Tar Heel Mania + Norman Einsteins = Marvin Austin Jokes

As I type this we are less than 48 hours away from the start of college football. After a long trek through the desert, the oasis is nigh. The Norman Einsteins have assembled quite a satirical college football preview this week, and I was given the opportunity to provide a look into the future, through the eyes of defensive tackle/enigma/possible alien Marvin Austin during the Virginia Tech game. Go down toward the bottom of the page to view my part, but really read the whole thing. It’s just a giant bundle of awesome. Not unlike Mr. Austin himself.

bewareofawesome

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Address the Mess: Slow Starts

Address the Mess is a new feature to discuss some of the problems Carolina Football faced last season, and how the team might correct them. Not that we’re in a mess; far from it. But in the parity (bad-ness-ness-ness-ness) of the ACC, where Carolina played in 8 games decided by a touchdown or less, successfully addressing even one of these issues can be worth an extra win or two. Today we start with the Tar Heels’ struggles in the first and third quarters.

The Problem: “Hello, uh…Mr.  Yates? Coach? O-Line? D-backs? Hi, my name is Mike. I’m a big fan of yours. Listen, uh just so you know, it’s ehmmm about 12:30, which means the football game you guys are a part of has, uh already started, so I just wanted you a friendly reminder to, uhh START PLAYING LIKE IT! Okay, good to see you, and good luck.”

Is this an accurate description of you, the Tar Heel fan, circa last season? If so, I understand. In Carolina’s eight close games, opponents outscored UNC 123-71 in the first and third quarters, and in four of our twelve games the Heels were shut out in those quarters. Conversely, UNC outscored its FBS opponents 126-83 in the second and fourth quarters and overtime Extrapolated, that’s a swing of more than 20 points per game when the outcome was determined by a touchdown or less.

The Reasons: The Heels had just appeared to be sluggish out of the gate. It’s difficult to know exactly why, but two trends presented themselves in the first and third quarters more than anything else.

The most obvious (and correctable) problem is turnovers. First quarters were littered with interceptions, almost-interceptions, and a failed fourth-and-goal conversion against Georgia Tech (a turnover in spirit) caused by a dropped touchdown pass. These kinds of mental mistakes would fill an entire article, but this is an inexperienced team, and in this case turnovers are only part of the story.

A larger and more subtle theme at the start of games has been the inability to control the line of scrimmage. The offensive line, with only one experienced starter (Scott Lenahan), were particularly vulnerable in the first quarter, getting beat by opposing D-lines consistently. This explains more than anything else why the running game just didn’t work at the start of games, and Yates made bad decisions in the first one or two possessions.

Conversely, the defensive line had some odd lapses to start the game as well, completely uncharacteristic compared to their typical performances later in the game. They allowed Virginia’s Cedric Peerman to run for nearly 100 yards in the first quarter. Virginia Tech’s only big offensive play came on the second play from scrimmage, a 54-yard run by Eddie Royal to set up their first touchdown. And Chris Smelley lit up the secondary to help South Carolina gain a 14 point lead in the first quarter. Carolina came back in all of these games after correcting their defensive issues.

The Solution: There isn’t a very clear-cut way to deal with this particular issue. Protecting the ball obviously helps, keeping both possession and momentum in your favor early in the game. The offensive line also has to do its job. It’s difficult to get much of anything done if the O-line gets pushed 2-3 yards into the backfield. On defense, it’s about controlling the line of scrimmage early in the game. That shouldn’t be a problem for the defensive tackles, but Carolina may show a bit of weakness at the ends. If Carolina puts E.J. Wilson on one side of the line and QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT behind the other DE, it should probably patch up any glaring issues at the line.

The Tally: Many other factors belie whether or not a team gets off to a good start in a game, but at least breaking even in the first and third quarters should be worth an extra 1.5 to 2.5 victories this season.

(Photo: Inside Carolina/Jim Hawkins)

UNC vs. Georgia Tech Live Blog: Hey, At Least We Don’t Have to Travel to Boise on New Year’s Eve

Last week’s loss to NC State took us out of bowl contention, but this game is still important for several reasons. First, the Tar Heels could still finish in the top half of the ACC Coastal division with a win today and against Duke. Second, the Heels could use some momentum when going into the offseason, the recruiting schedule, and next year’s spring practice. Third is an interesting stat you may have suspected, but not quite realized: Since the departure of Mack Brown, in a full decade of football North Carolina has only won 1 conference game out-of-state: a 38-3 victory at Clemson in 2001, when the likes of Julius Peppers, Ronald Curry, Darian Durant, Sam Aiken, Kory Bailey, Willie Parker, Ryan Sims, Sedrick Hodge, Dexter Reid, and Joey Evans (remember that guy?) ended Woody Dantzler’s Heisman hopes in Death Valley. I remember that game because Dantzler had such a bad day that on the sidelines in the fourth quarter, he was hit in the back of the head by his backup’s errant warmup throw.

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But back to my point. Aside from the picture above, all other ACC road wins in the post-Mack era have been against intra-state opponents (Wake, Duke, and NC State). A win today over the Yellow Jackets, believe it or not, would be a true statement game for the future of this program.

12:10 pm: UNC wins the toss, and they will kick off to start the game, which means T.J. Yates will definitely not turn the ball over in the first minute of the game.

12:14 pm: 3-and out! The UNC defense steps up with two sacks, the latest by Aleric Mullins, and Carolina actually some momentum to start a game. They will start at the 39 after GT’s punt.

12:15 pm: Greg Little is starting at tailback. An odd move, but his speed could be just what we need to jump start the running game.

12:16 pm: The Heels start with two short passes. yates throws a quick pass to Brandon Tate, and he fights his way to a first down.

12;17 pm: Greg Littles first carry is about as successful as most of our carries this season.

12:18 pm: Play action to the left side, and Yates finds Tate again. He runs out of bounds inside the 30, and UNC has a first down in scoring range.

12:19 pm: After a sack for a short loss, Yates finds Bobby Rome in the flat, but it’s still 3rd and 7 from the 25.

12:20 pm: T.J. Yates, for the love of all things football, THROW IT AWAY! You;re lucky the defender stepped out of bounds, or else that would have been another pick.

Connor Barth kicks the field goal, and UNC is up 3-0. This entire sentence is in bold because it’s a miracle for us to have a lead in the first quarter. Honest.

12:25 pm: Tech finally give the ball to all-ACC running back Tashard Choice, and he gets big run for a first down.

12:26 pm: Wow. A wide receiver was wide open for a touchdown, but Taylor Bennett badly overthrew it.

12:27 pm: Bennett runs the play action, and he throws…to no one in particular. The Jackets are forced to punt. Carolina will start at the 20 after a touchback.

12:30 pm: Greg Little gets the screen pass and runs for a first down. His next carry out of the backfield gets 5 yards.

12:32 pm: Hakeem Nicks, you cannot drop that pass. If you made that catch, it wasn’t just a first down, it might have been a touchdown. Instead, the Heels must punt.

12:37 pm: Tech runs the play action again. This time Bennett finds a wide open Demerius Thomas on the right side for 13 yards.

12:38 pm: UNC blitzes…and Choice makes them pay with a long run.

12:41 pm: How is Thomas wide open again? All he has to do is make the catch on 3rd and 7, and the Jackets have a first down at the UNC 21.

12:45 pm: Just when I think UNC is going to have a tie or lead to end the first quarter…Choice takes the direct snap motions toward the line of scrimmage, steps back, and finds an open Taylor bennett for a TOUCHDOWN. With 9 seconds left in the first, Georgia Tech leads 7-3.

12:49 pm: The first quarter ends with Greg Little getting a huge run to the outside. Along with the squib kick, the run will put UNC in enemy territory to start the second quarter. Georgia Tech leads, 7-3 after one quarter.

12:52 pm: Yates passes to a wide open Hakeem Nicks, and only the sidelines prevent a touchdown. First and goal at the 3 yard line.

