.

2:11 pm: Zack Pianalto makes a great football play. he was tackled at the 35, but he dragged the defender five yards down the field to move the chains. That’s just hard-nosed football.

2:14 pm: Dammit. This always happens. UNC is driving down the field, it;s 2nd an 1, and then Yates fumbles the snap on second down, and overthrows Pianalto on 3rd and 2. We’ve had 3 third-and short situations today, each time we’ve passed, and each time the pass was incomplete. I know our running game has been bad this season, but is it really that bad? Little has had a pretty good game on the ground. At the very least, run a play action.

Anyway, it’s 10-9, Georgia Tech after the field goal.

2:18 pm: Taylor Bennett is very lucky; Kendric Burney should have picked off that ball.

UNC’s defensive line putting pressure on that play reminds me: where has Marvin Austin been all day?

2:19 pm: Corey Earls was open deep, but the ball fell out of his hands. Tech will be forced to punt as we reach the midway point in the third quarter.

2:23 pm: UNC will get the ball at the 31 yard line. Brooks Foster takes the opening screen pass and gets the first down on a nice run.

2:24 pm: UNC passes to Foster on the flat, and the Tar Heels get their first third down conversion of the game.

2:25 pm: Tech blitzes, and Yates just dumps the ball to Bobby Rome for another first down.

2:28 pm: T.J. Yates throws the ball away on 2nd and 9. A small miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.

2:29 pm: SACK! The blitz pays off, putting UNC out of potential field goal range and possibly a 12-10 lead.

2:30 pm: Tashard Choice gets a nice run up the middle on first down for about 12 yards.

2:32 pm: Choice has gone over 100 yards rushing for the day.

2:33 pm: Where does Bennett keep finding wide open receivers while getting almost no pressure from the defensive line?

2:34 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Bennett throws deep, and he finally connects with Greg Smith deep in the end zone. Georgia Tech leads, 17-9 with less than a minute left in the 3rd quarter.

2:36 pm: Georgia Tech squib kicks again, trying to avoid Brandon Tate.

2:38 pm: Greg Little gets a huge 38 yard run into the red zone to end the third quarter. Georgia Tech leads 17-9 through three quarters, but UNC is knocking on the door, and a touchdown and two-point conversion ties this game.

2:41 pm: They’re going to review this play, but Hakeem Nicks appears to have a touchdown catch from Yates. Remember, only one foot needs to be in, and Nicks seems to have it.

2:44 pm: The call stands, TOUCHDOWN!

2:45 pm: The two point conversion is no good after T.J. Yates throws what looked like the weakest pass I may have ever seen a college quarterback throw in a game. Bad call, bad execution, but UNC finally gets the touchdown from a much better call and play. 17-15, Georgia Tech, and there’s plenty of time left.

2:48 pm: UNC has an opportunity to take momentum, and what do they do? They allow GT’s other QB’ Josh Nesbitt, to destroy them on two consecutive play, the last a deep pass to Greg Smith for a TOUCHDOWN. It took the Yellow Jackets exactly 20 seconds to turn this from a two point game into a two possession game. What happened to our defense?

2:54 pm: UNC’s drive: Sack, sack, incompletion, punt. Georgia Tech will get good field position and a chance to put this game away. Either Georgia Tech has suddenly woken up or UNC has suddenly fallen asleep. I’m inclined to say it’s the former.

2:59 pm: The Tar Heels force fourth down at the 35 yard line. Travis Bell will try a 52 yard field goal.

3:00 pm: Bell fakes the field goal, pooch punts, and Deunta Williams returns it to the 45 yard line.

3:02 pm: Yates finds Nicks again, and he gets a huge gain running up the middle and breaking a few tackles. Suddenly, the Heels are in the red zone.

3:03 pm: Dear Raycom/Lincoln Financial Sports: Please purchase new sound equipment. Thank you. Sincerely, Tar Heel Mania.

3:05 pm: On third down, Yates runs the play action, and throws it to…no one in particular. The Heels will settle for another field goal.

3:06 pm: Barth hits it down the middle, and Georgia Tech’s lead is down to 24-18. With 8:40 left in the game, it’s imperative that the Tar Heels stop the Jackets offense and find a way to stop Nesbitt.

3:09 pm: FUMBLE! Nesbitt fumbles, and there to recover is Aleric Mullins at the 32. Mullins has had a monster game today.

