UNC 20, Virginia Tech 17: The Serious Post

Frankly, Virginia Tech, we’re just as surprised as you are. After the horrible month that the Heels had, there was almost nothing to indicate that we would be able to execute well enough to beat perhaps our toughest opponent of the season on the road. There were only three indications that we stood a chance:

1. Carolina has played the Hokies close each of the last two years, and neither the Heels nor Tech were markedly different from the 2007 and 2008 editions.

2. The Heels have a fantastic defense, and Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled consistently. If the front could keep Ryan Williams in check, the offense might have a chance.

3. This is the ACC; whatever the most bizarre result might be, tends to be what happens.

So, in spite of what might be the worst interception you’ll see all year, the perfect storm happened. The defense shut out the Hokies for two quarters, and had Tyrod Taylor fumbled three inches sooner it would have been three quarters. Somehow, someway, John Shoop and the UNC offense put together two creative and well-executed touchdown drives in the second and third quarters. The team had the guts to go for it on 4th and 7 with five minutes left in the game, and they converted with a big pass play up the middle to set up the game-tying field goal.

The fumble was just a big break, and the Heels were able to take advantage. Like many UNC fans, I thought the game was lost after the pick. But the team did an excellent job of not allowing a bad break to affect the rest of the game.

This was the game I thought Carolina was most likely to lose, and the 0-3 start in the ACC did nothing to quell those fears. After this game, the rest of the season is looking a lot less gloomy. On to Duke.

ACC Roundtable: It’s About You Edition

Because it definitely, certainly, absolutely isn’t about us.

A last-minute decision was made to host this week. Six Roundtable members were kind enough to provide their answers this week.

1) What player whom you were not even thinking about in August has made the most positive impact on your team? Conversely, what supposedly key player(s) has fizzled for reasons other than injury?

When I posed this question, the players I had had in mind were Erik Highsmith, who has come out of nowhere to be our #2 receiver, and Marvin Austin, who is either under-performing or being swallowed up by double teams.

BC Interruption had the most direct answer to the first half of the question:

Without hesitation, the answer to this question has to be BC’s true freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly. Even though there was message board chatter and whisperings that this kid would be good, back in August we weren’t really sure if he would even see the playing field. Kuechly has been an absolute animal on the field, helping fill the void left by Mark Herzlich, Mike McLaughlin and most recently, Will Thompson. Kuechly paces the Eagles in tackles through 7 games. In fact, he has twice as many tackles (69) as the next best Eagles defender (33 from Marty Bowman). Kuechly also is tied with Alex Albright for the team lead in TFLs (6). Kuechly has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball and can be considered our defensive MVP through 7 games.

College Game Balls‘s answer, on the other hand, may be the most honest:

If you’re like me and have no social life and an unhealthy obsession with college football then your finger is on the pulse of your program 24/7. No one flew under my radar

I appreciate your insight, CGB.

2) UNC’s performances, and in particular the (first) two losses, have felt like the ghost of Carl Torbush is roaming the sidelines. What part of your team’s past, positive or negative, has this season drudged up?

From Old Virginia immediately channels groundhog day:

Let’s see, how about last year, and the year before that? Even outsiders can see that Groh appears to be embarking on his now-annual job saving rampage through the ACC. Plenty of drama left in this one, though.

Testudo Times’ bad memories seem to be more in tune with my own:

Mark Duffner, anyone? You get the feeling Ralph doesn’t have much of a plan with these guys, which is the same feeling you got with Duffner. Duffner’s final three years (4-7, 6-5, 5-6) are probably going to be the area Maryland nestles into at the end of the year, too. I’m not saying Ralph’s as bad as Duffner was, but you couldn’t tell from this year.

On The B.Rink, while a neutral ACC blog, answers this question on behalf of the Tigers:

Man, that Maryland/Clemson game reminded me of Clemson with Bowden. The Tigers came out flat and were out-played inexplicably–but to their credit, they came back strong against Wake.

3) Because this is the ACC, no team is truly out of the conference race yet; 5-3 can still win the division. Find your inner optimist, no matter how bruised, and tell us why you’re still holding out hope for your team. (This is NOT the best-case scenario question; rather, what your team has shown to indicate success in the immediate future.)

