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.

UNC Invented the Forward Pass

College Football fans have argued for years over whether it was Yale’s Walter Camp or Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, both pioneers of the modern game, who invented the forward pass. History shows that Camp standardized passing and Rockne was the first coach to use it effectively, the first true forward pass was thrown in…Chapel Hill, North Carolina?

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That’s right, John Heisman himself was there when UNC was playing Georgia in 1895. The Tar Heels were forced to punt, but the line didn’t do a very good job of blocking, and their punter was quickly surrounded by Bulldogs defenders. In a moment of panic, he ran to his right, saw a wide open UNC player downfield and threw the ball up. George Stephens caught it and ran for the 70 yard touchdown.

At least, that’s how I think it happened (and Dave’s Football Blog thinks the same way, although he describes it as the moment that killed rugby in America). Mr. Heisman thinks they planned it all along. Per the 1973 book “They made the Bell Tower Chime”:

“John Heisman, a noted historian, wrote 30 years later that, indeed, the Tar Heels had given birth to the forward pass against the Bulldogs (UGA). It was conceived to break a scoreless deadlock and give UNC a 6-0 win. The Carolinians were in a punting situation and a Georgia rush seemed destined to block the ball. The punter, with an impromptu dash to his right, tossed the ball and it was caught by George Stephens, who ran 70 yards for a touchdown.

Heisman wrote he was at the game standing near the action on the sidelines. He is emphatic that Pop Warner, who was coaching Georgia, protested to the referee to no avail. And he adds that he personally wrote Walter Camp, the final authority on football, of the possibilities of the ‘forward pass’ making football a new and more exciting game.”

So there you have it. We have our modern American football thanks to a UNC punter. I find it a bit ironic, because UNC has historically been one of the best running teams in college football. But at least now I have a some obscure player from the 19th century to blame when our secondary gets burned this season.

(Tar Heel Times, via Dave’s Football Blog)


ECU 34, UNC 31: “Well, Isn’t That Special!”

This was a very entertaining game. Both teams played extremely well offensively, but there were enough weird plays on special teams in the second half to make the Church Lady blush.

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On to the Heels’ breakdown.

On offense:

  • Brandon Tate was insane. Simply insane. In the entire game he touched the ball only nine times (3 receptions, 3 kick returns, and 3 punt returns. The result? 263 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns, or roughly 29 yards per touch and a touchdown for every three touches. Tate has really flourished under the new system, and once again shows me that the talent on this team was underachieving while Bunting was head coach.
  • T.J. Yates is the best quarterback in the ACC. I’m just as shocked as you are, but that’s what the statistics say. Yates is the conference leader in passing efficiency (191.2), yards per attempt (11.2) and yards per game (281), tied for 2nd in passing touchdowns (6), and 3rd in touchdown-to-interception ratio (3:1). On the downside, he received his first three career sacks courtesy of the Pirates. Of course he’s only played two games, one of which was a 1-AA opponent, but UNC seems to have a truly effective quarterback for the first time since Darian Durant.

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  • We have some very, very good receivers. The aforementioned Tate, who was already a special teams star, had 3 receptions for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, which puts him atop the ACC in receiving yards and touchdowns after having caught…five passes. Only one receiver since 2004, Hakeem Nicks last year, caught more than 3 touchdown passes for an entire season. Nicks added 77 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions, and Bobby Rome and Johnny White combined for over 100 yards receiving out of the backfield.
  • Nice to see that the passing game is working: Because the running game was still our major offensive weakpoint. In our first two games, UNC’s running-back-by-committee have averaged 89.5 yards, 95th in the nation. (Conversely, UNC’s passing game is 20th in the nation at 285.5 ypg.)
  • Your timing is just impeccable: Having given our offense sufficient praise, they played a part in Saturady’s loss. They played well as a whole, but fell prey to poor execution at the worst possible time.
    • With less than a minute to go in the second half, UNC was in the hurry-up offense trying to extend a slim 3-point lead when Yates threw an interception at midfield. East Carolina drove into the red zone and kicked the tying field goal before halftime.
    • Then in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Heels were driving down the field into ECU territory with a chance to break the 31-31 tie, having been very fortunate that East Carolina’s field goal had just hit the post. Yates threw a nice pass to Nicks for a first down, but he then fumbled the ball and East Carolina recovered, with good field position, and with less than 7 minutes on the clock.
    • After ECU managed to miss another potential game-winning FG, UNC was once again driving down the field, this time with a help of an effective running game. With a minute and a half remaining, the Heels were on 2nd down and 4 at the 34 yard line. T.J. Yates fumbled on the QB/center exchange, and was forced to fall on it.
    • The fumble was a wasted play, but the way UNC had been driving down the field all night, 3rd and five just out of field goal range was a very makable conversion. Instead of going to the air, Yates handed it off to Johnny White, who was stopped at the line for no gain.

