Virginia Q&A with Extra P

This week’s Q&A preview of the UNC vs. Virginia game, where the Heels hope to end the Hooville House of Horrors, comes from Eric “Extra P” Angevine, co-editor of Storming The Floor, Charlottesville resident, Virginia fan, and freelancer extraordinaire.

1. After the 31-3 loss to Duke (!!!), this Cavaliers team seemed dead in the water. Since then, they?ve beaten Maryland and East Carolina by a combined score of 66-23. The return of running back Cedric Peerman has obviously helped, but one player can?t possibly be responsible for the 59 point swing between the Duke loss and the Maryland victory. What has changed in the last few weeks?

Cedric Peerman didn’t even carry the offense against Maryland. He simply made the most of his 17 carries, with 6.5 yards per carry, and a long run of 35 yards. I guess Cedric represents the threat of the big play for Virginia. The offensive line clearly pepped up a bit, as QB Marc Verica was only sacked once in each game after the Duke loss, and seemed to have more time to find his targets. The defense was stout against the Terps, but started bending again vs. East Carolina, giving up 20 points, so I’m not sure what to make of that side of the ball just yet.

2. Back to the subject of Cedric Peerman. In Chapel Hill last year, he torched the Tar Heels defense with 186 rushing yards. Carolina’s defense, admittedly, is vulnerable to giving up yardage and somewhat dependent on turnovers (#1 in the nation in TO margin). How effective do you think Peerman can be?

If he gets enough touches, odds are Cedric will get his. As I mentioned above, Peerman isn’t being run into the line 20 times a game – Mikell Simpson is still getting 12-15 carries per game. But Peerman was also the leading reciever against East Carolina with eight catches, so clearly Al Groh is trying to get his star RB out in space by any means necessary.

3. Much has been made about Virginia’s 3-4 defense. How do you expect the Tar Heels to handle it?

I believe the conventional wisdom holds that a team should pass early to open up the run. Forcing the linebackers to tend to their coverage duties early in the game should open up some holes and keep pressure off the QB. Don’t tell Coach Groh I told you that.

4. The Tar Heels last won at Charlottesville in 1981. George Welsh was hired in 1982. Clearly, this isn’t a coincidence. Prior to this year, when was the best chance UNC had to end their streak in the Hooville House of Horrors? (the 1996 game still gives me chills.)

I am a terrible choice to answer this question, as I only moved to Cville in 2000. Under those circumstances, your choice of 1996 seems like a good one. There were a lot of NFL-bound ‘Hoos on that team, and a raucous full house at the game, so maybe this year is it.

5. Last, but certainly not least, I’m gonna need a prediction. What happens on Saturday?

Hmmm. UNC has a lot on the line here – they want to win in Cville, become bowl eligible, and stay on course to the ACC championship game. My gut tells me they’re focused enough to do it, even in the face of UVA’s resurgence. The one danger sign that really stands out to me when I look at UNC’s stats, however, is the fact that opponents are putting up more yards than the Heels, both rushing and throwing. If the UNC defense doesn’t clamp down, this could be an upset.
Since I’ve been such a downer so far, I’ll delight everyone by making the homer pick – UVA continues their home streak against the Heels to the tune of 27-23. After the game, Al Groh thanks Clemson and Tommy Bowden for scaring him straight.
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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. Virginia Live Blog

Today the Tar Heels open their ACC schedule hosting the Virginia Cavaliers. It’s very important for the Tar Heels to win this game, as they face four very tough opponents in the next four weeks. As for Virginia, Al Groh is already in trouble after a 5-7 season and an ugly start to 2007. A big loss to UNC could really hurt his chances of staying at UVA.

12:07 pm: Good to see Kenan Stadium at capacity just before kickoff.

12:10 pm: 30 seconds after the Apache helicopters flew over Kenan Stadium, they flew over my house. That was cool.

12:11 pm: The game is underway. UNC gets the ball, and Brandon Tate takes the kickoff to the 30 yard line.

12:12 pm: Virginia is running a 3-4 defense. Yates’ first pass is incomplete, and Johnny White takes the carry for four yards on second down. 3rd and 6.

