UNC vs. UConn: The BasketBowl

Picture Key:

A: Marcus Ginyard, absolutely pumped

B: reserve guard/pygmy Wes Miller, who I’m pretty sure has just bitten his tongue

C: Byron Sanders

D: Tyler, I think

E: Has just seen something disgusting on the other side of the stadium at the exact moment of the touchdown

F: Deon Thompson

G: “Hey, Will. This is coach Bunting. Have you considered being a defensive lineman?”

H: Don’t know…Bambale Osby?

I: Rayshawn

J: Ramses XVI, who couldn’t care less

K: Wants a high-five from Rayshawn, is so not getting it

L: ICE CREAM!!!

M: jumped over hedges, has not yet been noticed by campus security

N: Adarius Bowman doing a chicken dance. Duh.

I try to make a point about how UNC and UConn are both really good basketball schools, and how it’s peculiar that we enter this game with a combined 8-1 record (and, for all intents and purposes, should have been 9-0). Instead, I end up making this. Such are the inner machinations of my brain.

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So, What Did We Learn From McNeese State?

In all honesty, not much. It was an ugly win against an FCS opponent. But we’re 1-0, and that’s what matters. So slowly step away from the panic button, if you would be so kind.

Here’s a quick look at what happened on Saturday.

On Offense:

  • John Shoop most likely showed us only the bare bones of the offensive playbook needed to win on Saturday. Nerve wracking, but ultimately the smart move.
  • Butch Davis said that he was committed to running the football to a fault. In response, McNeese State consistently put 8 or 9 guys in the box, especially on first down. Greg Little certainly didn’t look all that impressive, but he should improve over the season. Meanwhile, Shaun Draughn has established himself as the #2 back, making the move from safety look very smart.
  • T.J. Yates’s shoulder is completely healthy, and nothing about his performance is more important than that. Yates played well at times, but still made some of the mistakes he would make in his freshman year. It’s unclear how much of his play was affected positively or negatively by McNeese State’s defense, but he’ll need to improve on his 57.7 % completion rate.
  • Of greatest concern is the offensive line. They allowed Yates to be sacked twice, and only twice did the backs have a run of 10 yards or more. Most importantly, they never really seemed to control the line of scrimmage. Against most teams, that raises concerns. Against an FCS team, it sets off alarm bells.
  • There is nothing that can be said about Brandon Tate that has not already been said. He was simply outstanding.

On Defense:

  • The defense was on their heels against the spread option the entire night. Granted, it was the first time this defense has faced a true spread option offense, but the job of the defense is to act as the chaos to the order of the offense, and UNC never truly disrupted McNeese State’s rhythm.
  • The defensive line was not as effective as most expected. Not only was Derrick Forroux not sacked, but he was never truly pressured at any point in the game. On the bright side, E.J. Wilson did an excellent job of disrupting his side of the line, recording eight total tackles and three of UNC’s seven tackles for loss. Greg Elleby contributed four tackles, a forced fumble, and a TFL as well.
  • Not much was expected of the linebacking corps, but they kept themselves quite busy the entire game, with three of the team’s four leading tacklers. Quan Sturdivant QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT led the team with eleven tackles, followed by Mark Paschal with nine tackles and Bruce Carter with eight. Paschal also forced a fumble. Chase Rice contributed with two tackles off the bench. None of these players were much of a factor behind the line of scrimmage, but they did a solid job overall.
  • The secondary had its ups and downs. Carolina didn’t have much of an answer for McNeese State’s version of Tate, Quentin Lawrence. The Carencro, LA junior had 73 yards receiving and a punt return for a touchdown. As for UNC’s defense, Kendric Burney had a solid game with five tackles (all in the open field), including one tackle for loss. Jordan Hemby had two tackles (one for loss) in his first start at cornerback, but he struggled at times, give up McNeese State’s only passing touchdown. Charles Brown did not play due to nagging injuries. The Heels will likely need his presence for when they Rutgers and their tough receiving corps. Trimane Goddard had the team’s only interception, and Deunta WIlliams contributed with five tackles, albeit only one solo tackle.

Special Teams:

  • Casey Barth got the nod for starting kicker, but missing his only field goal attempt opens the door for Jay wooten once again.
  • Marvin Austin’s block of an extra point, obviously, helped swing momentum back in UNC’s favor when the Heels needed it most.

As unimpressive a game by the Tar Heels as it was, the team isn’t completely to blame. The rain delay obviously killed momentum and helped to level the playing field, and the coaching staff did not want to reveal too much to future opponents such as Rutgers. Not to mention the fact that McNeese State is one of the toughest FCS teams that Carolina could have scheduled, not only for their quality ranking, players, and spread offense, but for their stunning victory over God in 2007. As disappointing as an eight point margin against an FCS opponent appears at first glance, we started the season 1-0, and this game should act as a wake-up call for this team team between now and their next game against Rutgers.