12:54 pm: The Heels are stuffed on two run plays. It’s third and goal at the 1.

12:54 pm: QUINN DROPS IT! QUINN DROPS IT! Yates throws the touchdown pass, and Quinn had it in his hands. He looked away, and it fell out of his hands.

12:55 pm: UNC goes for it on fourth down. Yates throws under pressure and it’s incomplete. After a very nice drive, UNC comes up empty. Unbelieveable. I like the decision to go for it, but you’re telling me that this team can’t get three yards in four chances?

12:58 pm: The defense forces a 3-and-out deep in GT territory, but the Jackets punt it 76 yards to put UNC inside their own 20. That punt was incredible.

1:01 pm: Nicks gets the first down on the opening play of the drive, making a diving catch on the sidelines.

1:03 pm: Yates completes the pass on third down fo 20 yards. The only problem is, they needed 22. The Heels have to punt.

1:07 pm: After the opening drives, the UNC defensive line hasn;t put much pressure on Taylor Bennett, who finds Thomas open along the sidelines again.

1:10 pm: FUMBLE! Bennett tries to run for the first down, but Trimane Goddard strips the ball loose, and Darrius Powell recovers for North Carolina close to midfield. Bennett was holding the ball much too far from his body.

1:13 pm: Just when we get an opportunity, we immediately turn the ball back over, putting the Jackets inside the UNC 25 yard line. It was the result of a terrible pitch, but Little tried ti pick it up instead of falling on it, and even worse, Yates didn’t even try to get to the loose ball. A very frustrating play from start to finish.

1:17 pm: A holding penalty takes Tech out of field goal range, but an pass to Colin Peek up the middle put them back into field goal range. Georgia Tech leads, 10-3 after the kick goes through the uprights.

1:20 pm: Brandon Tate returns the kick to the 48 yard line, and is now the all-time ACC leader in kickoff return yardage. Congratulations to Brandon.

1;23 pm: Yates finds Nicks slanting up the middle, and he runs all the way down to the 7 yard line. He’s also lucky that he didn’t fumble, as there were three defenders trying to strip the ball away.

1:24 pm: After two short runs, Carolina calls a timeout before third and goal at the 3.

1:27 pm: Yates throws a fade route, and and is nearly picked off for a second time today. This time the Tar Heels opt for a field goal. Carolina trails, 10-6 as their third down woes continue.

1:29 pm: Connor Barth calls a timeout on a kickoff. ON A KICKOFF. Now I’ve seen everything.

1:33 pm: Mike Hogewood, I will not let you downplay our incompetence. It’s FIVE losses by seven points or less, not four.

1:35 pm: Georgia Tech runs the clock out, and heads into halftime with a 10-6 lead. We’ve kept it close in the first half. Considering previous starts to our games this season, that’s all we could ask for.

1:58 pm: UNC gets the ball at the 5 yard line to start the game, after a flag on the opening kickoff return, which invariably means a holding or block in the back.

2:00 pm: After a first down on two plays, Hakeem Nicks takes the quick pass and gets a huge gain after the catch. First down at the 36.

2:01 pm: Yates tries the deep pass to Nicks. This time Burnett breaks the play up.

2:02 pm: That is the third near-interception for Yates in this game. Someone must be watching over him today to stop those three interceptions. In the red zone, not so much.

2:03 pm: Tate makes the catch, but he makes the mistake of stepping out of bounds. Another mistake means that the Tar Heels have to punt.

2:08 pm: Bennett fires a deep ball to Greg Smith for a huge gain, as the Tar Hells leave him all kinds of time.

2:09 pm: FUMBLE! Choice is stripped of the ball, and Durrell Mapp recovers inside the GT 40. Carolina now must take advantage on offense.

2:10 pm: A delay of game is inexcusable. I don’t care who you are.

2:11 pm: Zack Pianalto makes a great football play. he was tackled at the 35, but he dragged the defender five yards down the field to move the chains. That’s just hard-nosed football.

2:14 pm: Dammit. This always happens. UNC is driving down the field, it;s 2nd an 1, and then Yates fumbles the snap on second down, and overthrows Pianalto on 3rd and 2. We’ve had 3 third-and short situations today, each time we’ve passed, and each time the pass was incomplete. I know our running game has been bad this season, but is it really that bad? Little has had a pretty good game on the ground. At the very least, run a play action.

Anyway, it’s 10-9, Georgia Tech after the field goal.

2:18 pm: Taylor Bennett is very lucky; Kendric Burney should have picked off that ball.

UNC’s defensive line putting pressure on that play reminds me: where has Marvin Austin been all day?

2:19 pm: Corey Earls was open deep, but the ball fell out of his hands. Tech will be forced to punt as we reach the midway point in the third quarter.

2:23 pm: UNC will get the ball at the 31 yard line. Brooks Foster takes the opening screen pass and gets the first down on a nice run.

2:24 pm: UNC passes to Foster on the flat, and the Tar Heels get their first third down conversion of the game.

2:25 pm: Tech blitzes, and Yates just dumps the ball to Bobby Rome for another first down.

2:28 pm: T.J. Yates throws the ball away on 2nd and 9. A small miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.

2:29 pm: SACK! The blitz pays off, putting UNC out of potential field goal range and possibly a 12-10 lead.

2:30 pm: Tashard Choice gets a nice run up the middle on first down for about 12 yards.

2:32 pm: Choice has gone over 100 yards rushing for the day.

2:33 pm: Where does Bennett keep finding wide open receivers while getting almost no pressure from the defensive line?

2:34 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Bennett throws deep, and he finally connects with Greg Smith deep in the end zone. Georgia Tech leads, 17-9 with less than a minute left in the 3rd quarter.

2:36 pm: Georgia Tech squib kicks again, trying to avoid Brandon Tate.

2:38 pm: Greg Little gets a huge 38 yard run into the red zone to end the third quarter. Georgia Tech leads 17-9 through three quarters, but UNC is knocking on the door, and a touchdown and two-point conversion ties this game.

2:41 pm: They’re going to review this play, but Hakeem Nicks appears to have a touchdown catch from Yates. Remember, only one foot needs to be in, and Nicks seems to have it.

2:44 pm: The call stands, TOUCHDOWN!

2:45 pm: The two point conversion is no good after T.J. Yates throws what looked like the weakest pass I may have ever seen a college quarterback throw in a game. Bad call, bad execution, but UNC finally gets the touchdown from a much better call and play. 17-15, Georgia Tech, and there’s plenty of time left.

2:48 pm: UNC has an opportunity to take momentum, and what do they do? They allow GT’s other QB’ Josh Nesbitt, to destroy them on two consecutive play, the last a deep pass to Greg Smith for a TOUCHDOWN. It took the Yellow Jackets exactly 20 seconds to turn this from a two point game into a two possession game. What happened to our defense?

2:54 pm: UNC’s drive: Sack, sack, incompletion, punt. Georgia Tech will get good field position and a chance to put this game away. Either Georgia Tech has suddenly woken up or UNC has suddenly fallen asleep. I’m inclined to say it’s the former.

2:59 pm: The Tar Heels force fourth down at the 35 yard line. Travis Bell will try a 52 yard field goal.

3:00 pm: Bell fakes the field goal, pooch punts, and Deunta Williams returns it to the 45 yard line.

3:02 pm: Yates finds Nicks again, and he gets a huge gain running up the middle and breaking a few tackles. Suddenly, the Heels are in the red zone.

3:03 pm: Dear Raycom/Lincoln Financial Sports: Please purchase new sound equipment. Thank you. Sincerely, Tar Heel Mania.

3:05 pm: On third down, Yates runs the play action, and throws it to…no one in particular. The Heels will settle for another field goal.

3:06 pm: Barth hits it down the middle, and Georgia Tech’s lead is down to 24-18. With 8:40 left in the game, it’s imperative that the Tar Heels stop the Jackets offense and find a way to stop Nesbitt.

