UNC vs. Virginia Tech Preview

We’re four games into this season, and Saturday’s game against the Hokies will be the final uncharted territory for the Heels this season: an ACC road game. We know how bad the Heels are, but also how good that they can, and will become in the future.

  • Which T. J. Yates will we see the rest of the season? For the first three games of the season, Yates looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last Saturday against South Florida, he finally played like a redshirt freshman. 11/27 passing, 85 yards, no touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. It wasn’t all his fault; the Bulls defensive line was in the backfield on every play, and USF has one of the best secondaries in the nation. However, he never thought to throw the ball away when under pressure, he always seemed to turn it over at  the worst possible moment, and two interceptions to linebackers is inexcusable. So, will we see Virginia T. J. Yates, or will we see USF T. J. Yates at quarterback? I expect something in between, but only one thing is certain: Right now, in a deep, dark room on the 8th floor of Davis Library in Chapel Hill, Mike Paulus is plotting his revenge.
  • Will the receivers find holes in the secondary? It’s easy to blame the quarterback for throwing those interceptions, but let’s face facts: the wide receiver tandem of Foster, Tate and Nicks were reduced to a non-factor last week; with the exception of one catch by Nicks to put UNC in range for a field goal, no one caught a pass for longer than 10 yards. That’s because our passing offense relies on yardage after the catch, and USF was able to shut it down. Watch for Virginia Tech to try and do the same.
  • Is Ryan Houston the answer to our woes in the ground game? He certainly showed signs of brilliance, rushing for 48 yards on 11 carries and UNC’s only touchdown last week. He showed a great combination of power, and a great first step out of the backfield. both of which have been lacking in UNC’s running game. But his carries were in garbage time, when the game had already been decided. We’ll see what kind of impact he makes on Saturday when the game is up for grabs. My bet is that he’ll improve our running attack, but by a whole lot in the short term.
  • Will UNC finally win the turnover battle? Our turnover margin is -7 for the season. We’ve only won the turnover battle, 3 to 2, against James Madison, and given the ball away 10 times while only taking the ball away twice in our three losses. This week we face a team that, over the last 15 years has been the best in the country in forcing turnovers and creating points out of them. This doesn’t bode well for the Tar Heels.
  • Can the defense start strong in a game?  Our biggest problems on defense have been at the beginning of games. The defensive line, in particular, spends a quarter to a quarter and a half getting physically dominated by  the opposing offense before buckling down; In five of the six quarters after the first in Carolina’s past two games, the defense didn’t allow a touchdown. They are certainly capable of playing good defense, but they need to play well from the start, so that the offense doesn’t always have to play from behind, which will lead to a lot more turnovers.

The Heels are capable of beating the Hokies, but they need to play a near-perfect game. That means that Yates and his receivers need to get back in form, the running game needs to be at least respectable, the defense needs to play well from the get-go (meaning: Brandon Ore cannot look like a Heisman candidate in the first quarter), and most importantly, Carolina CANNOT TURN THE BALL OVER.

As always, I’ll be here to live blog the action. Enjoy the game.

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UNC vs. #23 USF Live Blog

Today UNC is in Tampa to play the USF Bulls, who are ranked for the first time in history. To get ready for the game, see the UNC-USF preview.

12:03 pm: USF gets the ball to start the game. A good start on defense is crucial.

12:05 pm: On third down, Matt Grothe runs the draw, and gets through a big hole to get 15+ yards and a first down.

12:07 pm: We’re starting with the exact same problems we had against Virginia. The D-line is getting overpowered, the secondary is being caught out of position, and when we get to the ball, we can’t wrap up.

12:08 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Mike Ford runs to the outside, and he runs untouched into the endzone. 7-0, USF early in the first quarter. Junior Ben Williams brought them down the field, but Ford finished off the drive. Thing’s aren’t looking good for our defense early. The D-line is, once again, allowing themselves to be dominated physically at the line of scrimmage.

12:12 pm: Our Mascot’s name is Rameses. Get it right, Pam Ward.

12:13 pm: With the short kickoff, UNC starts at the 40 yard line.

12:14 pm: Yates complete his first two passes, first to Hakeem Nicks and then to Brooks Foster, and UNC gets the first down.

