UNC’s Win Over East Carolina, Explained By This Painting

I never saw this game make Saturday night’s college football highlights, so for those of you don’t know what happened in this game, I have a solution: PICTURE TIME!

blackbeard-maynard

In Order:

Fig. A: Skip Holtz, Presented here as Blackbeard. As one can clearly see, he has brought a cutlass to a pistol fight.

Fig. B: Butch Davis, presented here as Robert Maynard, the naval officer credited for killing Blackbeard.

Fig. C: LORD QUANTAVIUS STURDIVANT, presented here as one of Maynard’s men, strangling the life out of another helpless offense.

Fig. D: Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd, presented here as a shadowy hand with a gun pointed at Blackbeard. They combined for 7 catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns, including Boyd’s monster 59 yard touchdown in the first half. You didn’t see that coming, did you?

Fig. E: Ron Cherry, presented here as a pirate about to slash Blackbeard’s throat with that terrible roughing the passer call.

Final tally: UNC 31, ECU 17. Rejoice, for the privateers will never more terrorize our fellow gentlemen at Charleston Harbor.

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ACC PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS!

VT blog Gobbler Country and Furrier4Heisman held a preseason conference poll among ACC bloggers and was kind enough to invite my opinion, despite my recent sporadic-ness-ness-ness. (I will save the explanation for another time, but for now I’ll say life got in the way.) Anyway, here were may predictions:

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State

2. NC State

3. Clemson

4. Wake Forest

5. Maryland

6. Boston College

Florida State has the talent, eventually they have to pull it together, right? State is a team on the rise despite the (temporary?) loss of Nate Irving. I sincerely hope he comes back to haunt running backs’ dreams again…just not our backs. Clemson is still talented, but we don’t know how consistent they are. Wake Forest will take a step back on defense, the key to their success the last three years. Boston College is squarely in rebuilding mode after all they’ve lost.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech

2. Georgia Tech

3. North Carolina

4. Miami

5. Virginia

6. Duke

Last year was the time to pounce on the Coastal Division and step up in Virginia Tech’s rebuilding year. That window is now closed, and now anyone who wants to win this division must go through the Hokies. Georgia Tech’s Success will depend on whether their triple option stand the test of a team getting a second look. I actually predicted that North Carolina can finish as well as 10-2, but they have to beat one or both of the Techs on the road in order to win the division; honestly, I don;t think this team is ready. Miami still needs to show consistency to be placed higher than fourth. Virginia lose too many important players from 2008 and Duke is, well, Duke.

Offensive Player of the Year: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech

Partly because he’s very good and partly to be contrarian. How Gobbler Country let me get away with calling him “Darrell Evans” in the email I sent him, I’ll never know.

Defensive Player of the Year: QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT, UNC.

I have never been more confident of a prediction in my entire life. Ever.

Rookie of the Year: Josh Adams, UNC.

Not knowing much (read: anything about other rookies in the ACC, I decided to stick to what I know. Judging by the pairty in voting in this category, everyone else voted the same way. I think Jamal Womble will have a bigger impact, but I have a hunch Adams will have better stats.

Thanks again to Gobbler Country for holding this poll.

Your Weekly Reminder of This Season’s Unbridled Awesomeness

(Photo: IC)

It’s been a week off from football for the Heels, so maybe this week you need a quick reminder of how great this season has been.

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

paulus_mike1Well, you can’t please everyone.

Hello, Deer. Have You Met Headlights?

Coming out of the tunnel in the second half…

Mike Paulus: Yeah, I am sooo pumped for this game, even though I’m probably not going to see a snap. But hey, if I’m in the game, it;s because you’ve slammed the door shut, T.J. Now let’s kick some! Let’s go, T.J.! Let’s go, Quan! Let’s go, Greg! WHOOOOOOOO!!!

(Mike Paulus has just patted the back of each player just mentioned, unwittingly giving them an radio chip in the process.)

Third Quarter. UNC is up 10-3 against Virginia Tech.

This game ain’t looking half-bad. Defense is dominating, we’re in field goal range, and T.J. is looking pretty sharp.

T.J. Yates: HUT HUT!

Radio: Beep beepbeedeedeep beedeedeep beedeedeepeep beedeedeepeep beeeeeeeeeeeeep

T.J. Yates:

Must…sprint…backwards…into…defensive…player…

(Yates is sacked for a loss of 20 yards, and hurts his left foot in the process)

Oh, no! T.J. can’t be hurt!

Butch: Get him out of there!

Yates: I’m…fine…coach…I’ll…stay…here…

(Yates performs 7 step drop on bad foot, is sacked)

Butch: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!

Yates: I don’t know what came over me OW OW OW OW

Alright Mike, get yourself together. This game is on your shoulders now. Hopefully we can get the running game going. Keep the pressure off, you know. You can do this, Mike, This is what you came here for.

Next possession…

Alright, Well start with a run up the middle. Can’t be that bad. HUT HUT! (hands of to Greg Little) GO! GO GO GO GO GO! YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! WAY TO GO GREG! WAY TO GO! Whoo, okay. 17-3. Defense is playing well. Pressure’s off.