3:09 pm: FUMBLE! Nesbitt fumbles, and there to recover is Aleric Mullins at the 32. Mullins has had a monster game today.

3:10 pm: Congratulations to T.J. Yates, who today passed the UNC all-time record for passing yards in a season.

3:11 pm: A holding penalty negates what appeared to be a touchdown pass to Tate in the back of the endzone, but Yates had crossed the line of scrimmage.

3:12 pm: Uh-oh, UNC faces 3rd down and 18 from the 40. The pass is incomplete, and the Tar Heels are forced to punt after recovering a fumble in field goal range. There might have been pass interference, though; On the past two plays, Nicks was stumbling behind the path of the ball.

3:16 pm: ANOTHER FUMBLE! This time UNc recovers at the 2 yard line. UNC, if you don’t get in now, you never will.

3:17 pm: First Down: Run to Elzy, down to the one.

3:18 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Anthony Elzy finally punches one in for the Tar Heels, who take advantage of a costly fumble. With the extra point, UNC now takes a 25-24 lead with 5:50 left.

3:22 pm: After a big kickoff return, and another throw up the middle to Greg Smith from Bennett, Georgia Tech is in field goal range with less than 4:30 left in this game.

3:24 pm: UNC keeps the Jackets just short of a first down and…wait a minute…BELL SHANKED THE KICK! HE SHANKED IT! AND UNC STILL HAS THE LEAD, with 2:31 left!

3:27 pm: UNC runs two plays to Greg Little , who’s stuffed both times. The only advantage is that Georgia Tech has burned their final two timeouts, but now UNC faces a third and long. Do you try to go for the first and risk stopping the clock, or do you run it and kill 40 seconds?

3;28 pm: The Tar Heels elect to run the clock. Georgia Tech will get the ball back, but Terence Brown shanks the punt for only 30 yards, and the Jackets will start at midfield.

3:30 pm: Taylor throws deep up the middle, but two defenders break it up.

3:31 pm: Bennett finds Colin Peek at the 38, and Choice runs it to the 31. Georgia Tech is now in field goal range.

3:32 pm: Choice runs the ball again, and this time he runs out of bounds inside the 25.

3:33 pm: Travis Bell will get another chance from near point blank range, 33 yards.

3:37 pm: the kick is good. Georgia Tech takes a 27-25 lead with 15 seconds left. If UNC kicks the field goal instead of going for it on the 1 yard line, UNC still has a lead.

3:39 pm: Tate catches the ball and goes out of bounds at the 46 yard line. UNC tries the 63-yard field goal, but it’s blocked. Georgia Tech wins, 27-25. UNC is young team; however, I think this loss is on the coaches. It was their decision to go for it on fourth down. It was their decision to run three straight up the middle runs that got nowhere with two minutes left, instead of trying to get the first down. It was their decision to run play-action pass plays in obvious passing downs. I really don’t put this loss on the players (except maybe Richard Quinn or Terence Brown). The on-field execution is on the players, but the play call decisions are on the coaches. I don’t feel that Carolina’s coaches did their best job of playcalling today.

 

UNC. vs. NC State Live Blog

As I said before in the preview, This game is important for both teams not only for bragging rights, but to keep bowl hopes alive. This game will likely come down to who plays better defense, who can protect the football, and our team’s ability when T.J. Yates does this:

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11:57: College Gameday gave their picks for this game. Lee Corso: Boooooooooooo…. Kirk Herbstreit: Yeeeeeaahhhhhhh!!!

12:11 pm: Carolina gets the ball to start the game, and will begin their offense at the 19 yard line.

12:12 pm: Johnny White starts at RB, and gets the handoff on first down. He’s stopped for a 1 yard gain.

12:13 pm: INTERCEPTION! Yates throws a floater into double coverage, and the safety gets an easy pick. Once again, we do exactly what we cannot do to start the game.

12:14 pm: Evans throws a decent screen pass, but NC State faces 3rd and short.

12:15 pm: Evans escapes the pocket, and once again finds the fullback to the left side, and he falls forward for a first down.

12:17 pm: SACK! The Heels put the pressure on Evans, and he’s eventually brought down at the 27 yard line by Durell Mapp.

12:18 pm: Evans completes to Marcus Stone, but it’s well short of a first down. The Wolfpack settle for a field goal. NC State leads, 3-0. Considering the interception, UNC is lucky to only be down three.

12:22 pm: UNC runs it again on first down. Bobby Rome goes nowhere.

12:23 pm: Yates has time, and fires a bullet to Greg Little in the middle for a first down.

12:24 pm: White gets the handoff again. This time he gets a decent 4 yard gain.

On second down, Yates’ quick pass to Richard Quinn is too high.

12:25 pm: Yates hits Pianalto in the flat, but the Wolfpack hit in the open field in what appears to be just short of the first down. Will UNC go for it on fourth down at midfield?

12:26 pm: The Heels decide to punt it away on fourth and short, NC State takes over inside the 15.

12:30 pm: NC State runs two sweeps, and Jamelle Eugene gets two big runs. a completion to Blackman brings the Wolfpack to midfield in just three plays.

12:32 pm: right now, NC State are getting big run plays by running the ball away from the blitz, where UNC is leaving big holes in their defense. Als, UNC, defenders aren;t wrapping up when they tackle.

12:35 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Jamelle Eugene and the NC State offensive line overpower the UNC defense, and Eugene breaks the plane of the end zone. Pending review, NC State has a two-score lead in the first quarter. Once again, the Tar Heels have allowed themselves to get hit in the mouth to start a game. 10-0, NC State.

12:40 pm: A flag on UNC’s kick return, which almost invariably means a holding/block in the back.

12:41 pm: Yates rolls out on the play action, and he finds Hakeem Nicks open down field for a first down.

12:42 pm: White gets into the secondary, but the safety makes a good open field tackle for a four yard gain.

12:43 pm: Yates finds a wide open Brooks Foster on the blitz, and he gets big yardage after the catch before being brought down at the NCSU 34.

12:44 pm: Yates goes deep to Hakeem Nicks, but it’s just out of Hakeem Nicks’ reach. That could have been six.

12:45 pm: Yates overthrows Foster on third down, and UNC face fourth down at the the 35. They try the field goal…and it’s wide left. NC State still leads 10-0, and now they have great field position.

12;47 pm: Wait…I knew that secondary was thin on the depth chart, but Richie Rich is playng DB?

The first quarter ends, the Wolfpack leading 10-0. This position has been all too familiar to us this season.

12:50 pm: Another pass and catch to Marcus Stone off the play action. Evans has hit his lat 10 passes.

12:56 pm: DE Bruce Carter bats down the pass by Evans. One of UNC’s few good defensive plays so far.

12:57 pm: The Wolfpack just plain want it more right now. Once again UNC had a chance to stop the offense, and Eugene overpowers the tacklers for the first down.

12:58 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Jamelle Eugene overpowers another tackler who doesn’t wrap him up, and rumbles in for the score. NC State leads 17-0. What on earth is wrong with this team in the first half this season?

1:02 pm: is Anthony Elzy injured? He’s responsible for two of our three best rushing performances this season, and he has yet to even see the field.

1:03 pm: They try the end around to Brandon Tate, but he’s chased out of bounds before he can make any ground.

1:04 pm: Yates finds Brooks Foster, but he’s well short of the first down, UNC is forced to punt.

1:05 pm: After a few missed tackles, Darell Blackman gets a huge return inside the 30 yard line. Only Charles Brown saves the touchdown.

1:10 pm: INTERCEPTION GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGGO TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!! Daniel Evans thorws it right into the hands of Charles Brown, and he returns it 92 yards the other way to the endzone. NC State leads, 17-7, but UNC gets exactly the big momentum swing they needed. If Evans had completed that ball, it would have been over at 24-0. But now UNC is back in this game.