12:15 pm: SACK! George Selvie gets a huge jump on the ball, sacking T. J. Yates and forcing a punt. Selvie ran off the line of scrimmage so fast, I had to watch the replay to make sure he wasn’t offside. That guy is fast.

12:17 pm: Jamar Taylor takes the swing pass on first down, and he’s able to get through several defenders for the first. Our secondary HAS to stop arm tackling.

12:19 pm: I’m not saying anything, but my first impression of ESPN’s Rob Simmelkjaer was this:

12:20 pm: With USF advancing the ball again, UNC takes a timeout on 3rd and 3.

12:24 pm: Either the UNC secondary is really lapsing, or USF’s receivers are fast eoungh to get wide open in the middle. My guess is both.

12:26 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Grothe fires a bullet in the red zone to Amare Jackson, who breaks yet another UNC arm tackle to get in the endzone. 14-0, USF, as the Bulls have their way early on offense. UNC needs to respond with a score on this next drive, or else this game could get ugly.

12:29 pm: Brandon Tate’s kick return bring the Tar Heels in good field position again. They’ll start at the 36.

12:30 pm: UNC run their first rushing play of the game. Johnny White gets 4 yards.

USF brings the cornerback blitz on second down, and Yates’ bootleg fails miserably.

12:32 pm: INTERCEPTION! Yates rolls out on third down, and he fires a deep pass intended for Brooks Foster. The pass isn’t even close, and USF takes over inside their own 20.

12:33 pm: MARVIN AUSTIN WATCH: Marvin gets a huge tackle on first down, for a loss of 4 yards.

12:34 pm: UNC finally catches a defensive break, forcing a three and out after Deunta Williams breaks up a pass on third down and forces a punt.

12;35 pm: ESPN showed this interesting stat: UNC has as many freshman on their roster as they have players in all other classes, combined (42). We might be losing now, but the future is bright, for sure.

12:36 pm: Johnny White gets a first down on a 10 yard gain to open the drive.

12:37 pm: Holy crap, stop the presses! UNC may actually have an effective running game today! three runs, 25+ yards, two first downs.

12:38 pm: I knew it! Selvie is jumping offside. He’s quick, but he isn’t that quick.

12:39 pm: The first quarter ends, as USF has grabbed a 14-0 lead. UNC faces 3rd down to start the second quarter, and they need to convert to help get back in this game. It’s still early, but USF can make a blowout out of this.

12:43 pm: T. J Yates fires it to Hakeem Nicks, and he gets big yards after the catch and gets inside the USF 30.

12:44 pm: UNC is really committed to the running game on this drive. Johnny White gets another nice run to get to the 20.

12:45 pm: After a loss on 2nd down, Yates throws to Nicks again. This time, Trae Williams breaks up the pass. UNC settles for a field goal. USF leads 14-3, But UNC is finally on the board, and finally having a good running game will help both our offense (opens up the passing game) and our defense (Time of possession).

12:52 pm: USF starts with good field position off of the kick return. Ben Williams gets a big run, and suddenly the Bulls are past midfield.

12:53 pm: What a catch by Cedric Hill. I thought Deunta Williams had the interception, but the huge tight end out jumps him for the ball.

After Ben Williams goes nowhere on first down, Grothe finally misfires on two passes, forcing the Bulls to kick a field goal. USF leads 17-3, but thankfully we’ve yet to allow this game to get out of reach. If we can get it together for the next two and a half quarters, the Heels could still get a win today.

12:58 pm: Brandon Tate has a chance for a big return, but he does WAY too much dancing around, and UNC will start on the 22.

1:00 pm: Anthony Elzy gets a decent gain on the swing pass, but he gets a big hit from Gachette, who hit so hard he has to to leave the game, at least temporarily, with a concussion.

1:01 pm: Yates finds Nicks again for a first down, but UNC has yet to make a big play in the passing game, save Nick’s run after the catch to get in field goal range.

1:02 pm: Nicks drops a pass that was right on his hands in stride. Fortunately, USF is caught offside.

1:03 pm: I know the bootleg didn’t go well, but why aren’t we using play-action yet? That run play was way too predictable.