My remaining optimism ended on that 98 yard pass play last night. No matter: the consensus seems to be that 5-3 isn’t good enough to win the Coastal. For the Hokies, even 7-1 might not be enough:

I’m extremely confident VT can post a 7-1 record, but they no longer control their own destiny. Optimally the Hokies need the Yellow Jackets to lose an ACC game. They might be able to get by on any Georgia Tech loss as long as Miami and VT both win out and we’re ranked ahead of GT and within five places of Miami in the final BCS standings.

A thorough (and if you’re John Swofford, scary) answer comes from Jim Young, another one of our neutral members:

As previously mentioned, a lot of people think the Tigers are the team to beat in the division. That’s due in large part to Clemson’s head-to-head wins over Wake and Boston College the two other teams that folks could actually see winning the Atlantic. (Sorry, FSU Maryland and N.C. State)

But Clemson will be an underdog in this weekend’s game at Miami. The Tigers have to play N.C. State in Raleigh, by which time Tom O’Brien may be in the midst of another second-half turnaround with the Wolfpack. Then there’s a trap game on Nov. 21 against Virginia, a week before Clemson’s huge rivalry game with South Carolina.

Let’s say for the sake of this argument that the Tigers lose two of those games and finish at 4-4 in the ACC. That opens the door for … BC.

The Eagles are 3-2 in the league and have these three ACC games remaining – at Virginia, home against UNC and at Maryland. I could see BC winning at least two of those, couldn’t you?

(Sorry ACC title game folks, but I could really see this happening.)

I could see it happening too, Jim. This rerun’s starting to get old (except, of course, for BC):

It doesn’t take much channeling of my inner optimist to envision the Eagles playing for the ACC Championship Game in Tampa. At 3-2, the Eagles need to win their last 3 ACC games and hope that Clemson loses just one of their remaining 4 games. Why am I holding out hope? I’m holding out hope because the Eagles toughest ACC opponents are in their rear-view mirror. The Eagles have a home game with North Carolina and road games at Virginia and Maryland. Despite how poorly BC has played on the road, my hope is that UVA and Maryland are sufficiently bad enough that the Eagles can pull out two Ws.

And therein lies the problem: BC’s road woes. It’s almost like Frank Spaziani’s mustache is under house arrest. Then again, it should have known better than to shoot that Wildebeest at the Bronx Zoo.

4) What remaining conference game not involving your team do you look forward to most and why?

The general consensus (CGB, B.Rink, Jim Young) seems to be that Clemson-Miami on Saturday is the best game left. The way everything has turned out, the conference front-loaded its big games this season. Testudo Times is being very, very kind in telling us the VT-UNC game will be interesting.

5) Now for what Block-C would call the “shits and giggles” question. Offense in the ACC is…well, offensive. To solve this problem we’re putting four ACC offensive coordinators into Thunderdome, where only one man will emerge to smear a football field with his tactics again. Bryan Stinespring and John Shoop are shoo-ins. Nominate at least one more offensive coordinator (preferably, yours) and tell us why he deserves a 75% chance of doom.

Strangely enough, College Game Balls is having second thoughts about throwing Stiney into the fire:

That train has left the platform. Virginia Tech is ranked first in the ACC in scoring offense with 32.6 points a game and second behind Georgia Tech in rushing offense. I’ll nominate Virginia’s Gregg Brandon to replace Stiney. Brandon’s offense has been horrible from the get go and the big reason why UVA has had some recent success is because they’ve begun to replace parts of his spread offense with their traditional pro-style scheme.

From Old Virginia isn’t throwing their OC under the bus, either:

Despite the apparent failure of the fancy new spread, I’m not tossing Gregg Brandon into the Thunderdome. I don’t think the problem is the offense or the coach, I think it’s just another exhibit in the growing case that in general, you can’t shock the system with a radical new spread offense and expect it to be immediately successful. Georgia Tech is the exception, but Auburn was a particularly high-profile example last year, and Michigan was too.

No, I’ll toss Jimbo Fisher inside instead. Here’s the thing: It’s pretty widely known that Bobby Bowden is at least half figurehead in Tallahassee. He delegates. A lot. Florida State is his team in name only for the most part. His assistants are generally believed to do most of the actual coaching. So why do people think getting rid of him is going to solve anything? It seems to me that the team is mostly Fisher’s, and that the debacle currently going on in Tallahassee is also mostly Fisher’s. Not that I don’t enjoy watching Florida State flounder, but Fisher is the “offensive coordinator” most in need of replacement in the ACC.