12:13 pm: Yates pass is deflected at the line by Chris Long, and UNC is forced to punt. Great awareness by Long on that play.

12:14 pm: On UVA’s first play from scrimmage, Cedric Peerman runs through an open hole in the middle for 15 yards. I hope that the D-line doesn’t get embarrassed like that for the entire game.

12:17 pm: The Cavs convert on 3rd and 4, as Sewell is able to step up and fire a bullet to a receiver in the flat. We need to put more pressure on the QB. Already, Virginia is past midfield.

12:18 pm: Big mistake on Virginia’s part. A delay of game turns a 3rd and 6 into a third and 11.

12:20 pm: Peerman runs the draw on 3rd and long…and he gets the first down? terrible mistake on the defense’s part. the D-line got absolutely dominated on that play.

12:21 pm: Again the Cavs are forced into a third and long, again Sewell dumps it off to Peerman, and again the UNC defense gives him WAY too much room. First and goal at the 8.

12:22 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Peerman gets some nice blocks, and gets into the endzone with relative ease. Virginia leads 7-0 with 8:46 in the first quarter.

12:27 pm: UNC’s second possession isn’t going any better than the first. Yates fumbles the snap on first down, gets sacked on second down, and sacked on third down. Chris Long gets the sack to force 4th down. 3 plays, -10 yards.

12:29 pm: Terrance Brown has to punt again. After averaging over 50 yards per punt, both his punts today have been in the upper 30s. Virginia will get the ball in UNC territory, and this game is beginning to look like a few of the bad games the Heels had in 2006. Virginia is very much in control early.

12:32 pm: Peerman runs 17 yards to the 29 yard line, for another big first down. The Heels need to do something to stop the run; they’re letting the Cavs offensive line dictate this game.

12:33 pm: So far, the big thing that Virginia is doing wrong is committing bad penalties at wrong times. after a loss on first down, a big run by Pearman is negated by an illegal procedure.

12:35 pm: Jameel Sewell is forced into pass situation,s and after a near interception on third down, the Cavs settle for 50-yard field goal attempt. Chris Gould manages to hit the kick, and Virginia takes a 10-0 lead.

12:40 pm: What a catch by Tate! Yates is under pressure, throws the ball to the right, as Tate knocks the ball in the air before making a diving catch. Suddenly the Tar heels are is business at the UVA 49.

12:42 pm: Johnny White rushes for 6 yards on first down, but his next two rushes fall short of the first down. I’m not a big fan of that playcalling.

12;43 pm: What I am a fan of is UNC going for it on 4th and 1 at the 40 yard line. T. J. Yates takes the ball and sneaks it. Carolina gets the first down, but barely.

The first quarter ends. UNC is driving, but they’re already down 10-0. T.J. Yates has completed one pass so far; this has to change.

12:46 pm: NO! Just when it looks like we have some offensive momentum, Johnny Whites fumbles the ball on a big hit, and Virginia recovers, ending the drive.

12:48 pm: Peerman is still getting yardage, but it looks like the defensive line is finally holding their ground and preventing big yardage.

12:49 pm: But on 3rd down, Tom Santi gets the pass on the flat and runs for the first down. The Cavs are 4/5 on third down today.

12:52 pm: Another huge run by Peerman, who breaks several arm tackles before being brought down at around the 11 yard line. Our run defense is very frustrating to watch right now.

12:54 pm: The cavs get another big holding penalty, this time in the red zone. Two unsuccessful plays leads to a 3rd and 16. Peerman takes the pass, but his run falls short, and Virginia has to setlle for a field goal.

Virginia leads 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, and The Heels are very lucky that it’s not 17-0. The Heels absolutely need to get the pass game going and get a score on this next drive.

12:58 pm: The Tar Heels have scored a lot of points in their first two games. I know this is their first big opponent, but it looks like UNC has suddenly gone conservative. We haven’t taken any risks at all, and the plays have been very predictable.

1:00 pm: Yates gets a nice run on the scramble to bring up third and short, but Chris Long deflects another pass and force another punt for UNC.

1:02 pm: Attention John Shoop: Your strength is the passing game; your weakness is the running game. Why has T.J. Yates only thrown three time through 19 minutes of play?