3:10 pm: Congratulations to T.J. Yates, who today passed the UNC all-time record for passing yards in a season.

3:11 pm: A holding penalty negates what appeared to be a touchdown pass to Tate in the back of the endzone, but Yates had crossed the line of scrimmage.

3:12 pm: Uh-oh, UNC faces 3rd down and 18 from the 40. The pass is incomplete, and the Tar Heels are forced to punt after recovering a fumble in field goal range. There might have been pass interference, though; On the past two plays, Nicks was stumbling behind the path of the ball.

3:16 pm: ANOTHER FUMBLE! This time UNc recovers at the 2 yard line. UNC, if you don’t get in now, you never will.

3:17 pm: First Down: Run to Elzy, down to the one.

3:18 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Anthony Elzy finally punches one in for the Tar Heels, who take advantage of a costly fumble. With the extra point, UNC now takes a 25-24 lead with 5:50 left.

3:22 pm: After a big kickoff return, and another throw up the middle to Greg Smith from Bennett, Georgia Tech is in field goal range with less than 4:30 left in this game.

3:24 pm: UNC keeps the Jackets just short of a first down and…wait a minute…BELL SHANKED THE KICK! HE SHANKED IT! AND UNC STILL HAS THE LEAD, with 2:31 left!

3:27 pm: UNC runs two plays to Greg Little , who’s stuffed both times. The only advantage is that Georgia Tech has burned their final two timeouts, but now UNC faces a third and long. Do you try to go for the first and risk stopping the clock, or do you run it and kill 40 seconds?

3;28 pm: The Tar Heels elect to run the clock. Georgia Tech will get the ball back, but Terence Brown shanks the punt for only 30 yards, and the Jackets will start at midfield.

3:30 pm: Taylor throws deep up the middle, but two defenders break it up.

3:31 pm: Bennett finds Colin Peek at the 38, and Choice runs it to the 31. Georgia Tech is now in field goal range.

3:32 pm: Choice runs the ball again, and this time he runs out of bounds inside the 25.

3:33 pm: Travis Bell will get another chance from near point blank range, 33 yards.

3:37 pm: the kick is good. Georgia Tech takes a 27-25 lead with 15 seconds left. If UNC kicks the field goal instead of going for it on the 1 yard line, UNC still has a lead.

3:39 pm: Tate catches the ball and goes out of bounds at the 46 yard line. UNC tries the 63-yard field goal, but it’s blocked. Georgia Tech wins, 27-25. UNC is young team; however, I think this loss is on the coaches. It was their decision to go for it on fourth down. It was their decision to run three straight up the middle runs that got nowhere with two minutes left, instead of trying to get the first down. It was their decision to run play-action pass plays in obvious passing downs. I really don’t put this loss on the players (except maybe Richard Quinn or Terence Brown). The on-field execution is on the players, but the play call decisions are on the coaches. I don’t feel that Carolina’s coaches did their best job of playcalling today.

 

Now, I’m Not Sayin’…

I’m just sayin’.

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The stats, from 2 exhibition games:

Quentin Thomas: 24 minutes, 6 assists (10 A/40 min.), 2 turnovers (~4 TO/40), 3:1 ratio.

Ty Lawson: 46 minutes: 9 assists (~8 A/40), 7 turnovers (~6 TO/40) 1.3:1 ratio.

And so it begins again, my petition to get Quentin Thomas, our best pure passer, more playing time at point guard in his senior year. Sure, these were two meaningless exhibition games…and Ty Lawson had 25 points and 6 steals in addition to the above stats…and Q scored exactly 1 field goal in these two games…and a now-healthy Bobby Frasor statistically blew Q out of the sky…wait…oh crap.

But all of that doesn’t matter, because this petition exists in its own reality, and that reality says that Thomas is a talented enough point guard, and his passing ability justifies 10 minutes of playing time per game this season behind Lawson.

The Difference between Virginia and North Carolina

Both North Carolina and Virginia were not expected to have good seasons in the ACC Coastal. Both teams were coming off of disappointing seasons and coaching turmoils. Both teams are composed of nearly 50% freshmen. And both teams have had seven games decided by seven points or less, including their contest against each other. UVa is 6-1 in those games, including a 22-20 victory in kenan Stadium; UNC is 2-5. All of those games could have just as easily gone the other way, and it could be the 3-7 Tar Heels, and not the 9-2 Cavaliers, who would be in control of their conference destiny. So, what has been the difference between the nation’s worst ranked team and the nation’s best bowl ineligible team? Let’s find out.