1:04 pm: A big cornerback blitz catches Yates by surprise, and his pass was thisclose to being intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Tar Heels have to punt.

1:11 pm: We are very fortunate, as Grothe nearly misses a deep pass downfield, and USF is called for holding on his big 3rd down run. Now we finally have a favorable 3rd down situation.

1:12 pm: Are you kidding me? Grothe finally gets some pressure, but he fires a bullet to the sidelines, and a wide receiver is there to catch, and juuuuuuuust get the first down. If we can’t stop these guys on 3rd and 15, our defense doesn’t stand much of a chance in this game.

1:14 pm: Kentwan Balmer is about to choke someone. He is angry at this defense.

1:15 pm: Grothe is finally forced to throw it away, at it brings up 4th down. Marvin Austin did a good job of pressuring the Bulls.

1:16 pm: This is the worst mistake that the Tar Heels could possibly make. The defense finally holds, and then the UNC punt team is caught offsides on 4th and 3, and now the defense has to get back on the field.

There are a lot of mistakes that UNC could make, but I have to believe that jumping offside on 4th down is the worst. You have to know the situation!

1:18 pm: Great. More arm tackling. USFkeeps advancing the ball.

1:22 pm: Finally, we finally get a sack on Matt Grothe. He is elusive.

1:23 pm: Way for Burney and Williams to break up the pass. They almost got an INT on that.

1:23 pm: FUMBLE! Wesley Flagg strips the ball as Grothe tries to run for the first, and Trimane Goddard recovers. Finally, the defense forces a turnover, and has something go their way as halftime approaches.

1:25 pm: INTERCEPTION! UNC commits yet another mistake at the worst possible time. Yates tries to get the ball to Foster, but Gachette intercepts the ball at the USF 40 yard line. The Tar Heels keep relinquishing any and all momentum that they’ve gotten in the first half.

1:27 pm: Grothe finds a wide open receiver in the middle, and he gets out of bounds inside the 20.

1:31 pm: USF kicks a field goal before halftime. The Bulls lead 20-3 and crank dat Soulja Boy. UNC doesn’t feel like dancing.

And we’ve hit halftime. If UNC wants any chance is coming back, 3 things need to happen.

  1. T.J. Yates needs to get back in a rhythm and get the passing game going. Of course, the receivers need to help him out on that.
  2. On defense, we need to finish the tackles that we start. USF is getting too much yardage after contact.
  3. NO MORE MENTAL MISTAKES! We’ve been beating ourselves more than anyone this season. I know this team is young, but we need a better presence of mind. There was no presence of mind with the 4th and three offsides, or with the second interception.

1:49 pm: Oh no…another Lou Holtz pep talk. Penn State is doomed.

2:04 pm: Rejoining the game a bit late. After UNC’s pffense opened with a punt, Grothe fumbled the ball, Hilee Tayolr recovered, and UNC is back in good field position.

2:06 pm: Just like that, T. J. Yates throws yet another interception. He now has 3 bad interceptions and 0 touchdowns. Fir the first time in his UNC career, Yates has the look of a QB who has only played 3 games in college and 14 games in his life.

2:08 pm: USF gets within field goal range after the interception return. they quickly go three and out, but make the field goal to make it 23-3, Bulls. Fortunately, UNC’s defense held to keep it a 3 score game. If Yates can get it together, he might be able to mount a comeback, but it looks like the South Florida secondary has just been too much for him to handle.

2;11 pm: Brandon Tate, one of our few bright spots today, gets another nice kick return, and UNC will start at the 39.

2:13 pm: You know that the Bulls defense is dominating this game when they nearly intercept a screen pass.

2:14 pm: T.J. Yates is sacked again, as absolutely no one is open downfield. The Tar Heels are forced to punt.

2:20 pm: Finally, UNC is making some big defensive stops. If not for Yates’ interceptions, it would still be a more manageable 17-3.

2:22 pm: I know that USF has a great defense, and I know that Yates has finally been flustered in this game. But throwing 4 picks in any game, including two to linebackers, is inexcusable.