1:14 pm: Kendric Burney breaks up the pass intended for Blackman.

1:16 pm: UNC breaks up the pass again, forcing a punt. The punt is partially blocked, and the Heels will start at the NCSU 41.

1:17 pm: Greg Little dive for the catch 8 yards out on first down, but Bobby Rome is stuffed toe set up 3rd and 2.

1:18 pm: The Heels get their first third down conversion, a 4 yard gain up the middle.

1:19 pm: Brandon Tate was double covered, but Yates threaded the needle, and Tate almost made the catch in the endzone.

Yates overthorws Foster in the flat again. 3rd and 10, and they at least need some yardage for a possible field goal.

1:20 pm: The Wolfpack put the pressure on, forcing the incomplete pass. Connor Barth kicks the field goal down the middle, and suddenly the game is 17-10, a one score game.

1:25 pm: Evans complete the pass into a crowd of defenders on third down, finding his tight end.

1:26 pm: NC State gets a huge reception, but it’s called back with a holding call.

1:27 pm: Either Jamelle Eugene is one of the strongest runners I’ve seen all season, or the Heels defense are amnesic about wrapping up when they tackle.

1:28 pm: Evans completes another pass for a first down, and the Wolfpack offense seems to be clicking once again.

1:30 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Two play action fakes by the Pack lead to two wide open catches, the last of which is a touchdown catch by Marcus Stone. NC State leads, 24-10.

1:35 pm: Yates finds Johnny White for a first down in field goal range, but the pass is called back with a holding call. In addition, a sack on the next play puts UNC behind the original line of scrimmage to start the drive.

1:37 pm: Yates is sacked again with less than 20 seconds left in the half, and the Heels will be forced to punt. NC State calls a timeout with 13 seconds left, hoping too get a big return before halftime.

1:40 pm: Brown pins the Wolfpack down at the 1 yard line, but there are only 2 seconds left.

1:41 pm: Evans tries a QB sneak to end the half. UNC leads 24-10 at halftime. NC State is dominating this game on offense, as Jamelle Eugene is having a big day against a defense that has been making bad plays at the worst possible time. They’ll need to shut down the Wolfpack on defense and do something on offense to have any hope of coming back. If not for the Charles Brown interception this game would be a blowout.

2:12 pm: UNC’s defense forces a punt on the opening possession, but they can’t do anything with it. Terence Brown’s punt goes 52 yards without a return. The offense has continued to be rather disappointing.

2:16 pm: The Defense get s the Wolfpack to go three and out, putting pressure on Evans the entire possession. After the short punt, UNC will have the ball near midfield, with a chance to make this a one score game again…assuming that the offense can wake up from their slumber at this point.

2:20 pm: TOUCHDOWN CAROLINA! The Heels hand the ball off to Bobby Rome, and he throws a deep pass to a wide open Brandon Tate, who waltzes into the end zone. The game is 24-17, and the Heels are very much back in this game with 23 minutes to play. A near perfect time for the Heels to run that trick play, and now the defense of the Pack will be forced to stay honest.

2:23 pm: Eugene drops the pass on second down. The Pack are forced into a third and long.

2:24 pm: SACK! Evans rolls out, but Hilee Taylor chases him down, forcing another 3-and-out. The wind kills the punt, and UNC will start at the UNC 40 with a chance to tie.

2:27 pm: I don’t know, but I’m getting the impression that Brandon Tate isn’t running full speed on his routes. He’s giving full effort, but he’s mistiming the route.

2:28 pm: Yates, what are you doing? You need to get into scoring range, but you dump to your back at the original line of scrimmage on third and long. Either throw it away and keep room for the punt, or go for the first down.

2:29 pm: NC State drops another pass. This time it’s Blackman.

2:31 pm: Evans succumbs to the pressure again, and UNC forces their third consecutive punt.

2:32 pm: UNC comes dangerously close to roughing the kicker, but UNC gets the ball back.

2:33 pm: Two nice plays to start the drive. First, Pianalto is wide open for a first down on the flat, and Elzy gets his first carry of the game, an 8 yard gain.

2:34 pm: Bobby Rome drops the low pass on third and short, but Butch Davis decides to go for it.

2:35 pm: They run the same play, and this time Rome makes the catch for the first down.

2:36 pm: Hakeem Nicks falls down just before the throw gets to him.

2:37 pm: Yates scrambles, and he find Pianalto to the right side again. First down, Carolina at the 11.

2:38 pm: OH! Yates makes another great throw, and Nicks makes the catch, but couldn’t hang onto it long enough for the touchdown.

2:41 pm: UNC tries the short pass to Nicks, but he goes nowhere. NC State leads, 24-17, at the end of the third quarter, and Connor Barth will try the field goal to start the fourth. The defense tightened up when they had to, and UNC’s offense has finally arrived to the game.

2:44 pm: The field goal is good. The game is now 24-20.

2:47 pm: Bowens gets a huge return, but a dumb block in the back brings the ball back inside their own 5 yard line.

2:50 pm: Evans comes under pressure, and Burney’s good coverage prevents a big gain.

2:51 pm: Evans rolls out on third down, and he finds Bowens, who fights for the first down and gets past the marker.

2:52 pm: The defense simply cannot allow Jamelle Eugene to take over this game again.

2:53 pm: The defensive line for Carolina is simply getting dominated on this possession.

2:54 pm: Evans works the play action again, and he finds Marcus Stone in a gap in the defense.

2:56 pm: INTERCEPTION GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO TOUCHDOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNN!!!! UNC DOES IT AGAIN! The screen pass is tipped by Mapp, Kendric Burney catches it, and he returns it all the way for the score! UNC takes the 27-24 lead! What a turn of events! The defense comes up huge with two interceptions returned for touchdowns today.

3:01 pm: SACK! Evans tries to pump fake. Kentwan Balmer doesn’t buy it.

3:04 pm: SACK! Hilee Taylor chases him down again, this time getting his 10th sack of the season and forcing another UNC punt. The Tar Heels are now in unfamiliar territory: in the fourth quarter, with a slim lead. Let’s see what they do.

3:06 pm: Johnny White gets a huge gain on the screen, but it turns out that a block in the back sprung it. The play is negated.

3:08 pm: Little gets a pass in the flat, but he only gets a short gain. 3rd and long.

3:09 pm: NOOOOOOO!!! Kyle Jolly gets beat on Yates’ blind side, the ball is jarred out of his hands and into the hands of a defensive lineman. Once again, the Heels turn the ball over at the worst possible moment. But don’t blame Yates for that; credit the defensive end for his relentless pursuit.

3:11 pm: NC State gets a first down in the red zone, and they have 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

3:12 pm: Quan Sturdivant is caught offside, and suddenly the Wolfpack are inside the 6 yard line.

3:13 pm: Eugene makes a great cut for a first down, and is brought down within two feet of the end zone.

3:16 pm: Eugene is stopped on first down, a sure touchdown pass is defelcted on second down, and Eugene appears to be stopped on third down, but UNC is caught offsides again.

3:17 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Eugene goes to the outside, and he scores easily. NC State takes a 31-27 lead with 1:41 to play. North Carolina now need to drive the length of the field to win this game, something they haven’t done all day.

3:19 pm: Tate retunrs the ball to the 37. The tar Heels must cross 63 yards in 94 seconds.

3:21 pm: First two passes are incompletions. 3rd and 10.

3;22 pm: The pass intended for Nicks is deflected. It all comes down to one play.

3:23 pm: And it;s Nicks who’s open in the middle! First down. On the next play, Foster catches the ball before being dragged out of bounds. 49 second left, inside the 40.

3:24 pm: Little is tackled short of the first down. With 41 second left, UNC takes their second timeout. The Heels face 3rd and short.

3:25 pm: Yates finds Pianalto for the first down with 32 seconds left.

Foster nearly makes the catch on first down. 27 seconds left.