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  • Over by the half: This year, the Tar Heels have been notorious for digging themselves into deep holes early in games, only to come back and fall short late. However, I didn’t know what Virginia had done early in games. In their 14 combined close contests this season, these two teams are 6-1 when leading or tied at halftime, and 1-6 when trailing after two quarters. The only exceptions to this trend are Virginia’s 18-17 victory over Maryland, when the Cavs trailed 10-7 at the midway point of their game with the Terps, and UNC’s game with East Carolina, a 17-17 tie at the half.
  • Coughing it up: Another frustrating trend for North Carolina this season has been turnovers at the worst possible moments. As expected, UNC has a turnover margin of -6 in their close games, and -8 in their five losses. However, Virginia had a TO margin of -1 in their close matchups, and the only game in which they won the turnover battle was against the Tar Heels (+3). Taking away the head-to-head game, the difference is only one turnover. However, volume of turnovers could tell a different story. North Carolina committed 16 turnovers in their 7 close games, 13 when subtracting the head-to-head matchup and 12 in their 5 losses. That is more than 2 turnovers per game. Virginia has allowed 10 turnovers in their 7 games, including 8 in their 6 wins, and did not turn it over against the Tar Heels. So, the ultimate difference between these two teams is approximately one turnover per game. Exactly as I suspected.
  • Run, (insert random tailback), run!:  Another big knock on this team is their inability to run the football (108th in the nation). Looking at the statistics, and it’s pretty clear that Virginia isn’t a good running team either (88th). So this is a wash. Perhaps a better indication would be run defense. North Carolina was actually somewhat respectable in this department, allowing 129.3 yards per game in their 7 close matchups, slightly better than their season average and good for 39th in the nation. Virginia, conversely, averaged 105.7 yards rushing allowed in their 7 close games, good for 18th in the nation. A difference of less than 24 yards, it still may be statistically significant, but it’s not as reliable an indicator as our first two criteria.
  • Send in the punt team: Believe it or not, 3rd down defense is one stat in which UNC has an advantage over Virginia, 36.4% to 40.4%. The difference, however, in in 3rd down offense. Virginia is 37.9% (46 of 116) on third down in their seven close games, including 36.4% in their games not involving the Tar Heels. That’s only good for a tie for 73rd in the nation, not very good by any stretch of the imagination. But UNC’s terrible running games also leads to them having one of the worst 3rd down percentages in the nation on third down, 29.7% in their 7 close games and an atrocious 26.1% conversion rate without the UVa game. Only Florida International has a worse overall conversion percentage.

  • Mi Agüita Amarilla: Penalties are where the discrepancy may be the widest, and Carolina has seen a lot of yellow in close games. Again subtracting the head-to-head matchup, Virginia has 32 penalties in 6 close games good for 20th in the nation in fewest penalties per game. UNC however, committed 49 penalties in their matchups decided by a touchdown or less, good for…112th. Not good.

So what did we learn? In these close games, UNC got behind early, turned the ball over, committed too many penalties, and couldn’t run the ball or convert a third down to save their souls, whereas Virginia…pretty much did the exact opposite of those things. Yes, it turns out the mystery behind Virginia’s ability to win close games, and North Carolina’s lack thereof, is little mystery at all. Heels fans should not get discouraged; this is a very young and inexperienced team, and if any one of these statistics had come in our favor, It would the UNC competing for the Coastal division. In the future, I will expect the Tar Heels to win these close games in 2008 and beyond.

UNC. vs. NC State Live Blog

As I said before in the preview, This game is important for both teams not only for bragging rights, but to keep bowl hopes alive. This game will likely come down to who plays better defense, who can protect the football, and our team’s ability when T.J. Yates does this:

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11:57: College Gameday gave their picks for this game. Lee Corso: Boooooooooooo…. Kirk Herbstreit: Yeeeeeaahhhhhhh!!!

12:11 pm: Carolina gets the ball to start the game, and will begin their offense at the 19 yard line.

12:12 pm: Johnny White starts at RB, and gets the handoff on first down. He’s stopped for a 1 yard gain.

