It’s been a week off from football for the Heels, so maybe this week you need a quick reminder of how great this season has been.
- Trimane Goddard has, by himself, more interceptions than the entire team has in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2006.
- What was in August considered to be the team’s biggest weakness, linebacker, may now be its biggest strength. Bruce Carter, Mark Paschal, and QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT have played beyond anyone’s expectations for 2008.
- Goddard’s performance has made him a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, the first time that a UNC player has been a candidate for a season-ending award since Julius Peppers in 2001.
- This year’s team has forced more turnovers than in those four seasons combined.
- Cam Sexton is 4-1 as a starter. The same Cam sexton who went 0-5 in 2006 and many fans had since considered to be a doomsday scenario at QB up until the beginning of this season.
- For the first time in a while, we have a legitimate rushing attack, with Shaun Draughn getting most of the carries and Ryan Houston being used in short yardage and goalline situations. in years past, even getting inside the five was not the sure sign of a touchdown. This year, we have yet to drive inside the 10 yard line and come up with anything less.
- As a byproduct of that, the Heels offense is more efficient. They don’t administer many self-inflicted wounds, as they would have in years past. The defense creates a lot of opportunities, and now the offense is capable of making them pay.
- UNC is much more efficient on third down situations. The Heels have a more effective running game, which they use often on first and second down. Given a short field on third down, the offense converts 45% of its chances this year, second only to Florida State in conference.
- Because they convert third downs and can run the ball, the Heels are now very good at sustaing long, prodding drives that take time off the clock and keep opposing offenses off the field. This deeply contrasts with Tar Heel teams of years past. The 2003 memory of Arizona State still haunts me. The Heels needed onlt one first down on 3rd and 1 with less than two minutes to go against the Sun Devils to seal the win. Unfortunately, no one was confident in the running backs. So instead the coaches called…a QB sneak. Naturally, Darian Durant was stuffed, UNC had to punt, and Arizona State drove down the field to score the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
- Conversely, look at the Virginia game of this year. With each passing possession the Cavs were gaining momentum, and with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter the Heels started from their own six. thanks to some decent running and a few well-timed catches by Hakeem Nicks, the Heels were able to drive down the field for more than seven minutes and ultimately score a field goal, giving UNC a 10-3 lead with 2:22 to play. If not for the Everett Withers’ two-minute defense, that would have, and should have, been the drive that won the game and brought the Heels to 7-1. The times have certainly changed.
- At least two of the players leading our offense, Cam Sexton and Shaun Draughn, were so deep down in the depth chart in August that few people expected them to have any factor this season.
- By the end of next year, Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks may be the two most decorated receivers in school history.
- UNC is 6-2 in November, and may win the ACC Coastal division without the help of T.J. Yates or Brandon Tate for most of the season.
- Just for good measure, I have to say it one more time: Cam. Sexton. Is 4-1. As a starter. Meanwhile, four-star QB Mike Paulus has been relegated to standing on the sidelines and practicing his Blue Steel.