3:26 pm: It’s Tate! Who catches it at the nine with 20 second left. They take their final timeout. Now we cannot afford a sack.

3:28 pm: Yates throws it out of the endzone. 14 seconds left.

3;28 pm: Incomplete pass, intended for Foster. Third down.

3:29 pm: Nicks was interfered with, but it’s fourth down.

3:30 pm: A fade route to Nicks, but it’s incomplete. And NC State will hang on to win, 31-27. A valiant effort on the part of the Tar Heels, but once again, a turnover at the worst possible time is what costs UNC the game. With the result of this game, NC State has won 4 straight, and North Carolina has been eliminated from bowl contention. I’m still proud of this team, and this was a fantastic game. But that’s exactly why this loss hurts.

UNC vs. Wake Forest Live Blog

Today, North Carolina plays Wake Forest in Winston Salem. The Deacons, at 5-2 and 3-1 in conference, are on pace to have a decent chance at defending their Cinderella run to the ACC Championship. Meanwhile, UNC is at 2-5, but are past the hardest part of their schedule. The UNC defense needs a big game today in order to win and keep the slim bowl hopes alive. More importantly, they cannot have ill-timed turnovers like in their four close losses.

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12:11 pm: Brandon Tate returns the opening kickoff to the 29 yard line to start the game.

12:12 pm: On the very first play from scrimmage, Exactly what we needed not to happen…happened. Yates rushes a throw to the outside, but he doesn’t see linebacker Aaron Curry in the path of the ball, and suddenly Wake has the ball in field goal range.

12:13 pm: Kenny Moore takes the ball in Wake’s first play, and he runs the ball 20 yards on the right side to the 11 yard line.

12:14 pm: The Carolina defense holds on and prevents a touchdown. Sam Swank kicks the easy field goal, and Wake leads 3-0. The Tar Heels prevent the touchdown, but they show how not to score this game.

This has been one of the biggest problems for this team in 2007. We’ve had close games, but in all of our close losses we’ve started behind and had to play catch-up for nearly the entire game.

12:19 pm: UNC goes right back to the pass. This time Yates completes the screen to Bobby Rome, who runs for the first down.

12:20 pm: Greg Little takes the handoff on the end around, and he gets about seven yards to the right side. Johnny White’s next run, however, is stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.

12:21 pm: False start, right tackles. Exactly what we don;t need on 3rd and 5.

12:22 pm: Wake runs the blitz, no one blocks on the right side, and Yates had absolutely no chance to get the ball off. A sack, and UNC is forced to punt.

12:25 pm: Charles Brown is starting at cornerback in place of Jermain Strong, who has been suspended for undisclosed reasons. Like we really needed less depth in the secondary.

12:27 pm: Riley Skinner is given all kinds of time after the fake handoffs, and finds a wide open Kenny Moore on the sidelines for another Wake first down.

12:28 pm: SACK! UNC puts the pressure, and Charles Brown comes in for the sack to force a third and long.

12:29 pm: AHHHHHHHHH!!! Few things are more frustrating to watch than seeing your defense give up a first down…on third a long…off of a screen pass.

12:31 pm: The defense is starting to show its relative inexperience. Wake’s subterfuge on offense has led to quite a few open receivers. This time, Tereshinski (the Wake TE) is wide open 20 yards downfield as a result of the play-action rollout.

12:35 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Passing gets Wake into the red zone, but Josh Adams takes them the rest of the way, ending in a 6-yard walk into the endzone. Wake leads 10-0. and this game, 10 minutes in, is already starting to look bad.

12:39 pm: Another third down…another false start on our right tackle. This cannot happen if we want to win.

12:40 pm: Yates gets time in the pocket, and fires a pass down the middle to Zack Pianalto for a big first down.

12:41 pm: Johnny White takes the ball to the right side and get nine yards. He’s hit at the line of scrimmage on the next play, but he has enough for a first down.

12:42 pm: Tate takes the handoff, and he find a big hole to the right side. First down, and UNC is finally in Wake territory.

12:44 pm: Yates is flushed out of the pocket, but he finds a seam up the middle, and he scrambles for another UNC first down inside the 30.

12:45 pm: The first quarter ends. Wake Forest leads 10-0, but the Tar Heels are driving to get back into this game.

12:48 pm: Yates completes the pass to Richard Quinn, setting up a 3rd and short at the 20. Ryan Houston takes the handoff, but he’s stopped behind the line. UNC will have to settle for a field goal.

12:49 pm: The field goal is good. UNC gets on the board, and at 10-3 Wake, it’s a one possession game again.

12:52 pm: NO! UNC is feeling good, having just brought it back to a 7 point game, they kick the ball off…and Kevin Marion returns the kickoff 98 yards, untouched, for a touchdown. That was a huge special teams breakdown; there was no one to tackle the returner, and Wake suddenly leads 17-3 without their offense needing to take a snap.

12:55 pm: Great. Another false start penalty for Carolina.

12:56 pm: Anthony Elzy is trapped 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but he finds his way out of the pile, gets a huge run up the suddenly open middle, and he comes very close to a first down.

12:58 pm: Yates runs the QB draw, but he’s a yard short. I personally think the Heels are chicken to punt in this situation, but if they go for the first down, fail, and Wake scores, this game is over. UNC punts, and miraculously, they manage to down the ball inside the Wake Forest 1 yard line.

1:02 pm: UNC forces the three and out, and should get the defensive stop and good field position that they desperately need. After the punt, the Heels will start in Wake territory.

1:06 pm: SACK! Wake continues to put a lot of pressure on T.J. Yates. Even worse, the Tar Heels are called for their fourth false start penalty, and their third such penalty on third down.

1:08 pm: Nicks gets smoe decent yardage after the catch, but is stopped well short of the first down. 3 plays, one penalty, -7 yards. Not good.

1:10 pm: Wake is finally called for their first penalty of the game; they were caught holding Marvin Austin.

1:12 pm: UNC tackles the tailback on the swing pass, a loss of 2. Third and 19.

1:13 pm: The Tar Heels get another big defensive stop. Swank rugby kicks the punt to prevent a return.

UNC gets the ball back with under 4 minutes left until halftime. A touchdown before halftime would make it a one-possession game again.

1:15 pm: Yates is flushed to the left side, but he fires the ball to Nicks on the sidelines for a first down.

1:16 pm: ANOTHER FALSE START! What on earth is going on inside these players’ heads today?

1:17 pm: Pianalto catches the pass tp the left side, but it’s still 3rd and 5.

SACK! Yates goes down for the third time today, as a linebacker goes untouched up the middle. Fourth down.

1:21 pm: Wake has good field position with about a minute left, But Hilee Taylor’s sack forces the Deacons to use a timeout.

1:24 pm: UNC puts the pressure on Riley Skinner again, and he’s forced to run out of bounds. The Heels defense have held in the last three possessions.

1:26 pm: Carolina runs the clock out to end the first half. Wake leads 17-3 at halftime. If UNC wants any hope of coming back, the defense needs to keep plying they way they did near the end of the half, and T.J. Yates needs to find holes in the Wake defense. Most importantly however–and I think I’ve said this for all of our close games–WE CANNOT MAKE STUPID MISTAKES.

1:55 pm: If you’re just re-joining us, you can clearly see the most important thing we must do is not make mistakes. Well, less than 4 minutes into the game, we stopped Wake’s initial drive and force a punt, but a UNC player touches the loose ball before it’s downed, and Wake recovers in the red zone. Granted, it a freakish bounce, and at best it grazed Richie Rich’s leg, but still…UNC has not been very lucky today.

1:59 pm: Wake appears to fumble the ball, and UNC recovers. However, the call is close, and Grobe asks for the play to go under review.

Nearly four minutes later, they still haven’t made an official ruling.

2:01 pm: The refs finally make a decision…and the call is reversed. UNC’s fumble recovery is nullified.