12:13 pm: INTERCEPTION! Yates throws a floater into double coverage, and the safety gets an easy pick. Once again, we do exactly what we cannot do to start the game.

12:14 pm: Evans throws a decent screen pass, but NC State faces 3rd and short.

12:15 pm: Evans escapes the pocket, and once again finds the fullback to the left side, and he falls forward for a first down.

12:17 pm: SACK! The Heels put the pressure on Evans, and he’s eventually brought down at the 27 yard line by Durell Mapp.

12:18 pm: Evans completes to Marcus Stone, but it’s well short of a first down. The Wolfpack settle for a field goal. NC State leads, 3-0. Considering the interception, UNC is lucky to only be down three.

12:22 pm: UNC runs it again on first down. Bobby Rome goes nowhere.

12:23 pm: Yates has time, and fires a bullet to Greg Little in the middle for a first down.

12:24 pm: White gets the handoff again. This time he gets a decent 4 yard gain.

On second down, Yates’ quick pass to Richard Quinn is too high.

12:25 pm: Yates hits Pianalto in the flat, but the Wolfpack hit in the open field in what appears to be just short of the first down. Will UNC go for it on fourth down at midfield?

12:26 pm: The Heels decide to punt it away on fourth and short, NC State takes over inside the 15.

12:30 pm: NC State runs two sweeps, and Jamelle Eugene gets two big runs. a completion to Blackman brings the Wolfpack to midfield in just three plays.

12:32 pm: right now, NC State are getting big run plays by running the ball away from the blitz, where UNC is leaving big holes in their defense. Als, UNC, defenders aren;t wrapping up when they tackle.

12:35 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Jamelle Eugene and the NC State offensive line overpower the UNC defense, and Eugene breaks the plane of the end zone. Pending review, NC State has a two-score lead in the first quarter. Once again, the Tar Heels have allowed themselves to get hit in the mouth to start a game. 10-0, NC State.

12:40 pm: A flag on UNC’s kick return, which almost invariably means a holding/block in the back.

12:41 pm: Yates rolls out on the play action, and he finds Hakeem Nicks open down field for a first down.

12:42 pm: White gets into the secondary, but the safety makes a good open field tackle for a four yard gain.

12:43 pm: Yates finds a wide open Brooks Foster on the blitz, and he gets big yardage after the catch before being brought down at the NCSU 34.

12:44 pm: Yates goes deep to Hakeem Nicks, but it’s just out of Hakeem Nicks’ reach. That could have been six.

12:45 pm: Yates overthrows Foster on third down, and UNC face fourth down at the the 35. They try the field goal…and it’s wide left. NC State still leads 10-0, and now they have great field position.

12;47 pm: Wait…I knew that secondary was thin on the depth chart, but Richie Rich is playng DB?

The first quarter ends, the Wolfpack leading 10-0. This position has been all too familiar to us this season.

12:50 pm: Another pass and catch to Marcus Stone off the play action. Evans has hit his lat 10 passes.

12:56 pm: DE Bruce Carter bats down the pass by Evans. One of UNC’s few good defensive plays so far.

12:57 pm: The Wolfpack just plain want it more right now. Once again UNC had a chance to stop the offense, and Eugene overpowers the tacklers for the first down.

12:58 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Jamelle Eugene overpowers another tackler who doesn’t wrap him up, and rumbles in for the score. NC State leads 17-0. What on earth is wrong with this team in the first half this season?

1:02 pm: is Anthony Elzy injured? He’s responsible for two of our three best rushing performances this season, and he has yet to even see the field.

1:03 pm: They try the end around to Brandon Tate, but he’s chased out of bounds before he can make any ground.

1:04 pm: Yates finds Brooks Foster, but he’s well short of the first down, UNC is forced to punt.

1:05 pm: After a few missed tackles, Darell Blackman gets a huge return inside the 30 yard line. Only Charles Brown saves the touchdown.

1:10 pm: INTERCEPTION GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGGO TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!! Daniel Evans thorws it right into the hands of Charles Brown, and he returns it 92 yards the other way to the endzone. NC State leads, 17-7, but UNC gets exactly the big momentum swing they needed. If Evans had completed that ball, it would have been over at 24-0. But now UNC is back in this game.

1:14 pm: Kendric Burney breaks up the pass intended for Blackman.