1:03 pm: Peter Lalich is in at QB for the Cavs.

1:05 pm: Another drive, another third down conversion for the Cavs, who are 4/6 in 3rd down today, including 3/3 on third and less than 10 yards.

1:06 pm: The defense continues to yield to the Cavs offense, who already have over 200 yard of offense (compared to 59 for the Heels).

1:09 pm: Kenan Stadium seems abnormally quiet right now. Granted, they haven’t had anything to cheer about, but I was hoping they’d be a little louder.

1:11 pm: The good news is that the UNC defense has been able to hold their ground in the red zone. The bad news is that they’ve been practically helpless for the first 80 yards of the field. 16-0, Virginia, with still quite a bit of time left in the first half. We need to get on the board before heading to the locker room. UNC needs to pass on first down.

1:14 pm: Finally. UNC throws on first down, and they get a huge reception by Brooks Foster. The Heels are already near midfield.

1:15 pm: Yates nearly throws an interception on the next play. Brandon Tate does a god job of breaking up the pick. White nice a decent rush, but it’s 3rd and 6.

1:16 pm: Yates’ pass is deflected on 3rd down, and UNC punts again. At least we know know we can still make some big pass plays, and and Virginia finally gets bad field position. Can the Heels’ defense finally leave the Cavs empty-handed?

1:20 pm: Thanks in part to a nice play by Mark Paschal, UNC finally forces Virginia to punt. Brandon Tate gets a nice return, but it’s negated by a block in the back. UNC has two minutes to get on the scoreboard before halftime.

1:21 pm: Yates throws three quick passes, gets two quick first downs, and in 27 seconds and three plays the Heels get from the UNC 24 to the Virginia 41 yard line.

1:24 pm: The Cavs bring huge pressure up the middle, and Yates has to get rid of it. Third down.

1:25 pm: Yates hits Brooks Foster up the middle and he gets to the 33 yard line for the first down.

1:26 pm: After a short gain, Hakeem Nicks receives a late hit from a Virginia player. This gets the Heels in the red zone for the first time in the game. Hakeem Nicks looks banged up though.

1:27 pm: Zach Pianalto gets the leaping catch, and UNC is inside the 10 with 51 seconds to go.

1:28 pm: T.J. Yates throws the ball right to a Virginia defensive back, and only Hakeem Nicks prevents the interception.

1:29 pm: Richie Rich gets the first down on the ground, but his next run goes nowhere. UNC takes their final timeout with 30 seconds left.

UPSET ALERT: Mississippi State 10, Auburn 0.

1:31 pm: TOUCHDOWN CAROLINA! Yates manages to fake out Chris Long, and he finds an open Hakeem Nicks in the end zone. Carolina finally gets on the board, trailing 16-7 just before halftime.

Senior center Scott Lenahan was hurt earlier in the game, and he might not come back.

1:34 pm: Virginia is content to take a kneel, and we’ve reached halftime. Virginia leads, 16-7 and has looked impressive on both sides of the ball today. I was disappointed in UNC’s performance for the fir 20 minutes of the game, but it looks like the Heels finally woke up and the end of the second quarter. They clamped down on defense, and the passing game has started to click again. They have the momentum going into the locker room, and they’re still very much in this game, But they’ll need to prove they can stop Cedric Peerman in the second half, and force the QBs to make some bad throws.

1:41 pm: Some halftime stats: Cedric Peerman has 98 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. T. J. Yates was 7 of 9 for 53 yard and a touchdown on UNC’s final drive before halftime; before that drive, he was 2 of 7 for 42 yards.

1:56 pm: The lines to the restrooms and concession stands must be insufferable. Otherwise, there’s no excuse for the empty seats I’m seeing at the start of the second half (which were full at the start of the game, by the way).

1:59 pm: Jameel Sewell is flushed out of the pocket on third down, but he manages to juke his way to a first down.

2:00 pm: Another huge run by Peerman, and now he’s well over 100 yards rushing today.