After his first three games, UNC fans were talking big about T.J. Yates, myself included. The Tar Heel faithful felt that he was the best QB we’ve had since at least Durant, and he still could be that. But the fact remains that he’s very inexperienced, and we should have seen a bad game coming from him. Even so, I doubt that anyone expected it to be in this game, or for it to be quite this bad.

But no one, I repeat, NO ONE start calling for Mike Paulus to start next week. Yates has had three great games, he’s earned himself a leash of at least 3-5 bad games.

2:27 pm: USF drives down the field, get a fourth down conversion in the red zone, and Ben Williams powers his way 6 yards into the endzone. USF leads 30-3, and they have likely ended any chance the Heels have of coming back.

2:33 pm: FUMBLE! USF muffs the fair catch, Brooks Foster ensures the fumble, and the ball is recovered at the 16 by Ryan “Bacon”, as the ESPN guy called Mr. Baucom.

2:35 pm: Yates is sacked for the fourth time, but a facemask brings them to the 11, and Ryan Houston runs to set up a first and goal. Yet another freshman getting PT for the Heels.

2:37 pm: UNC will face third down, as USF leads 30-3 at the end of the third quarter. At his point, kicking another field goal does nothing, so I think that if the Heels face a fourth down inside the 10, they need to go for it. Even if they miss, the Bulls will have bad field position, and it’s not like we can make this situation any worse.

2:41 pm: I stand corrected: a false start. Why isn’t there a silent count?

Selvie goes through the line completely untouched, and USF now has 5 sacks.

2:42 pm: Yates throws a floater, Trae Williams breaks it up in the endzone, and UNC has to turn the ball over on downs. It was the right call to go for it, but it doesn’t make coming up empty any less painful.

2:43 pm: Out goes Grothe, who had a pretty good game today.

2:50 pm: UNC makes another defensive stop and forces a punt, But the Bulls down the punt at the 1 yard line. Even when they’ve done something wrong, they redeemed themselves pretty quickly.

2:58 pm: USF’s defensive pressure, even with a big lead, refuses to relent, and UNC is forced into a three-and-out. Nicks almost catches a deep pass, but the Heels have to punt.

3:06 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Another USF tailback rushes it in, and the Bulls take a 37-3 lead. There’s no point leaving Yates in now.

3:10 pm: Hey USF, throw us a friggin’ bone. Let Brandon Tate take a kickoff for a touchdown. No one would lower their opinion of you, and we would get some semblance of happiness in this otherwise miserable game.

3:12 pm: Wait…T. J. Yates is still in the game? Keeping him in accomplishes nothing. He doesn’t need the extra 4 minutes of experience, and he might get injured.

3:14 pm: I know it’s garbage time, but Ryan Houston isn’t looking half bad. He;s fighting through tackles and has an very quick first step.

3:15 pm: I give huge credit to South Florida’s defense, who completely dominated this game. I hope to never again see T. J. Yates’ jersey get this dirty.

3:18 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Ryan Houston ends our scoring nightmare, using power and agility to get in the endzone. UNC now trails 37-10, but Ryan Houston has officially thrown his name into our running back battle, and he’s showing signs for becoming a very good back.

3:24 pm:  It’s officially over: USF wins 37-10. I don’t anyone expected the Bulls to beat us quite this handily, but their defense really stepped up, in particular George Selvie. T. J. Yates never got into any rhythm, and threw for 4 interceptions today.  Two bright spots though:

  1. UNC’s defense showed, for about a 30 minute stretch, that they are capable of shutting down a good offense. They just need to do it for 60.
  2. Ryan Houston may finally solve our problems on the ground.

USF is a talented team, but this huge loss foreshadows what might happen in our next three games.

 

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.

brandon-tate-touchdown.jpg

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 vs Oregon State Live Blog: Game 2, 2007 College World Series Finals

Tonight UNC and Oregon State play game 2 of the College World Series Finals in Omaha. The beavers dominated game 1, pitching well and decimating the Tar Heels bullpen in an 11-4 victory. However, Wooten and Carignan weren’t used on Saturday, so they should be fresh. Luke Putkonen needs to come up big on the mound for Carolina tonight. The Heels bats need to wake up tonight as well, or else they will get swept.