An excellent point on Jimbo, but we’re looking for bloodlust here. The Roundtable member willing to oblige? Testudo Times.

Have you ever seen a Maryland football game? We possess the ACC’s top weapon, easily, and we throw him the ball three times. We can’t seem to get enough LaQuan Williams and Ronnie Tyler, the latter of whom can’t catch a ball that hits him in the numbers, while Torrey Smith languishes in one-on-one coverage with no safety help. All. Game. Long.

I’m pretty sure James Franklin invented the run-run-pass offensive strategy, too. And we all know how that works out.

The only thing that scares me here is that his replacement as play-caller will be Ralph Friedgen, and that’s even worse.

Some Last Minute Thoughts on Florida State

A few reasons why this game is so important for UNC.

1. For Bowl Aspriations. With two FCS opponents on our schedule, the Heels need to finish 7-5 or better to be bowl eligible. After the opening two performances in conference, that task is looking a lot harder. A win here will build momentum in the right direction, while a loss coupled with next Thursday’s game in Blacksburg could send Carolina into a freefall.

2. Because Florida State’s defense is bad. As stated in Tomahawk Nation’s excellent and relentless coverage, Florida State defense ranks 101st in the nation, and pass defense is their particular soft adng ooey center. If there’s a game to get the offense on track, this is it.

3. Because everyone’s watching. For the next two weeks the heels are going to get exclusive or near-exclusive primetime coverage against big-name teams (even if FSU is 2-4). Good performances could not only propel us to 6-2, but bolster our standing in the ever-growing college football jungle.

4. Because of what Florida State has done here. The Seminoles’ last trip to Kenan Stadium in 2003 ended in 37-0 thrashing that remains one of the worst team performances I have seen in person. And I saw the 1999 Houston game. Perhaps even more enraging was their visit on November 8, 1997, still the most vividly hyped UNC football game in my lifetime. 9 hours before the game, and it was already like a rock concert at Kenan. With a win, UNC put themselves into the National Championship discussion. Then Thad Bleeping Busby had to kill the mood and the Noles won 20-3.

An then there was my first UNC game ever, the 1995 FSU game. It rained, extra points were blocked, Seminole fans were at the peak of their vintage bravado, and the kept playing that damn song over and over. Needless to say, this did not leave a good impression on an 8 year old boy. So yeah, we really don’t care much for Florida State.

5. To finish what we started. UNC’s lone win against Florida State was perhaps my favortie game ever as a UNC fan. The Heels are 0-3 in 2001 after taking beatings at Oklahoma, Maryland, and Texas. Then after 9/11, the SMU game was rescheduled and our home opener was…Florida State. Most fans, myself included, expected the worst. To everyone’s delight, UNC won by a score of 41-9 in perhaps the most satisfyingly dominant performance by the Heels I have ever seen. Before that game Bobby Bowden had lost only 2 ACC games in 10 seasons. in the 8 and a half seasons since, his teams have lost 24. A loss tonight, and a 2-5 start, could be the final hook that pulls Bobby off the stage.

Really, the last three only matter to fans, but it’s fun to put those thoughts to paper. So yeah…no pressure, guys.

Week 7 Blogpoll

Scrutiny is below.

Rank Team
1 Alabama
2 Florida
3 Texas
4 Cincinnati
5 Iowa
6 Boise State
7 LSU
8 TCU
9 Miami (Florida)
10 Southern Cal
11 Georgia Tech
12 Brigham Young
13 Virginia Tech
14 Oregon
15 Oklahoma State
16 Houston
17 Pittsburgh
18 Penn State
19 Utah
20 West Virginia
21 South Florida
22 Texas Tech
23 Central Michigan
24 Boston College
25 Idaho

At the top: Not much surprise. Florida has shown a bit less sheen in the armor than Alabama. Mark Ingram looks like he can get 150 yards by blinking right now. Cincy and Iowa go ahead of Boise simply because of their schedules.

In the middle: I have almost no idea what to do with teams below the top 9 or 10. There just isn’t enough in terms of schedule or style points to separate them too much.

At the bottom: Yes, I put Boston College and Idaho in my top 25. Do you have someone better?

Your Encouraging Statistic 48 Hours Before the Florida State Game

Using the sheer, awesome power of science, we are about to prove why UNC is going to beat Florida State Thursday night.

FACT! Both of UNC’s losses were noon games on Raycom.