    Four mistakes on offense, none of which were the botched 52-yard FG attempt, which was fairly unrealistic to make anyway. If the Heels had converted any one of these plays, we would probably be 2-0.

On defense:

  • Patrick Pinkney made us look really, really bad. UNC effectively stopped the run, but Pinkney lit up the secondary, completing nearly 75% of his passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns. When one considers that he was ECU’s third-string quarterback coming into the season…well, it just wasn’t a very good day for our defense.
  • A few stats:
    • East Carolina held the ball for 36:08 of the game.
    • The Heels forced 3 turnovers (and had opportunities for a few more) in their opener against James Madison. The didn’t force any on Saturday, and lost the turnover battle to the Pirates 2-0.
    • ECU converted seven of their 16 third down attempts (44%).
    • ECU put up 470 yards of offense in 75 plays, averaging roughly 6.5 yards per play.
    • The Pirates were held to 7 points and 261 yards against the Virginia Tech defense. This past Saturday, LSU put up 48 points and 598 yards against the exact same Virginia Tech defense.

Needless to say, the UNC defense had a rough night.

  • Don’t you have anything nice to say about the defense? Two of our defenders who performed well in this game were LB Durell Mapp and DT Kentwan Balmer. Mapp had 11 tackles and Balmer recorded two tackles for loss, including half of a sack with Hilee Taylor. Marvin Austin started for the first time in his career; he had one tackle for loss. And for all of the defensive struggle, the D did play well on occasion, forcing the Pirates to punt 6 times.

Special Teams:

  • Many happy returns: As I said before, Brandon Tate was unbelievable in this game. He returned six kicks and punts for 161 yards, an average of nearly 27 yards per return. The Pirates had a few good returns of their own; a 63 yard kick return led to a touchdown in the second half, and ECU started their average drive on their own 41 yard line. It’s a lot less difficult to score with a short field; say all you want about our defense, but the kickoff coverage team didn’t help them at all.
  • A day your kicker would like to forget: There were five botched kicks on the night. Connor Barth missed an extra point in the third quarter (although UNC converted the 2-point plat on the next TD), and he didn’t get the chance to kick a 52-yard game winner; his holder, Ryan Baucom, couldn’t handle the snap. Meanwhile, East Carolina’s Ben Hartman missed thee field goal from inside of 40 yards. But he made the two field goals that were the difference in this game: the one off of the interception to tie the game before halftime, and the 39-yarder to win it as time expired.

Final thoughts: T.J. Yates and UNC’s receivers will be a lot of fun to watch this year, and they should keep us in a lot of games. There are still two big question marks with this team. Can the defense step up when facing good opposition, and can the team avoid making costly mental mistakes? We should find out a lot more about this team when they open their ACC schedule against Virginia this Saturday.

UNC vs. East Carolina: What You Really Need To Know

Forget the stats. Forget the past results. Here are a few facts* that will really decides Butch Davis’ road opener against East Carolina:

  • Since being hired to ECU, Skip Holtz (son of Lou Holtz) has really taken this whole “pirate” thing to a new level. Combine that with a hereditary speech impediment and the only thing he can say these days is “ARRRRRGH!”.

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Yes, that is parrot poo on his shoulder.