2:01 pm: Hilee Taylor gets the sack and forces a fumble. Taylor can’t come up with ball, and Virginia recovers. It would have been a first down, but UNC is called for a late hit. I disagree with that call. The ball was fumbled, and they were trying to get to the ball. Still a UNC makes a very costly mistake; depending on what happens in the rest of this drive, that one mistake could be the one that costs us the game.

2:04 pm: After UNC’s costly penalty, the Cavaliers and their running game is driving down the field, already down to the 21 yard line. The Heels need to make a stop.

2:06 pm: Cedric Peerman gets another first down on the ground, and now the Cavs are inside the 15.

2:08 pm: When the UNC defense needed a stop, they stepped up big time. Two sacks, a loss of 16 yards, and fourth down at the 25.

2:09 pm: After a delay of game penalty, Chris Gould’s 47 yard kick falls short. The defense manages to leave Virginia empty handed, but not before the Cavs offense takes more than 8 minutes off the clock. Can our offense regain their momentum from the end of the first half?

2:12 pm: On replay, it looks like the field goal was good. The play is under review. I await the barrage of boos.

2:14 pm: Upon review, the field goal was good. Virginia leads, 19-7. Not good news for the Tar Heels, who already have to overcome the long break.

2:16 pm: In case you’re keeping score, it has been exactly 45 minutes of real time since the UNC offense has taken the field. They are ice cold right now. And it shows, as T. J. Yates’ first down pass is way, way short for Hakeem Nicks.

2:17 pm: Johnny White runs up the middle, and he gets 11 yards and a first down. Finally a nice gain on the ground.

2:18 pm: On 2nd down, Yates just barely gets off a dump to Bobby Rome. He’s ioen, but he drops the ball. A big mistake.

2:19 pm: What a play by Brooks Foster, who makes the catch for the first down, managing to kepp hold of the ball after being hit by two defensive backs.

2:20 pm: TOUCHDOWN CAROLINA! Hakeem Nicks makes a huge catch down the middle, and he makes the greatest run after the catch that I may have ever seen out of a Tar Heel. He jukes out two defenders, sprints to the left side, and fights his way through two tackles inside the 10 yard line. His effort pays of, as he gets the touchdown, the crowd goes absolutely insane, and Carolina gets back every ounce of momentum in this game. Virginia still leads 19-14, but suddenly they look like they may be on the ropes.

2:25 pm: Lalich comes back at QB for the Cavs. He is immediately welcomed back by E. J. Wilson and Durell Mapp, a sack for a 5 yard loss.

2:27 pm: Inman drops the pass on third down, and the Cavs go three and out. UNC will get the ball back and a chance to take the lead. The crowd, and the Heels, are definitely back in this game.

2:28 pm: An eight yard run by Johnny White to start the drive. Watch out for the play action.

2:29 pm: White gets the call again, and he gets the first down.

2:30 pm: A dangerous pass by Yates acroos the field (a defender could easily pick that off), but Pianalto gets the catch.

Pianalto makes the catch again, and the Tar Heels get another first down.

2:31 pm: Virginia brings the blitz on that play, and the screen goes nowhere. \

The third quarter is over, and Virginia leads 19-14, but UNC’s comeback has given them huge momentum going into the final period.

Yates is 14/23 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns.

2:35 pm, 14:48 left: Yates delivers on another pass, this time to Brandon Tate for another first down.

2:36 pm, 14:03 left: INTERCEPTION! Chris Long times his jump perfectly, intercepts Yates’ pass in mid-air, and returns it inside the UNC 30. Virginia is back in some control of this game, thanks to a Julius Peppers-like play by Chris Long. Dammit!

2:38 pm, 12:32 left: After a holding penalty, Jameel Sewell fires a bullet for 18 yards and a first down. A decent run by Peerman brings the ball to the 13 yard line.

2:40 pm: UNC had that tackle, but Trimane Goddard gets nothing but air, and the Cavs get first and goal at the 8.

2:41 pm, 11:00 left: Another holding call against Virginia, and they have to go back to the 18.

2:42 pm, 9:55 left: That’s the 9th penalty for the Cavs. If UNC ends up winning this game, it will be at least in part because Virginia has left the door open with their mistakes.