7:13 pm: Luke Putkonen is off to a good start. It took him very few pitches to retire the side on a groundout and two flyouts to center. Three up, three down.

7:16 pm: Bottom of the first. Reid Fronk gets on base to lead off the inning, courtesy of a hit by pitch. We now reach the magic number of 50 hit batsmen in this year’s CWS.

7:18 pm: Josh Horton is moved up to 2nd in the order, and he hits a single to left-center field. Fronk advances to third, and Dustin Ackley is up next. Please, lord, let’s not leave men on base this time.

7:19 pm: Ackley’s grounder makes it past the third baseman, and Fronk scores easily. UNC has drawn first blood, leading 1-0.

7:21 pm: Tim Federowicz, by sheer luck, manages to execute the sacrifice bunt, advancing runners to second and third with only one out. Mike Stutes is not off to a great start.

7:24 pm: Tim Fedroff hits a grounder to first base, but Lennarton throws out Horton at home to prevent an extra run. Two outs, runners on the corners.

7:25 pm: Seth Williams harmlessly flies out to left field. UNC leads 1-0 at the end of the first inning, but they should have done a lot more.

7:29 pm: Top of the second. Mitch Canham gets on base, as the grounder to third is just out of Chad Flack’s reach.

7:30 pm: Nooooooo!!! Darwin Barney makes the Tar heels pay for not running up the score in the first inning, hitting a 2-run homer that just gets over the left field wall. Oregon State leads, 2-1.

7:34 pm: Putkonen is in trouble. After the home run, John Wallace gets a single, and Scott Santchi is walked. Andrew Carignan is already warming up.

7:37 pm: Putkonen finally gets an out, but there are runners on the corners with only one out.

7:40 pm: Lechelt strikes out, and Putkonen now has two away. However, a wild pitch advanced Santchi to second.

7:42 pm: Hopkins grounds the ball to third base, and Flack’s throw is low to first base. Ackley is forced off the bag, Hopkins is safe, and one run scores. 3-1, Oregon State. Ugh.

7:45 pm: Joey Wong is walked, and now the bases are loaded. That should be it for Putkonen. Andrew Carignan will come in. Once again, our starting pitching has betrayed us.

7:54 pm: Speaking of betraying…stupid WordPress is malfunctioning! Anyway, Carignan struck out Mike Lissman to end the inning and get out of the jam. Oregon State still takes a 3-1 lead.

Kyle Seager and Chad Flack both flied out, for two quick outs. Garret Gore is up next.

7:56 pm: Garret Gore strikes out to end the inning. Oregon State leads 3-1 after 2, and the Tar Heel bats are falling silent again.

8:00 pm: Top of the third. Mitch Canham leads off with a ground single past Horton.

8:01 pm: Darwin Barney grounds out to Ackley, but Canham advances to 2nd.

8:04 pm: Uh-oh. Carignan walks John Wallace. If Andrew Carignan is struggling on the mound for UNC, then we are completely f–ked.

8:05 pm: No sooner do I type that than Scott Santchi hits a bloop single that scores Canham from third. We are in serious trouble.

8:07 pm: Lennarton grounds out to the merciful inning ending double play. Oregon State extends their lead to 4-1 in the middle of the third.

8:11 pm: Bottom of the third. Fronk gets walked, and he’s gotten on base twice without having to even take a swing.

8:13 pm: Base hit by Horton. He hits a line drive into shallow left, and the Heels have runners on first and second with no outs, and Ackley at the plate.

8:19 pm: Ackley is walked to load the bases. No outs, and Federowicz is at the plate.

8:21 pm: Oregon State forces out Ackley at third from the Federowicz grounder, but Fronk scores easily, and the deficit is now 4-2.

8:23 pm: Dammit! Just as it looks like we’re coming back, Fedroff strikes out on three pitches. Two outs.

8:25 pm: Seth Williams flies out to shallow left to end the inning. Once again, we squander an opportunity to make a big comeback. Oregon State leads, 4-2. This is really frustrating.

8:30 pm: Carignan is back to very efficient pitching, retiring the side easily and striking out Joey Wong to end the inning. UNC still trails 4-2 in the middle of the 4th.

8:34 pm: Kyle Seager hits a single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the 4th.