VT possession. 3rd and 5. Tyrod Taylor has just been stopped for no gain.

Way to go defense! Way to go!

Unnamed Hokie Player:

Ron Cherry: After the play was over, personal foul, on the…

Radio: BEEEEP BEEDEEDEEP BEEPDEEDEEDEEPBEEEP BEEEEEEEEP

Cherry:

…on the defense. 15 yards from the dead ball spot, first down.

WHAT! He had Quan by the mask! How is that not on Tech, Ron? Oh, well, we can still force a field goal kick.

Virginia Tech scores after another, er, “odd” call, and the score is 17-10.

Okay, so they’ve cut the lead to seven. But come on, that was a fluke. We can still be in control of this game.

So, we’ll just do this like last time. handoff to Greg up the middle and see what happens. HUT HUT!

Radio: BEEEPBEDEDEEEPBEEEP BEDEDEEPBEEP BEEEEEEEEP

Greg Little:

Must…let…go…of…ball…at…inopportune…moment…

Okay, we’re in the red zone, getting into crunch time. We’ve made it this far, I think we can finish this drive get the momentum back, and walk away with victory. Alright, keep it cool.

HUT HUT!

Let’s see to the right here. Hey look! Foster’s open in the flat…

Radio: BEEPBEDEEPBEBEDEEEEEPPBEPBEDEEEP BEEEEP

Must…throw…deep…ball…into…coverage…hope…Hakeem…gets…lucky…

Macho Harris: Mmm yummy delicious interception

Crowd: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Wha…what just happened? Oh come on! What made me throw that to Nicks? How could i be so stupid!

Hokies win the game, 20-17.

Okay, something’s up. way too many weird things have been going on. How could this have happened? HOW!

Meanwhile, not far away…

(phone rings)

(phone rings)

(ph-)

Anonymous voice from Durham #1:

Cut here.

Ananymous voice from Durham #2:

Hey, it’s Greg. Just wanted to let you know that the plan worked. Phase one of Operation Sabotage is complete.

Anonymous voice from Durham #1: Excellent. But I still can’t believe you got your brother to become part of the plan.

Anonymous voice from Durham #2: I know! That dude is so gullible when he’s around me.

Anonymous voice from Durham #1: Muahahahaha….

Anonymous voice from Durham #1: BWAHH-HAHAHAHAAAAAAA…

TO BE CONTINUED…

So, What Did We Learn From McNeese State?

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

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

On Offense:

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

On Defense:

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

Special Teams:

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

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

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)

2008 Season Previews: Linebackers

The future (left) and the recent past (right) of great UNC linebacking.

Starters: Mark Paschal (#41), Chase Rice (#44), Quantavius Sturdivant (#52)

Key Reserves: Bruce Carter (#54), Kennedy Tinsley (#36), Kevin Reddick

Overview:

Linebacker is perhaps the position where the Tar Heels have the biggest power vacuum. Leading tackler Durell Mapp graduated, and reliable backup Wesley Flagg was dismissed from the team. That leaves four linebackers with any real experience: Seniors Rice and Paschal, and sophomores Sturdivant and Carter. Sturdivant and the two seniors are expected to compose the starting lineup, with Carter getting serious playing time off the bench. The rest of the bench is an unknown at this position. Beginning to see a pattern here?

Paschal leads all returning linebackers with 53 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss last season. He will be held responsible for the middle linebacker position that Mapp left vacant. Chase Rice was a starter coming into the 2007 season, but his year quickly ended due to an ankle injury against James Madison. His role was partially filled by Bruce Carter, who had 25 tackles coming off the bench. The Heels have an talented incoming freshman in Kevin Reddick, but no one knows how much of an impact he will have. Besides, dudes with that kind of last name are taboo ’round these here parts.

Hey, it’s not my fault your name sounds like the 3rd most hated Dukie of all time.

That leaves us with Sturdivant. From now on, he will no longer be adressed by his pagan name. Now and forever more, Tar Heel Maniacs shall address him as QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT, lord of the linebackers! Destroyer of worlds, avenger of running backs and defyer of lines of scrimmage AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sorry, got carried away there. Anyway…Quantavius The Magnificent is the up and comer of this group, playing in all twelve games last season, starting in four of them. Quantavius the Magnificent racked up 47 tackles, including a sack, an interception, and one sweet blocked punt against Miami. The game against the HUrricanes was, in essence, his coming out party. He is almost certainly the future NFL player in this linebacking corps; expect him to make big noise in the ACC this season at weakside LB.

Outlook: Quantavius The Magnificent aside, this might be Carolina’s weakest position on the field. Paschal is the only player with a full season in the starting lineup, and to our best knowledge there is little in the way of depth on the bench. Of all the positions, this is probably where we can least afford a serious injury. However, the starting three and Bruce Carter are still good enough to hold their own this season. Provided that everyone stays healthy, of course.

(Photo: Orlando Sentinel)