 

  • This makes the playbook very confusing; every play is “Arrrrgh.” The only way to tell plays apart in the huddle is by the length of the R. For example, a “Power I triple option right” is “Argh”, while a shotgun wide receiver screen is “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” Expect the UNC defensive line to pick up on that quickly.
  • The ECU defense is anchored by former UNC “mutineers” Khalif Mitchell and Marcus Hands, allowed only one offensive touchdown in their opener at Virginia Tech. Sure, Mitchell may be a talented defensive lineman who could be suiting up for us right now. But can you look me straight in the eye and say that he won’t lose to Marvin Austin in an eating contest? I think not.
  • To guarantee that the refs will keep the game fair, all of Pitt County has banned the sale of burritos for the next 72 hours. That way, neither team will be subjected to this and have a player collapse in the middle of a kick return.
  • Greenville, NC is the BMX capital of the world, where the likes of Dave Mirra and Ryan Nyquist have taken residence. This will become the ultimate home field advantage for the Pirates, who play every second half this season on a Big Air Ramp.
  • By the time we’ve left Greeenville, ECU will look like a hurricane hit the place.**

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Subtropical Storm? C’mon man, why do have to downplay everything?

 

So when Patrick Pinkney slides 70 yards for a touchdown only to break 20 bones in the ensuing celebration, you, the smart fan, will know exactly what’s going on.

*These “facts” haven’t been proved, but they haven’t been disproved, either.

**There’s a pretty good chance that Gabrielle is going to pass through Greenville this weekend. Seriously.

UNC vs. JMU: What They Didn’t Want You To Know

It’s far too easy to look at a box score. Sure, last Saturday’s box score says that UNC dominated their game against a 1-AA opponent (a 37-14 win). But there was so much more to that game than the statistics, or even what we saw on the field. To see what factors truly belie each game, each team, and each season, one must look beyond the playing field, into the “facts”* that “they”** don’t want you to know. Take these “facts” from UNC’s season opener, for example:

  • John Shoop’s offense scored more points in this game than during his entire tenure as coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Seriously.***
  • Instead of chemotherapy, Butch Davis has been intravenously given extra strength Red Bull since training camp began, unbeknown to even Davis himself. His resulting fits of rage have made the Tar Heels play better ever since, as players now fear making a big mistake and drawing his “therapy-induced” ire.
  • Coach Davis’ plan to boost UNC’s athletic budget by nearly 50% by charging $3.50 per bottle of Dasani at Kenan Stadium is working almost perfectly after game 1. He will use the money to bling out the locker room, making potential recruits think that “Chapel Hill is the shiznit.”
  • Speaking of Kenan Stadium, it looked very impressive on Saturday when all 60,00 seats were full. But the reality is that the crowd composed of 30,000 fans and their evil parallel universe selves, brought to Chapel Hill via a wormhole in the campus Physics lab. What, you think our $2 billion endowment goes to curing cancer? Pffffft.
  • Defensive tackle Marvin Austin put on the Freshman 15 during the pregame lunch. Once he’s on the field, his speed off the snap is the result of, um, shall we say, “gas propulsion”.

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“Heh heh, all y’all gon’ smell dat.”

  • Our defensive coordinator was chosen because he knows the secret to removing the bizarre and previously unknown chemical that magically repelled footballs from the hands of wide receivers and defensive backs during the John Bunting era.
  • The main reason that quarterbacks Cam Sexton and Joe Dailey threw so many interceptions in 2006, especially in the red zone, is because they were constantly distracted by the Carolina girls in the stands. T.J. Yates has no such problem. No, he’s a chubby chaser.
  • In a related story, Cam Sexton is expected to start when the Tar Heels travel to Raleigh to play N.C. State.
  • In another related story, after a case of mistaken identity, Marvin Austin refuses to use the showers in the Kenan Stadium locker room ever again.
  • You might believe that James Madison was an inferior opponent, and UNC fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. What you don’t know is that aliens secretly replaced the Dukes with the 2004 USC Trojans, considered to be one of the great all-time teams in college football. We went on to beat them 37-14. By circular reasoning, after only one game under coach Davis, the 2007 Tar Heels are already the greatest college football team in the history of the world. Ever.

So there’s a lot more to be taken from this game than just the stats. You just need to know where to look.