8:35 pm: Chad Flack’s slump continues, as he flies out to the 2nd baseman in shallow right. One away.

8:40 pm: Garrett Gore strikes out for the second out. Fortunately, UNC returns to the top of the order and Fronk.

8:42 pm: Fronk strikes out to end the inning, as the UNC offense continues to struggle. Oregon State leads 4-2 after 4.

8:48 pm: Carignan is not off to a very good start in the 5th inning. He’s hit the first batter and walked the second.

8:51 pm: Carolina turns the grounder by Barney into a 6-4-3 DP. Two outs, a runner on third. I think Carignan should finish the inning, and then the Hells will put Wooten on the mound in the 6th.

8:53 pm: Wallace gets a base hit to left, and Lissman scores easily to make it 5-2, Oregon State.

8:56 pm: Base hit by Santchi right at the pitcher, and Wallace advances to third.

8:58 pm: Carignan gets out of the jam, as Lennarton flies out to end the inning…”…And the milkshakes from Zestos have arrived. Mmmm-mmm.” You gotta laugh at announcers. Oregon State leads, 5-2.

9:02 pm: Horton flies out to lead off the bottom of the fifth.

9:03 pm: HOME RUN! Dustin Ackley Sends one depp over the right field wall. UNC cuts the lead to 2, trailing 5-3.

9:05 pm: Tim Federowicz is not having a good trip to Omaha. He’s 2-25 now in the College World Series.

9:07 pm: Fedroff has a two out base hit, and Seth Williams is up next. A home run would tie the game.

9:09 pm: Stutes walks Williams to put runners on first and second and two outs. The bullpen is warming up.

9:12 pm: Yet another opportunity wasted by the Heels, as Seager grounds out to Lennarton at first base to end the inning. 5-3, Oregon State after 5.

9:16 pm: Top of the sixth. Lechelt gets on base to lead off, but Hopkins’ sacrifice bunt pops up, and Ackley catches it for the out.

9:19 pm: Joey Wong gets on base, and that will be it for Andrew Carignan. Rob Wooten will come to the mound in his place.

9:21 pm: Lissman flies out to Horton. Two outs, two on.

9:24 pm: Wooten strikes out Mitch Canham to end the top of the 6th. UNC is still within two runs, trailing 5-3.

9:32 pm: After Garret Gore gets to secon base, Mike Stutes is pulled in favor of reliever Anton Maxwell. Reid Fronk is up to bat.

9:35 pm: The Tar Heels continue to struggle. Reid Fronk flies out to right field for the second out. The heels are now 3 for their last 32 iwith runners in scoring position.

9:36 pm: Horton is hit by a pitch, and with two outs and runners on the corners, Ackley is at the plate with the chance to get a run, tie or take the lead.

9:38 pm: Ackley hits a near perfect line drive to left field, but Lissman makes the catch to end the inning. Oregon State leads 5-3, as our offensive plight is now such a statistical anomaly that it is simply ridiculous. If you want to watch something else (and I don’t blame you), “Enter the Dragon”, the ultimate Kung Fu movie, is on Spike TV.

9:42 pm: After Darwin Barney strikes out, John Wallace hits a triple to right field.

9:43 pm: Gore can’t field the ground ball, and Wallace scores easily. Oregon State leads 6-3, and at this point I’m so mad that I am ready to wipe the town of Corvallis, Oregon off the map. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s going to miss it, right?

9:49 pm: Seth Williams makes an unbelievable catch to end the top of the 7th, but Oregon State leads 7-3, and things are not looking good for UNC. Even our fundamentals are falling apart.

9:53 pm: Grbavac is now pitching for the Beavers, and Mike Cavasinni is pinch hitting for the Tar Heels. He ground out for the first out of the bottom of the 7th inning.

9:55 pm: Tim Fedroff hits a chop single over the pitcher, and Seth Williams is next.

9:58 pm: Seth Williams smokes a line drive down the left field line. Fedroff heads home, but Oregon State’s relaying gets the ball in time to the catcher, and Fedroff is out at home.

10:01 pm: Seager strikes out to end the inning, and the Heels come up empty AGAIN! Oregon State leads, 7-3.