2:44 pm, 8:56 left: Gould has to kick another field goal in the red zone. Virginia leads, 22-14. For the Tar Heels, a touchdown and two point conversion will now tie this ball game. Yates will have a chance to redeem himself after the Long interception.

2:47 pm: An inexcusable play for the Tar Heels on that play. They can;t field the ball at the 25-30 yard line, but the ball goes right past the coverage, and Greg Little fields it before being tackled at the 6. A false start pins them back to the 3.

2:49 pm, 8:25 left: A big pass by Yates to Brooks Foster, who takes the slant pass in stride and runs it to the 25.

2:50 pm, 8:08 left: Yates fires another quick pass to Foster, he makes a bunch of defensive backs miss, and he runs down the left sidelines all the way to the UVA 39 yard line.

2:51 pm, 7:04 left: NO! Pianalto makes the catch, but he fumbles the ball away to the Cavaliers. That was about the worst thing that could happen to the Heels. They’ were building some momentum on a huge drive, and they were about to score, and then they give the ball away. Turnovers have ruined 3 good drives today, and that will easily be the difference if the Heels lose this game. 3 turnovers by Carolina compared to no Virginia turnovers is inexcusable.

2:54 pm, 6:49 left: now the Heels need a big defensive stop. Any score, or the team running out the clock, would end any chances we have.

2:56 pm, 5:42 left: Sewell got nailed as he released the ball, but the receiver makes the big catch for a gain of 14 yards and a first down.

2:57 pm: Trimane Goddard is down. Hopefully he just got the wind knocked out of him.

2:59 pm, 4:45 left: SACK! Hilee Taylor gets credited for the sack, which puts the Cavs back at the 39. The sack is called because Sewell put the ball down.

3:00 pm, 3:35 left: Carolina forces the punt, and they take a timeout. They’ll get one last chance to get back in this game. Please God, no turnovers in this next drive.

3:06 pm, 3:15 left: The shovel pass gets a decent gain, but on second down Yates is very lucky not to have thrown the game away.

3:08 pm, 2:51 left: Yates makes a great pass to Hakeem Nicks, who fights his way to the 40 yard line.

3:09 pm, 2:37 left: Yates gets out of the pocket, and he makes a nice pass on the run to Zach Pianalto, and suddenly the heels are in UVA territory.

3:10 pm, 2:15 left: Nicks takes his catch to the 25 yard line, and Foster catches in stride and takes it to the 2 yard line. The Heels will have 2 minutes, two timeouts, and 4 chances to tie this game. Time for Anthony Elzy.

UNC’s receivers have done a great job of running after the catch, and Yates has done a great job of throwing the ball to the receivers in stride.

3;12, 1:55 left: TOUCHDOWN! Yates throws the TD on the play-action pass to Richard Quinn. UNC will now go for two to tie the game.

3:13: The Cavs bring pressure on the two-point attempt…and the pass is broken up! The D-line blocks yet another pass from Yates and the two-point attempt is no good. UVA leads, 22-20, and UNC will have to try the onside kick.

3:15 pm: Connor Barth, what the hell kind of onside kick was that? UNC had no chance of recovery and now the Heels must now get a 3 and out.

3:17 pm, 1:35 left: Peerman gets a nice gain, and the Cavs are only 2 yards away from sneaking a win out of this game.

3:19 pm: Both teams go all out for their team. Every UNC player tries to stop forward progress, and Alvin Pearman fights for the first down mark.

Virginia gets the first down, but by just inches. I think the Heels got a bad snap, but Virginia will get this win.

3:22 pm: The game is officially over, and Virginia holds on for the 22-20 win. Both teams had a lot of chances in this game. Carolina played their hearts out, but key turnovers in the fourth quarter stopped some great drives, and UNC probably would have won if not for those turnovers. Still, future is bright for this team. They’ve showed flashes of brilliance on both side of the ball; they just need to keep it together for 60 minutes.

Credit needs to be given to the officiating crew in this game. Several times they had to run the game without a working scoreboard, after the main scoreboard was struck by lightning yesterday, and they still did a pretty good job of refereeing the game.