1:16 pm: UNC breaks up the pass again, forcing a punt. The punt is partially blocked, and the Heels will start at the NCSU 41.

1:17 pm: Greg Little dive for the catch 8 yards out on first down, but Bobby Rome is stuffed toe set up 3rd and 2.

1:18 pm: The Heels get their first third down conversion, a 4 yard gain up the middle.

1:19 pm: Brandon Tate was double covered, but Yates threaded the needle, and Tate almost made the catch in the endzone.

Yates overthorws Foster in the flat again. 3rd and 10, and they at least need some yardage for a possible field goal.

1:20 pm: The Wolfpack put the pressure on, forcing the incomplete pass. Connor Barth kicks the field goal down the middle, and suddenly the game is 17-10, a one score game.

1:25 pm: Evans complete the pass into a crowd of defenders on third down, finding his tight end.

1:26 pm: NC State gets a huge reception, but it’s called back with a holding call.

1:27 pm: Either Jamelle Eugene is one of the strongest runners I’ve seen all season, or the Heels defense are amnesic about wrapping up when they tackle.

1:28 pm: Evans completes another pass for a first down, and the Wolfpack offense seems to be clicking once again.

1:30 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Two play action fakes by the Pack lead to two wide open catches, the last of which is a touchdown catch by Marcus Stone. NC State leads, 24-10.

1:35 pm: Yates finds Johnny White for a first down in field goal range, but the pass is called back with a holding call. In addition, a sack on the next play puts UNC behind the original line of scrimmage to start the drive.

1:37 pm: Yates is sacked again with less than 20 seconds left in the half, and the Heels will be forced to punt. NC State calls a timeout with 13 seconds left, hoping too get a big return before halftime.

1:40 pm: Brown pins the Wolfpack down at the 1 yard line, but there are only 2 seconds left.

1:41 pm: Evans tries a QB sneak to end the half. UNC leads 24-10 at halftime. NC State is dominating this game on offense, as Jamelle Eugene is having a big day against a defense that has been making bad plays at the worst possible time. They’ll need to shut down the Wolfpack on defense and do something on offense to have any hope of coming back. If not for the Charles Brown interception this game would be a blowout.

2:12 pm: UNC’s defense forces a punt on the opening possession, but they can’t do anything with it. Terence Brown’s punt goes 52 yards without a return. The offense has continued to be rather disappointing.

2:16 pm: The Defense get s the Wolfpack to go three and out, putting pressure on Evans the entire possession. After the short punt, UNC will have the ball near midfield, with a chance to make this a one score game again…assuming that the offense can wake up from their slumber at this point.

2:20 pm: TOUCHDOWN CAROLINA! The Heels hand the ball off to Bobby Rome, and he throws a deep pass to a wide open Brandon Tate, who waltzes into the end zone. The game is 24-17, and the Heels are very much back in this game with 23 minutes to play. A near perfect time for the Heels to run that trick play, and now the defense of the Pack will be forced to stay honest.

2:23 pm: Eugene drops the pass on second down. The Pack are forced into a third and long.

2:24 pm: SACK! Evans rolls out, but Hilee Taylor chases him down, forcing another 3-and-out. The wind kills the punt, and UNC will start at the UNC 40 with a chance to tie.

2:27 pm: I don’t know, but I’m getting the impression that Brandon Tate isn’t running full speed on his routes. He’s giving full effort, but he’s mistiming the route.

2:28 pm: Yates, what are you doing? You need to get into scoring range, but you dump to your back at the original line of scrimmage on third and long. Either throw it away and keep room for the punt, or go for the first down.

2:29 pm: NC State drops another pass. This time it’s Blackman.

2:31 pm: Evans succumbs to the pressure again, and UNC forces their third consecutive punt.

2:32 pm: UNC comes dangerously close to roughing the kicker, but UNC gets the ball back.

2:33 pm: Two nice plays to start the drive. First, Pianalto is wide open for a first down on the flat, and Elzy gets his first carry of the game, an 8 yard gain.

2:34 pm: Bobby Rome drops the low pass on third and short, but Butch Davis decides to go for it.

2:35 pm: They run the same play, and this time Rome makes the catch for the first down.

2:36 pm: Hakeem Nicks falls down just before the throw gets to him.

2:37 pm: Yates scrambles, and he find Pianalto to the right side again. First down, Carolina at the 11.