FACT! UNC’s near-loss to UConn was also a noon game on ESPNU.

FACT! This game will be played at night on ESPN.

FACT! Florida State has incurred all four of their losses this season on the ESPN family of networks. Their ideal TV network: Versus

THEREFORE! We’ve got this game in the bag. It’s science!

(On a bummer tangent, there is only one word to accurately describe the death of Jasper Howard: sad.)

ACC Roundtable Week OH GOD WHAT IS THAT

TJ_nooooooooooooooo

Running really late this bye week, but it’s once again time to put up with what I say about the Not Tar Heels. This roundatble comes from Jim Young of ACC Sports.com.

1) Most of the ACC has now reached the halfway point of its season. On
a scale of 1 (I’m rounding up pitchforks, torches and a mob to storm
the football office) to 10 (I’m selling of organs to raise money for a
statue of the coach) how do you feel about your team’s performance
thus far?

I’ll give a 4 to 5 right now. Butch is in no danger, but The fans are looking for either a complete 180 on offense or John Shoop’s head on a stick outside Kenan Stadium. Even if it’s not his fault, this team’s expections have gone too high too fast, and the bloodlust must be satiated.

If the Heels defense can stop Ryan Williams, UNC-Virginia Tech on October 29 has some serious Auburn-MSU potential. No, I’m not joking.

They should just have Shoop and Stinespring fight to the death at midfield. Losing team gets stuck with the surviving OC for the next 5 years.

2) Give me the best case scenario for your team the rest of the way.
Then give me the worst case.

Best case: UNC’s offense embraces the run, Dwight Jones comes back, the pass starts clicking, the defense continues being awesome, and the Heels match of improve on last season’s record, finishing 8-4 or 9-3 and play somewhere south of Charlotte.

Worst case: The offense continues to do absolutely nothing and the Heels finish 5-7. New stadium lights explode and the Heels are forced to play noon games forever.

3) Because it’s my turn to host the roundtable and I like fantasy
football, I’m going to ask a few questions with that theme. First,
you’re in an ACC keeper league. Which three players on your team do
you designate as keepers for next season? (Obviously this rules out
seniors, except for Riley Skinner, who I assume has six more years of
eligibility remaining)

1. Quan Sturdivant

2. Erik Highsmith

3. Robert Quinn

These guys are the three best-performing heels this season by far.

4) Let’s do the reverse of this, with coaches. You’re  forced to drop
one member of your team’s coaching staff. Who gets the axe? (Head
coaches or assistant coaches are eligible here)

Shoop seems to be the obvious choice here, but I may have to go with Sam Pittman, because it doesn’t matter what offense we run. If our offensive line plays this badly, we can’t score.

Heh heh. Score.

5) Let’s say the rest of the ACC is available via free agency. Who’s
the one  player from the other 11 teams that you’d most like to add to
your squad?

Ryan Williams. The result will either be our first real rushing production since the 90s or the complete debunking of UNC’s offensive philosophy. Either outcome is healthy and necessary. A close second is Thaddeus Lewis. The dude might be the best QB in the conference, the numbers speak for themselves and taking away the one glimmer of hope Duke football has is a win-win in my book.

6) Finally, we’ll stage a mock draft of ACC quarterbacks. Who are you
taking with the first pick, and why? And who would you get stuck with
if you had to pick No. 12?

The ACC’s quarterback is, for the most part, on a sliding scale from Harris/Lewis to Turner/Shinskie with a lot of midding players in between. Being UNC, though, we’re getting the seventh pick and someone like Christian Ponder. At least Willy Korn would be interesting.

Party Like It’s 1999

This season the defense has been awesome and the offense has been terrible. I admit that I wasn’t expecting the offense to improve by leaps and bounds this year, but i don’t think anyone believed it would be this bad. All in all, this season has had a very Torbushian feel to it.

At first I thought this was pure coincidence. But then I saw this team run a screen play. On 3rd and long. Shoop’s playcalling is predictable, but even he knows better then that.

Then I happened to stumble across this COMPLETELY untouched photo of “Butch Davis” at practice earlier this week:

butchdavis_2

Look familiar?

You just couldn’t stay away, could you Carl. This, of course, leaves us with two questions:

1. Where have you kidnapped and hidden the real Butch Davis?

2. This means we’re losing to Georgia Southern 3-2, aren’t we?

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