10:08 pm: Top pf the eighth. After one out, Robert Woodard comes in for Wooten.

10:13 pm: Woodard is able to get out of the inning without allowing any runs. The last out was a great running catch by Fedroff. However Oregon State still leads, 7-3.

10:20 pm: The bottom of the eighth ends more mercifully for the Tar Heels: three up, three down. At least we didn’t get our hopes up only to be crushed for the 17th time today. Oregon State leads, 7-3.

10:27 pm: Lennarton sends a Woodard pitch out of Rosenblatt Stadium, and with it any remote hope that UNC had of coming back. Oregon State leads, 9-3.

10:32 pm: You know I could blame this loss on our bad starting pitching. I could blame it on our bats falling silent. I could even blame on our failure at times to make even the most routine plays. But we need a better scapegoat. So I will blame the NCAA Selection Committee. Oregon State was a bubble team, having lost most of their players, and with a losing record in the Pac-10. If Georgia Tech is selected instead (and I was legitimately surprised that they were snubbed), we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

In case you were wondering that was sarcasm. We lost because we just plain stunk.

10:36 pm: Bottom of the 9th. Horton lines out to Third, and Ackley grounds out to second. Kyle Shelton is now our last chance.

10:38pm: Fittingly, Shelton strikes out on a full count to end the game, and Oregon State is your National Champion, winning 9-3. 

It sucks. It just plain sucks. Words fail. We were very lucky to be here in the first place, pulling a lot of miracle comebacks when our pitching didn’t come through. When we reached the final, our luck simply ran out, when we ran into a very disciplined Oregon State team. Congratulations to the Beavers, but for what what you have done, you now draw my absolute ire. I mean it when I say this: If you ever play against Duke, I will root for you to get swept.

Super Regional Day 2 Recap: Now THAT’S What I Call A 7th Inning Stretch!

Game2 of the Super Regional has thus far followed a similar script to Game 1. The Carolina starting pitcher, Alex White got shell shocked early and often, and had to be taken out early in favor of middle relief. While the entire Gamecock offense was performing well, Justin Smoak was outstanding, with two RBI, including a solo home run, and three runs scored. Meanwhile, the Carolina offense got very little accomplished in the early part of the game against the starting pitcher. Erik Himpy eventually had to be pulled however, and once again took advantage of South Carolina’s bullpen. Tim Federowicz hit a two RBI single in the top of the 7th to cut the lead to 8-5.

South Carolina did manage to get Josh Horton out (who is still hitless in this game), before the middle of the 7th inning, before the game was delayed due to an impending thunderstorm. Eventually the game was suspended until 2:30 pm today. So after a 17 hour 7th inning stretch (that must be some sort of record), we will finally get to see how this plays out. Sitting on that grassy hill known as “general admission” after a heavy rain will only make it that much more interesting.

Boshamer Super Regional Game 1: What A Comeback…

So there I am, In the general admission section of Boshamer Stadium. 90 degrees, 90% humidity. The sun has already set, so I’m not roasting. Instead, I’m left on a grassy hill to bathe in barbeque sauce and my own musk. An inning and a half before, our opponent had hit a grand slam off of our star pitcher to take a 6-0 lead, commencing one of the few times that 1,000 people yelling “COCKS!” in public was socially acceptable. The feeling at that moment was engulfing. It was asphyxiating, It had permeated everyone wearing blue that evening. It was an inescapable feeling of shock.

And I simply could not have been happier.

Absolutely epic. It was the bottom of the 7th inning. The Tar Heels had cut the deficit to 6-3 in the 6th, and now Carolina fans were witnessing an unstoppable comeback. 6 runs in the 7th inning. Everyone who had been sitting on the hill before were now standing, up, straining their voice beyond recognition. If you entered the stadium with the voice of a tenor, you left with the voice of a 3-pack-a-day smoker.  Watching UNC make the comeback for the 9-6 win over South Carolina was a level of happiness I had not felt since Tyler Hansbrough single handedly ruined J.J. Redick’s senior night 15 months ago.

You can find the analysis at Tar Heel Blue, for I am at a loss for words on the actual baseball details. I will say this: Josh Horton is simply unstoppable right now.