2:03 pm: UNC defense steps up again, preventing the touchdown. Swank kicks the field goal and Wake leads 20-3. Not to repeat what I’ve just said about mistakes, but without UNC’s big mistakes, the score would be, at worst, 7-3.

2:09 pm: 3 and out, North Carolina. The Tar Heels need big points in this game, but on that drive it looked like they weren’t even trying to get the ball downfield.

2:14 pm: Wake Forest’s running backs are having their way with the UNC defense on this drive, the latest a big run into the red zone by Micah Andrews. The Heels defense must be exhausted; they’ve been on the field for nearly the entire third quarter.

2:18 pm: About the first real break we’ve gotten in the second half. Wake has been called for two straight blocking penalties, and have played themselves out of field goal range.

2:22 pm: Micah Andrews gets a decent run on 3rd down, and it’s just enough to give Wake Forest another field goal. Wake’s lead is now 23-3, and only 16 minutes remain in this game.

2:25 pm: UNC finally gets a few big plays, and within two plays UNC has driven 51 yards and into Wake territory.

2:26 pm: The third quarter ends, and Wake leads 23-3. This game appears out of reach, but will UNC try to emotionally pull us back into the game in the fourth quarter?

2:29 pm: Hakeem Nicks gets the pass on third and short, and he gets to the 23 yard line.

2:30 pm: Johnny White gets the handoff, and good blocking leads to another first down. UNC is now in the red zone.

2:31 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Yates runs the playaction, and Bobby Rome was wide open on the right side, and he walked into the endzone. UNC’s deficit is now 23-10. A nice drive by the Tar Heels, but by now I know better than to get too excited at this point.

2:34 pm: NOOOO!!! NOT AGAIN! Kevin Marion takes the kickoff from the UNC score again, and he gets a huge return again. Wake will start inside the red zone, as a trip is the only thing that stops the touchdown.

2:35 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Josh Adams finds a seam and gets a touchdown on the very next play. Wake leads 30-10, and UNC is defeinitely not coming back from this one.

2;39 pm: One can reasonably expect UNC to make mistakes, but one of the few things that UNC could reliably do was make catches. Watching Hakeem Nicks drop that pass, even though it was high, might be his first drop of the season.

2:41 pm: Yates is throwing the ball well again, and UNC has two straight first down.

2:42 pm: Nicks gets the ball again, and Wake is called for a late hit penalty on top of that. UNC is within striking distance again.

2:44 pm: INTERCEPTION! Yates throws a pass to the outside, but again he doesn’t see LB Aaron Curry, he intercepts the ball in stride, and this time he takes it 77 yards back for a TOUCHDOWN. Wake leads, 37-10, as mistakes continue to haunt the Tar Heels.

2:49 pm: Within the carnage is a bright spot: T.J. Yates now holds the UNC freshman records for completions (144) and passing yards (1, 871), eclipsing Darian Durant in each category.

2:52 pm: Yates makes a truly insane pass play, but it’s called back because a lineman was downfield.

2:53 pm: UNC turns the ball over on downs.

3:04 pm: An interesting stat that re-assures UNC’s place as the “youngest” team in 1-A this year: more true freshman have played for UNC in this game (11) than have played for Wake Forest in six years (10).

3:06 pm: As the game is drawing to a close, next week’s game between Wake Forest and Virginia will now have big ACC implications.

3:07 pm: This blowout finally comes to a merciful end. Wake Forest wins, 37-10 despite having only one true touchdown drive. This was a pretty devastating loss, who needed this win, but never seemed to have given themselves much of a chance, literally, from the very first play.

 

 

UNC vs. South Carolina Live Blog

Today North Carolina plays South Carolina in perhaps UNC’s biggest game of the year. If the Tar Heels can pull off the upset, it would change the entire scope of our season.

3:33 pm: UNC gets the kickoff to start the game. 1st down at the 25.

3:34 pm: Elzy gets the carry, and he’s stuffed at the line.

3:35 pm: Elzy takes it on second down, and this time he gets a big loss. Ugh. 3rd and 14, and SC is #4 in the nation in 3rd down defense.

3:36 pm: Run, run, incompletion, punt. If you watched UNC in the Carl Torbush era, this would be very familiar.

Terence Brown’s punt is very nearly blocked, and South Carolina will start at their own 40.

3:38 pm: The Gamecocks are running a pseudo-hurry up offense. A nice gain on the 1st down screen, but the outside run is stuffed.

3:39 pm: Smelley overthrows the swing pass–badly–and the UNC defense holds their own on defense. After a touchback, the Heels will start at the 20.

3:42 pm: Yates throws a floater on first down, but it’s nearly intercepted. Hakeem Nicks did a good job of breaking it up.

Elzy runs again, and he’s stuffed again.

3:43 pm: SACK, Eric Norwood! The Heels are forced to punt again. 6 plays, -8 yard. After another bad punt, USC will start in UNC territory.

3:45 pm: Smelly throws on first down, and he finds his tight end in the middle of the field. First down, and the Gamecocks are already in field goal range.

3:47 pm: A pass is tipped, and Deunta Williams very nearly comes up with the interception–and in fact, he may very well have picked it off. The play is under review.

3:49 pm: The pass stands as incomplete. Booooo…..

3:51 pm: Hilee Taylor is caught offsides, and SC has a first down in the red zone. Cory Boyd takes the next draw play, and he runs down to the 3.

3:52 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Smelley is given all kinds of time, and he fires a bullet to Lecorn in the end zone. UNC played zone, and they paid for it. South Carolina leads, 7-0.

3:57 pm: UNC is called for block in the back on the return, and they have to start inside their own 10.

South Carolina is called offsides.

3:58 pm: Yates throws a quick pass to Hakeem Nicks, who catches on the slant for a first down.

3:59 pm: Yates throws another quick pass, this time to Brooks Foster for a 5 yard gain.

4:00 pm: There should have been a pass interference call, but when you run the same play three times in a row, the defense is going catch on.

Hakeem Nicks gets another first down catch, and UNC gets another 5 yards after a defensive holding call.

4:01 pm: The Tar Heels run a direct snap to Greg Little, and it works to perfection; he gets a big gain to the left side, and now UNC is at the SC 37.

4:02 pm: Joe Dailey takes the direct snap at quarterback. Shockingly, nothing bad happens, and he gets 5 yards.

4:03 pm: Yates is flushed out of the pocket, and he’s forced to throw across his body on the left side. The pass is quick, but Tate can;t come up with it. Fourth down.

4:04 pm: Barth misses! He misses the 49 yard field goal, and his streak of 19 FGs made is snapped. UNC still trails, 7-0, but the Tar Heels seem to finally be moving the ball.

4:07 pm: South Carolina gets good field position off the missed FG. Maike Davis gets a big gain on first down, and already SC is near midfield.

4:08 pm: TOUCHDOWN. McKinley is left in man-to-man coverage, and Smelley puts the ball right where it has to be. South Carolina leads 14-0, and UNC is already in big trouble. If the defense can’t make a stop, then we have no chance.

4:11 pm: Great another block in the back.

4:12 pm: Elzy takes the handoff and he gets a first down. Those are the kinds of run plays that we need.

4:13 pm: 3rd and 2, after a catch by Pianalto and another decent run by Elzy.

Little takes the direct snap again, and this time he gets a first down up the middle. He does an excellent job with the fake handoff.

4:14 pm: Kenan Stadium does not have an empty seat right now. As God intended. Elzy takes the handoff and runs for another first down. Nice to see that the Tar Heels didn’t abandon the run after the early struggles.

4:16 pm: Quick pass to Hakeem Nicks on the outside, and he gets 9 yards. Elzy give the Tar Heels another first down, and hopefully he’s finally starting to keep the USC defense honest.

4:17 pm: That’s the end of the first quarter. South Carolina leads 14-0, but North Carolina is knocking on the doorstep.