Tar Heel Mania’s UNC vs. Virginia Preview

This Saturday is UNC’s ACC opener against the University of Virginia. To start the Tar Heels’ conference schedule, I have invited Eric from The Extrapolater, a Charlottesville resident and UVa fan, to help preview that game.

We now continue with my preview of this’ year’s battle royale for 4th place in the ACC Costal Division.

Offense:

  • T. J. Yates has the highest QB rating in the ACC through two games, and the 6th highest in the country. Think about that statistic for a second. At the beginning of season, Heels fans would have been happy just with a quarterback who didn’t throw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. To have this kind of success at quarterback for an entire season, from a redshirt freshman on a team that finished 3-9 last season, would be nothing short of astounding. Can he keep it up against ACC competition?
  • Our running back situation still seems quite inconsistent. Johnny White has averaged more than 4 yards per carry, and he and Bobby Rome had some nice numbers receiving against East Carolina last week. But the team has averaged less than 90 yards per game on the ground, and eventually the Tar Heels will run into a team that can stop the passing game. We’ll need at least some consistency from the ground game.
  • I cannot name any of the Cavaliers defensive backs off the top of my head. All I know is that UNC’s wide receivers will be running them ragged all day. Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster make Yates’ job at QB much easier.

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Let’s hope we see a lot of this on Saturday.

Defense:

  • Patrick Pinkney began this season 3rd in the QB depth chart for East Carolina. After one quarterback got injured and another struggled in their opener against Virginia Tech, Pinkney was thrown into the fire. This inexperienced quarterback proceeded to destroy UNC’s defense, throwing for 406 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Jameel Sewell’s struggles have been well documented, and the Cavs have only scored 27 points in their first two games (24 of which were against Duke). But we have a very inexperienced team, and I have no idea how the defense will react. They may allow five points, they might allow 30; I just don’t know.
  • The few experienced players on defense have really stepped up. Durell Mapp leads the Heels in tackles, Kentwan Balmer leads a talented defensive line, and Trimane Goddard has returned from injury to play very well at safety. All three of these guys will need to step up on Saturday.
  • Words cannot describe how angry I will be if our secondary gets burned by Virginia tight end Tom Santi.

Special Teams:

  • Brandon Tate. End of story. The Cavs’ kick coverage might be in for a long day.

Last year, UNC’s John Bunting was fired after the Heels were blanked 23-0 in Charlottesville. Would a Heels domination in Chapel Hill spell the end for for Al Groh? We’ll see.

Extrapolater’s UNC vs. Virginia Preview

This Saturday is UNC’s ACC opener against the University of Virginia. To start the Tar Heels’ conference schedule, I have invited Eric from The Extrapolater, a Charlottesville resident and UVa fan, to help preview that game.

We’ll begin with Eric’s preview.

A man with a marvelous stadium, gorgeous campus, and beautiful coeds to use as bait should be able to reload, not rebuild. His program once boasted NFL-level talent like Matt Schaub, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Heath Miller, but now nobody seems to know who they are.

There is, of course, one exception. And that’s preseason first-team All-American Chris Long. He’s a beast on the defensive line, and generally plays a lot like dear old dad. Who’s that, you ask? None other than the Bradshaw-baiting legend Howie Long, who lives in the Charlottesville area. Long will no doubt be playing on Sundays next year himself, but the cupboard is pretty bare behind him.

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If you’re thinking it’s too early to say that, consider this. UVA lost to Wyoming 23-3 to open the 2007 season, and very nearly let Duke creep back and win in Cville last weekend, which would have been humiliating on so many levels. They’re rotating quarterbacks, with Jameel Sewell and Peter Lalich shuttling in and out of games. None of this inspires confidence.

What does inspire confidence? There are two players who can reasonably be expected to take some pressure off of an ineffective signal-caller, and they are both up to the challenge. Tight end Tom Santi is the team’s leading reciever, with a paltry 58 yards but two touchdowns. Tailback Cedric Peerman rumbled for 137 yards and a TD in last week’s game.

The rest is a crapshoot, of course. Special Teams have been execrable – fans quake when they see the kicking team take the field. In one instance, a high snap into the end zone actually handed Duke two free points.

So take heart, UNC fans. Your team might be struggling, but so is your opponent. May the least ineffective team win!