2:38 pm: OH! Yates makes another great throw, and Nicks makes the catch, but couldn’t hang onto it long enough for the touchdown.

2:41 pm: UNC tries the short pass to Nicks, but he goes nowhere. NC State leads, 24-17, at the end of the third quarter, and Connor Barth will try the field goal to start the fourth. The defense tightened up when they had to, and UNC’s offense has finally arrived to the game.

2:44 pm: The field goal is good. The game is now 24-20.

2:47 pm: Bowens gets a huge return, but a dumb block in the back brings the ball back inside their own 5 yard line.

2:50 pm: Evans comes under pressure, and Burney’s good coverage prevents a big gain.

2:51 pm: Evans rolls out on third down, and he finds Bowens, who fights for the first down and gets past the marker.

2:52 pm: The defense simply cannot allow Jamelle Eugene to take over this game again.

2:53 pm: The defensive line for Carolina is simply getting dominated on this possession.

2:54 pm: Evans works the play action again, and he finds Marcus Stone in a gap in the defense.

2:56 pm: INTERCEPTION GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO TOUCHDOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNN!!!! UNC DOES IT AGAIN! The screen pass is tipped by Mapp, Kendric Burney catches it, and he returns it all the way for the score! UNC takes the 27-24 lead! What a turn of events! The defense comes up huge with two interceptions returned for touchdowns today.

3:01 pm: SACK! Evans tries to pump fake. Kentwan Balmer doesn’t buy it.

3:04 pm: SACK! Hilee Taylor chases him down again, this time getting his 10th sack of the season and forcing another UNC punt. The Tar Heels are now in unfamiliar territory: in the fourth quarter, with a slim lead. Let’s see what they do.

3:06 pm: Johnny White gets a huge gain on the screen, but it turns out that a block in the back sprung it. The play is negated.

3:08 pm: Little gets a pass in the flat, but he only gets a short gain. 3rd and long.

3:09 pm: NOOOOOOO!!! Kyle Jolly gets beat on Yates’ blind side, the ball is jarred out of his hands and into the hands of a defensive lineman. Once again, the Heels turn the ball over at the worst possible moment. But don’t blame Yates for that; credit the defensive end for his relentless pursuit.

3:11 pm: NC State gets a first down in the red zone, and they have 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

3:12 pm: Quan Sturdivant is caught offside, and suddenly the Wolfpack are inside the 6 yard line.

3:13 pm: Eugene makes a great cut for a first down, and is brought down within two feet of the end zone.

3:16 pm: Eugene is stopped on first down, a sure touchdown pass is defelcted on second down, and Eugene appears to be stopped on third down, but UNC is caught offsides again.

3:17 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Eugene goes to the outside, and he scores easily. NC State takes a 31-27 lead with 1:41 to play. North Carolina now need to drive the length of the field to win this game, something they haven’t done all day.

3:19 pm: Tate retunrs the ball to the 37. The tar Heels must cross 63 yards in 94 seconds.

3:21 pm: First two passes are incompletions. 3rd and 10.

3;22 pm: The pass intended for Nicks is deflected. It all comes down to one play.

3:23 pm: And it;s Nicks who’s open in the middle! First down. On the next play, Foster catches the ball before being dragged out of bounds. 49 second left, inside the 40.

3:24 pm: Little is tackled short of the first down. With 41 second left, UNC takes their second timeout. The Heels face 3rd and short.

3:25 pm: Yates finds Pianalto for the first down with 32 seconds left.

Foster nearly makes the catch on first down. 27 seconds left.

3:26 pm: It’s Tate! Who catches it at the nine with 20 second left. They take their final timeout. Now we cannot afford a sack.

3:28 pm: Yates throws it out of the endzone. 14 seconds left.

3;28 pm: Incomplete pass, intended for Foster. Third down.

3:29 pm: Nicks was interfered with, but it’s fourth down.

3:30 pm: A fade route to Nicks, but it’s incomplete. And NC State will hang on to win, 31-27. A valiant effort on the part of the Tar Heels, but once again, a turnover at the worst possible time is what costs UNC the game. With the result of this game, NC State has won 4 straight, and North Carolina has been eliminated from bowl contention. I’m still proud of this team, and this was a fantastic game. But that’s exactly why this loss hurts.

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