4:20 pm: Bobby Rome needs to look that ball into his hands. He worried too much about the run after, and he dropped it.

4:21 pm: Johnny White gets the carry. His carry is underwhelming, and it’s third down.

4:22 pm: Yates scrambles for a few yards, but it’s short of the first down. Fortunately, Barth’s kick is right down the middle this time. South Carolina’s lead is now 14-3.

4:25 pm: South Carolina gets the ball back. UNC’s defense must step up.

4:26 pm: The Gamecocks get a quick first down on two run plays. UNC has not done a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage.

4:27 pm: How does a fullback get left so wide open in the middle?

4:28 pm: Cory Boyd past midfield, and he gets a first down inside the 40. A facemask penalty now brings them to the 35.

4:29 pm: The D-line finally makes its presence felyt. Marvin Austin comes unblocked up the middle, and forces an intentional grounding from Smelley. 2nd ad 24 on the 14 yard loss.

OH! E.J. Wilson predicts the swing pass, and he very nearly has the interception. But he can;t hang on to the ball.

4:30 pm: Mike Davis takes the short pass, but it’s well short of a first down, and South Carolina has fourth down at the 38.

4:31 pm: UPDATE: LSU 7, UK, 7.

Succop’s punt is terrible, and UNC will start with decent field position. Marvin Austin may have potentially saved this game for UNC…at least for now.

4:34 pm: Brandon Tate takes the quick pass, and he gets big yardage after the catch. First down, UNC at the 42.

4:36 pm: Yates finally gets time, and Yates fires it downfield to a wide open Tate…but he’s just a half-step too short of the catch and near certain touchdown.

4:37 pm: Little’s catch on third down is well short, and UNC has to punt. This time, Brown’s punt is excellent, and Munnerlyn fair catches at the 8 yard line.

4:39 pm: FUMBLE! Davis fumbles on third down insode their own red zone, and “Quantavius Sturdivant” recovers inside the 15. UNC now Has great field position–and momentum.

4:40 pm: Just when we have the momentum, another penalty on the Tar Heels. This time it’s a holding call.

4:42 pm: INTERCEPTION! NOOOOOOO!!! Yates is under deep pressure from the inside, and he’s about to get sacked out of field goal range. Instead of taking the sack or throwing it away, he throws a floater into double coverage. Predictably, it gets picked off. That was exactly what we needed not to happen. We had first down at the SC 15, and for the drive to end like that… just terrible execution by every member of the Tar Heel offense.

4:49 pm: UNC’s defense holds for a 3-and-out. They seem to have finally adjusted to the Gamecocks.

4:51 pm: The USC defense is definitely winning the battle of the trenches right now. The Tar Heels offensive line has let them through too many times in the first half.

4:52 pm: SACK. Yates has nowhere to go on third down, and UNC has their 15th play for 0 yards or a loss today. Even worse, Captain Munnerlyn returns the punt into UNC territory.

4:54 pm: I knew that UNC was young, but even I didn’t know that 51 of the 84 players on our roster had not played a down until this season.

4:55 pm: Steve Spurrier is angry. He has little reason to; his team is dominating.

South Carolina faces 4th and inches, and they are going for it.

4:57 pm: Smelley tries the sneak, and he gets the first down…barely.

5:00 pm: Cory Boyd runs again on 3rd and short, and he gets it easily. Less than 30 seconds left in the first half.

5:01 pm: TOUCHDOWN. Once again, a receiver is left wide open in the middle of the field, and this time it’s a touchdown for Jared Cook. South Carolina leads, 21-3 before halftime, and this game may already ge out of reach for the Tar Heels.

5:04 pm: T.J. Yates takes the first down, and he immediately throws into a defender’s hands. Yates now has more interceptions than touchdowns, and has thrown seven straight picks without a score.

Halftime mercifully arrives, and South Carolina leads 21-3. If UNC has any chance of coming back, they need to do pretty much the opposite of whatever they were doing in the first half.

The defense did a decent job, especially in the secon dquarter, but they leave way tto much open space in the middle and it’s costing them big time. As for the offense..they need to go back to the runnning game and the short passes for yards after the catch. Those were the only plays working for the offense in the first half.

5:27 pm: The second half has begun, and South Carolina gets the ball to start the second half. Apparently, with 3 TDs Chris Smelley already has a career day. Is he getting that good, or has our defense just been that bad?

5:29 pm: UNC forces a punt, but we have some very bad news: Brandon Tate is out of the game, apparently with a concussion, and Hakeem Nicks has a bad ankle. The one strength we had on offense, and it seems to have been taken away from us.

5:31 pm: Elzy gets the carry. He barely gets past the line of scrimmage.

5:32 pm: We still have at least one big play receiver in Brooks Foster, who made a big catch on third down to move the chains.

5:37 pm: The USC defense continues to put pressure on Yates, and he’s sacked on third down. The defensive line hasn’t allowed North Carolina to do anything on offense.

5:30 pm: The good news: South Carolina roughs the kicker, and UNC has a first down. The bad news: UNC commits a personal foul after the play, and it’s 1st and 25.

5:40 pm: Correction: it wasn’t a first and 25, but it might as well be, Carolina is called for holding again! There have been at least several instances in which UNC has been given opportunities, and each time the Heels have made a big mistake to throw their chance away.

5:43 pm: What is wrong with the Tar Heels today? After taking a big step forward in their win against Miami, they seem to be taking big steps backward today: questionable decision making, lack of concentration, and an inability to take advantage of the opportunities that South Carolina has given them.

5:49 pm: Ryan Houston is getting a few carries now. On third down, he finally gives UNC a nice run, and finally some spark.

5:52 pm: Just like that, UNC is forced to punt again. The passing game is not working at all. With less than 20 minutes left in the game though, I think it’s 4 down territory from this point on.

5:56 pm: After yesterday’s Late Night with Roy, and with the way this game is turning out, many UNC fans, may already be looking toward basketball season. I say not yet; UNC’s defense forced another 3-and-out, and this is the toughest opponent we’ll face all year.

5:58 pm: How did that punt not get blocked? Bruce Carter went right up the middle untouched, but he was half a step too slow.

5:59 pm: Yates gets a big pass on first down to Bobby Rome, and UNC is now in SC territory.

6:00 pm: Hakeem Nicks returns to the game with authority! He gets the ball and big yards after the catch, and suddenly the Heels are back in the red zone.

6:01 pm: The third quarter ends with, guess what, another sack. South Carolina leads 21-3 after 3 quarters, and it would take a miracle fourth quarter for UNC to come back.

6:04 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Greg Little takes the pass, makes the entire secondary miss, and dives in for the score. Ryan Baucom misses the extra point, but UNC now trails 21-9 off of Yates’ first TD pass since the Virginia game. The crowd is back in this game, and UNC isn’t quite out of this yet.

6:08 pm: SACK! E.J, Wilson (and really, the entire defensive line) puts the pressure on Smelley. After a broken up pass, it’s now third down. The crowd is alive.

6:09 pm: Delay of game on South Carolina.

6:10 pm: SACK! Hilee Taylor gets to the QB, and Smelley has no chance. 3 and out. UNC may yet have one more opportunity in this game.

6:14 pm: Foster makes the catch on third down, but it;s a few yards short. With time running out, UNC is going for it.

6:15 pm: Wait a minute…They’re not seriously going to run in a jumbo formation on 4th and a long 2…wait, a timeout. Thank God.

6:18 pm: FIRST DOWN! UNC goes for it, puts everyone on the line, and Yates runs the play action. Hakeem Nicks is wide open downfield, and UNC gets a huge first down right when they needed it.

6:19 pm: Ref: “Please reset the Gamecock to 11:02”.

6:20 pm: It’s a miracle that Yates managed to avoid the pressure. Third and long.

6:21 pm: What a catch by Nicks, and another first down for the Tar Heels!