HeelTube: Wide Receiver Bonanza

With only nine days left until the start of Carolina’s football season, I am officially pumped. To help you visualize 2008 Carolina football, let’s take a look at a few of T.J. Yates’ favorite targets.

First up, Hakeem Nicks.

Next, senior Brooks Foster.

The gamebreaker, Brandon Tate.

And for good measure, Dwight Jones in high school.

Needless to say, Yates has plenty of options this year.

2008 UNC Season Previews: Wide Receivers

Probable Starters: Hakeem Nicks (#88), Brandon Tate (#87)

Key Reserves: Brooks Foster (#1), Kenton Thornton (#3), Rashad Mason (#85), Dwight Jones (#83), and apparently 20% of the state of North Carolina.

Overview: Wide receiver is the deepest and most talented part of UNC’s offense. At the very least, Carolina has three fantastic, experienced receivers and three talented, if unproven, players behind them in the depth chart.

We start with junior Hakeem Nicks. In the entire, 115+ year history of UNC football, no one has amassed 1,000 yards receiving in one season. Hakeem Nicks has come closest, setting a school record with 74 receptions and 958 yards to go with five touchdowns. This year he’s a preseason first team All-ACC selection and is expected to break the 1,000 yard barrier with relative ease.

Brandon Tate is right behind him in the depth chart. While he might leave Chapel Hill as the greatest return man in ACC history, he hasn’t been renowned for his receiving. Last year Tate made a solid impression as the #3 receiver, scoring as many touchdowns as Nicks with only one-third of the receptions (25). A touchdown for every 5 catches is a pretty amazing number, and it’s enough for coach Davis to put him alongside Nicks in the starting lineup.

Brooks Foster may be listed third on the depth chart, but the senior has had 67 receptions for 903 yards in the last two seasons. Expect him to get a lot of touches while defenses worry about Nicks and Tate.

The greatest attribute that UNC’s top three receivers have is the ability to get yards after the catch. In 2007 the majority of the their catches would comes from quick throws form T.J. Yates within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. With Nicks in particular, Yates delivered a bullet from a one step drop against a corner who gave just a little too much space, and Nicks would fight for 8-12 yards and a first down.

Among the three receivers behind Nicks, Tate and Foster in the depth chart, only Kenton Thornton has any experience (three receptions in nine games played). One distinct advantage that Thornton, Rashad Mason and Dwight Jones have over the starting lineup is height; all three are at least 6’4″ while Nicks and Tate are both 6’1″. They may be unproven talents, but they should be in a few extra plays this season; if Nicks declares for the draft after this season, these three receivers are the probable starting lineup of 2009. Expect them to enter the fold for jump balls, passes up the middle, and the red zone.

Outlook: T.J. Yates should be counting his lucky stars right now. With the combination of talent, experience, and depth, he might be throwing to the best receiving corps in the ACC this season.

2008 Team Preview: Special Teams

Starters

Kicker-Jay Wooten

Punter-Terrence Brown

Kick/Punt Returner-Brandon Tate

Deep Snapper-Mark House?

Backups

K-Reid Phillips,Trase Jones

P-Reid Phillips, Grant Schallock

KR/PR-Anyone fast

Overview:

The most glaring departure from last year is four-year starting kicker Connor Barth. The most important task for any placekicker is consistency. With Barth, we knew we could pretty much rely on three points if we got inside the 30. If Wooten (one of Butch Davis’ inaugural signings) can be reliable inside the 25, I think that’s as much as we can expect from a baptism by fire. Personally, I’m rooting for Reid Phillips to earn the starting PK job. Then we can have a Terrence and Phillips special teams corps, if for no other reason than to provide fart jokes for this space every week.

Any reason to use this picture is a good reason.

Punter: This is the ACC, meaning that everyone has a pretty good defense and a pretty bad offense. This places field position, and by proxy punting, at a particular premium. Terence Brown didn’t contest for any awards, but he should be a solid punter in his senior year.

Kick and Punt Returns: The discussion at this position begins and ends with Brandon Tate. He is the most prolific return man in school history, and may be the best in ACC history in terms of statistics, with over 3,000 career return yards and five touchdowns. He is a danger anytime he gets the ball, and he will make a big difference in field position for the offense.

Deep Snapper: Like most of special teams, This is one of the game’s aspects that almost no one notices. Unless of course, something goes wrong. At least one bad snap bad hold of a snap made last year went a long way toward UNC’s 34-31 loss at East Carolina. The responsibility at this position will be up to Mark House or a modified traditional center. As for who’s holding the snap…we won;t know until the season starts.

Verdict: Brandon is obviously a big help to any team. However, I don’t see the rest of our special teams as a particular strength or weakness.

Motto…Fingers Crossed: We’re not your buddies, guy!