——————–

*None of these “facts” have been proved. But hey, they haven’t been disproved, either.

**I don’t know who “they” are, but they’re there, all right.

***Insanely, this one is true. In 6 games as the offensive coordinator for Oakland in 2006, the Raiders scored 35 points. The Tar Heels scored 37 on Saturday.

UNC 37, James Madison 14

What a game. I know that the opponent was James Madison, but the atmosphere in Kenan Stadium was the best I’ve seen in a while, especially in the first half.

Some observations from the game…

Offense:

  • T.J Yates did a very good job in this game. He completed 13 of his 18 passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns. Aside from his first quarter interception, he didn’t seem to make any ill-advised throws, and considering last year’s QB situation, that alone is a huge improvement.
  • Of course, Yates has the benefit of some great receivers to throw to. Brooks Foster repeated last season’s good form, catching 4 passes for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the 65-yard TD catch and run on their third play from scrimmage that blew the doors open. Brandon Tate was just as deadly at receiver as he is on special teams, catching two passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little, and Kenton Thornton also caught passes from the wide receiver position.
  • The running game is still a bit of a weakness. Johnny White was UNC’s best every-down back in this game, rushing the ball 12 times for 49 yards, just over 4 yards per carry. With the exception of Anthony Elzy, who was effective in goal line situations scoring both of the Heels’ rushing touchdowns, no one else stepped up in the backfield. They will need to make some adjustments in the running game to do well against better opponents, who will be able to shut down a one dimensional offense.
  • Speaking of running backs, I’m still not quite sure how effective the H-back is or will be in the Tar Heels offense, especially if it’s going to be pass-heavy this season.

Defense:

  • Turnovers. Boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this team forcing this many turnovers in a game. I think the secondary may have gotten as many interceptions as they did in all of 2006. (You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I can seriously count the number of interceptions I saw the Heels make last season on one hand and still be able to grab objects with my spare fingers.) If you count the blocked punt, UNC forced four turnovers in this game (though only 10 of our points became of them).
  • Many were expect Marvin Austin to have more impact on defense than any other incoming player. While he did show flashes of brilliance, the standout defensive rookies were in the secondary. Charles had a big day at nickelback against the JMU spread option, recording 9 tackles. Redshirt freshman Deunta Williams had three tackles and an interception, which he returned 45 yards into the JMU red zone.
  • Speaking of safeties: Welcome back, Trimane Goddard. We missed you.
  • Our defense was nothing short of disaster in 2002-2004 and in 2006. This was for two main reasons: 1) we got consistently overpowered at the line of scrimmage, 2) we couldn’t get to the ball fast enough, and 3) when we did, we couldn’t tackle very well. Our 2007 defense appears to have made dramatic improvements in all areas. Austin, Kentwan Balmer, Darrius Massenburg, Cam Thomas, Tavares Brown, and Hilee Taylor consistently asserted themselves at the line, breaking up plays and nearly making a few big plays of their own. The linebackers and defensive backs were able to efficiently pursue the ball carriers, and with few exceptions they made solid tackles. Of course, the Heels D still had weaknesses. They allowed big plays to the outside when the quarterback and running backs managed to escape the pocket. The Dukes scored both of their touchdowns when QB Rodney Landers escaped the pocket in the red zone, and the defense didn’t quite know what to do. That may have to do with a lack of experience more than anything else, but they need to better defend the outside.

Special Teams:

  • It was a big surprise (shocking, even) to see that, for the first time in a while, we have a good punter in Terrence Brown. He averaged over 50 yards per punt, including 52- and 64-yard punts inside the 5 yard line. Having a good punter may not sound very important, but it can give an advantage in field position against almost any opponent. That can often mean the difference between winning and losing.

So what does this all mean? Under normal circumstances, I would say very little. James Madison was a 1-AA opponent, and any performance would not be a very reliable indicator for the future (unless you lose, in which case you’re in deep trouble). But this program needed a boost in confidence, and its fan base needed a reason to be hopeful. We got both on Saturday Night.

Next Week: UNC gets our first real test, as the Tar Heels head to Greenville to face East Carolina.