6:22 pm: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

UNC tries a fake play, an end-around to Joe Dailey, who throws the ball under pressure. If you watched Joe dailey last year, you know exactly what happens next. This game is now pretty much over.

I know people are going to criticize this play, but I don’t think it was a terrible call. Terrible execution, but not a terrible call.

6:24 pm: INTERCEPTION! I take that back. Mark Paschal picks off the pass by Smelley. Just when I think they’re out, the defense pulls me back in.

6:25 pm: Johnny White gets a huge run, and suddenly the Tar Heels are back inside the USC 25.

6:26 pm: Johnny White runs to the left again, finds a seam, and picks up a first down at the 11.

6:27 pm: NO! another potential turnover, this time a Greg Litlle fumble. Fortunately, UNC recovers.

6:28 pm: Yates is hit as he throws on third down, and it’s way out of bounds. UNC has no choice but to go for it…wait…WHAT?!?! What is Butch doing sending the kicker out there?!?!?

6:32 pm: Yates throws a fade on fourth down, and the ball goes through the arms of Greg Little. A near perfect pass, and Greg Little misses. South Carolina takes over, and barring another USC turnover this game is in the books.

6:34 pm: UNC forces another 3-and-out, but it’s too little, too late.

6:38 pm: Johnny White takes the pass up the middle and gets a huge gain to the 26, and then Nicks makes a huge grab at the 4 yard line. UNC, why must you toy with my emotions?

6:39 pm: TOUCHDOWN! TJ YATES TAKES IT IN HIMSELF! The heels fail on the 2 point conversion, but UNC now trails 21-15 with 3:03 left. If the Heels can force another 3-and-out, they can get the ball back with a chance to win. I simply cannot believe it.

6:42 pm: What is UNC doing running the onside kick?!? Barth makes a near perfect kick but the ball goes out of bounds, and South Carolina ball. I did not understand that call at all. Our defense has been playing out of their minds in the second half; why give the USC offense momentum?

6:44 pm: After two huge defensive plays, Cory Boyd runs a screen for twelve yards. South Carolina now faces fourth and short. Will they go for it?

They will kick the field goal.

IT’S OFF THE POST! IT’S OFF THE POST! AND NOW, UNC WILL HAVE 40 SECONDS AND GREAT FIELD POSITION!

6:48 pm: White is open, but he drops the ball.

6:48 pm: Little makes the catch. 28 seconds left, in SC territory.

Kenton Thornton catches again. Inside the 40.

6:49 pm: Greg Little nearly stays in bounds when he absolutely need to go out of bounds. 11 seconds left.

6:50 pm: Four seconds left. Little almost gets the catch in the endzone.

6:52 pm: Yates’ hail mary is…short. South Carolina knocks down for the incompletion, and South Carolina wins, 21-15. A lot of mistakes and missed opportunities for North Carolina, but they still have a lot to be proud of, coming back from three scores down to stay alive and give South Carolina the fight of their lives. The defense stepped up when they had to–not allowing a single first down in the second half!–but the offense just could not take advantage.

Previewing UNC vs. South Carolina

Five ways for UNC to pull off the upset:

  • If Anthony Elzy has a big day. Carolina now finally has an established running back in Elzy, who has 169 rushing yards, over 200 total yards, and 2 touchdowns in his last two games. Keep in mind that these stats were against two tough defenses in Virginia Tech and Miami. The Heels will need him to have a big day against the Gamecocks; while they’re #1 in the nation in pass defense, they’re also 99th in run defense.
  • If T.J. Yates doesn’t spend most of the game on his back. T.J. Yates first three games at QB: 58 for 88, 902 yards, 9 TDs, 3 interceptions, 5 sacks. His next three games: 42 for 75, 485 yards, no TDs, 5 interceptions, 12 sacks. Yates has steadily improved over the time frame of three games, and he didn’t turn the ball over against Miami. However, he can’t be very effective as a quarterback when he’s constantly under. If he gets time to throw from his young offensive line, he’ll be able to do what he did best early in the season: throw to his three main receivers (Tate, Nicks, and Foster) in position to get yards after the catch.
  • If the defense can stop South Carolina’s offense from getting momentum. In each of UNC’s last three losses, the Tar Heels were forced to play from behind the entire game because their defense let the opposing offense score a touchdown on their first drive. In two of those games, they were in essence the only offense touchdown the team would score and thus the difference in the game. (I’m counting VT’s second half touchdown as a defensive touchdown, since Xavier Adibi returned a Yates interception to the 4 yard line before Brandon Ore punched it in.)

And that starts on the defensive line. Hilee Taylor, E.J. Wilson, Kentwan Balmer, and Marvin Austin are capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. If they’re effective in stopping the run and pressuring Chris Smelley, the entire defense can be effective.

  • If UNC can win the turnover battle. In UNC’s two wins, their turnover margin is +4, including forcing 4 turnovers against Miami (5 if you include “Quantavius Sturdivant”‘s punt block). In their 4 losses, the TO margin is -7. UNC’s offense will need to take care of the ball, while players in the secondary such Deunta Williams will need to take advantage of any mistakes that Smelley makes in the game.
  • If UNC can perform well on special teams. Connor Barth has yet to miss a field goal this season. Brandon Tate is one of the best kick and punt returners in the nation; he’ll need to have a good game, if not for scoring then for field position. As stated before, the blocked punt by Sturdivant became the difference in last week’s game against the Hurricanes.

Five ways that the Tar Heels can lose this game:

The exact opposite of the preceding five points.

Five players who must come up big for the Heels today:

  • Elzy. See above.
  • Sturdivant. Not only has he been an essential special teams player, he’s established himself as UNC’s linebacker of the future, playing well in his last few games alongside Durell Mapp.
  • Jermaine Strong/Tavores Jolly. Kendric Burney has solidified himself at one side of the defensive secondary, but the other side was left open after Kendric Willams tore his ACL against Virginia Tech. Strong played well against Miami before shoulder issues set in. Jolly stepped in for the second half and got absolutely burned in the third quarter, responsible for at least two of Miami’s four touchdowns. The first touchdown was the result of a Jolly holding penalty in the endzone, and it was Jolly who got burned on Darnell Jenkins’ 97 yard touchdown. Talk about a baptism by fire. If neither of them can come through, we may see a lot of nickelback Charles Brown in this game.
  • The guys at the line of scrimmage. If our offensive and defensive lines lose the battle in the trenches, we’ll lose. It’s simple.
  • Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster: They have a responsibility to keep Yates off the turf as well. If they can’t get open, the result will be a lot of coverage sacks for the Gamecocks. UNC’s passing offense also depends on the receiver’s ability to get yards after the catch.

Five players to watch for South Carolina:

  • Chris Smelley. He’s SC’s quarterback because he’s able to manage a game and, unlike Blake Mitchell not make big mistakes. If he has time, he’ll have a good day throwing the ball against a non-SEC defense.
  • Cory Boyd. UNC’s defense has struggled against the run in earlier games. Boyd is the best running back they’ve seen yet. If the front seven can’t keep him in check, the Tar Heels are in for a long game.
  • Eric Norwood. He’s the centerpiece of the Gamecocks’ top defense, an excellent defender against the run and the pass. He was responsible for two key touchdowns on fumble returns against Kentucky last week.
  • Ryan Succop. He’ll be doing double-duty today as kicker and punter, and he’s among the best in the SEC at both.
  • Captain Munnerlyn. His name alone is enough, but he’s also the anchor of South Carolina’s secondary and kick return units.

People are trying to make a big deal out of Spurrier returning to Kenan Stadium for the first time since his Duke team crushed UNC 41-0 in 1989. I actually don’t care much about it, as it was before my time; Florida State is far more likely to draw my eternal football ire*. This is more about pulling off the big upset as establishing the Tar Heels as a team on the rise.

As always, stay tuned for the live blog at 3:30 pm.

*No, I still haven’t forgiven the Seminoles for that cold November might 10 years ago.