Meet The Newbies! Josh Adams

Football Season: It’s creeping up a lot faster than you think. It makes no sense to cover the important players you already know. That’s the MSM’s job. Instead, let’s talk about the players with whom you may be less familiar: The players who will get significant PT for the first time. Today we look at Josh Adams, a man soon to become the preying mantis of the ACC. I have no idea what that metaphor means.

What We Know: 6’4″ Josh Adams enrolled early this past January, getting a head start on his true freshman peers. This decision has allowed him to move up the depth chart faster than other highly touted freshman like fellow WR Jheranie Boyd and top high school defensive end Donte Moss. (Mind you, Moss was the #1 DE in the nation when he signed, and the Heels are thinner at DE than at WR right now.) Adams had 1131 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on just 56 catches his senior year in high school, averaging 20 yards per catch. (Detractors say those numbers were inflated by inferior opponents, but eh.) Adams’ first college football experience was spring practice, which makes him just as qualified as anyone else on this team to be a starting receiver.

What They’re Saying: As directed by the UNC Football Ministry of Propaganda, quarterback T. J. Yates has praised Adams as a dream in convenient wide receiver form:

“He’s one of the hardest working receivers I’ve been around. Especially for his young age. Coming right into school, he was 100 percent ball, all the time. He was watching film everyday, catching the ball. Even when he was hurt he was catching the ball, running routes, so his work ethic is really going to pay off for him. He’s definitely going to contribute for us. He’s got great hands, he runs really good routes, and he can go up there and make the catches guys aren’t supposed to, so he’s definitely going to make some plays for us.”

Until September 5th, no one outside of UNC’s practices has any way of substantiating this claim.

What We Can Expect: I don’t see him moving ahead of Greg Little or Dwight Jones into the starting lineup. However, Josh Adams seems to have established himself in spring practice as the #3 wide receiver for the Heels. If he stays there and plays well, he could put up Brooks Foster-type numbers this season: 25-35 catches and 300-450 yards. I have no idea if this will actually happen, but in UNC’s pro-style offense it’s a reasonable ceiling.

(Photo: IC)

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…

A Visual Representation of Me At the UNC-Virginia Tech Game

First two and a half quarters:

Pure jubilation. Sure, it was only a 14 point lead, but Greg Litlle had just run 50 yards for a touchdown to put us up 17-3. And honestly, where the hell was Virginia Tech’s offense gonna come from?

Final quarter and a half:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

You can use that picture to describe the Paulus interception to Macho Harris. Or the Greg Little fumble. Or the Yates injury. Or any of the frustrating penalties. That was pretty much everyone’s face in the stadium in the fourth quarter.

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.

HeelTube: Wide Receiver Bonanza

With only nine days left until the start of Carolina’s football season, I am officially pumped. To help you visualize 2008 Carolina football, let’s take a look at a few of T.J. Yates’ favorite targets.

First up, Hakeem Nicks.

Next, senior Brooks Foster.

The gamebreaker, Brandon Tate.

And for good measure, Dwight Jones in high school.

Needless to say, Yates has plenty of options this year.

Carolina Football Items: 8/2

Practice started yesterday for Carolina football. Begin freaking out…now.

  • The consensus is that T.J. Yates is 100% healthy. He certainly impressed with his throws in practice (which you can see here), and the UNC staff isn’t very concerned about him anymore. Does this mean we’re going to see the Yates who threw for 9 touchdowns in the first 3 games of the season? We won’t know for sure until September. But UNC fans should feel comfortable knowing that the QB position is a bit more stable than it was a week ago.
  • A technicality with the NCAA has prevented freshman Kevin Reddick and juco transfer Joseph Townsend from participating in opening practice. Ultimately, it shouldn’t interfere with their long-term eligibility.
  • Say it with me: We’re Number 46! We’re Number 46!

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.

ronald-curry.jpg

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.

 

The Difference between Virginia and North Carolina

Both North Carolina and Virginia were not expected to have good seasons in the ACC Coastal. Both teams were coming off of disappointing seasons and coaching turmoils. Both teams are composed of nearly 50% freshmen. And both teams have had seven games decided by seven points or less, including their contest against each other. UVa is 6-1 in those games, including a 22-20 victory in kenan Stadium; UNC is 2-5. All of those games could have just as easily gone the other way, and it could be the 3-7 Tar Heels, and not the 9-2 Cavaliers, who would be in control of their conference destiny. So, what has been the difference between the nation’s worst ranked team and the nation’s best bowl ineligible team? Let’s find out.

 unc-uva.jpg

  • Over by the half: This year, the Tar Heels have been notorious for digging themselves into deep holes early in games, only to come back and fall short late. However, I didn’t know what Virginia had done early in games. In their 14 combined close contests this season, these two teams are 6-1 when leading or tied at halftime, and 1-6 when trailing after two quarters. The only exceptions to this trend are Virginia’s 18-17 victory over Maryland, when the Cavs trailed 10-7 at the midway point of their game with the Terps, and UNC’s game with East Carolina, a 17-17 tie at the half.
  • Coughing it up: Another frustrating trend for North Carolina this season has been turnovers at the worst possible moments. As expected, UNC has a turnover margin of -6 in their close games, and -8 in their five losses. However, Virginia had a TO margin of -1 in their close matchups, and the only game in which they won the turnover battle was against the Tar Heels (+3). Taking away the head-to-head game, the difference is only one turnover. However, volume of turnovers could tell a different story. North Carolina committed 16 turnovers in their 7 close games, 13 when subtracting the head-to-head matchup and 12 in their 5 losses. That is more than 2 turnovers per game. Virginia has allowed 10 turnovers in their 7 games, including 8 in their 6 wins, and did not turn it over against the Tar Heels. So, the ultimate difference between these two teams is approximately one turnover per game. Exactly as I suspected.
  • Run, (insert random tailback), run!:  Another big knock on this team is their inability to run the football (108th in the nation). Looking at the statistics, and it’s pretty clear that Virginia isn’t a good running team either (88th). So this is a wash. Perhaps a better indication would be run defense. North Carolina was actually somewhat respectable in this department, allowing 129.3 yards per game in their 7 close matchups, slightly better than their season average and good for 39th in the nation. Virginia, conversely, averaged 105.7 yards rushing allowed in their 7 close games, good for 18th in the nation. A difference of less than 24 yards, it still may be statistically significant, but it’s not as reliable an indicator as our first two criteria.
  • Send in the punt team: Believe it or not, 3rd down defense is one stat in which UNC has an advantage over Virginia, 36.4% to 40.4%. The difference, however, in in 3rd down offense. Virginia is 37.9% (46 of 116) on third down in their seven close games, including 36.4% in their games not involving the Tar Heels. That’s only good for a tie for 73rd in the nation, not very good by any stretch of the imagination. But UNC’s terrible running games also leads to them having one of the worst 3rd down percentages in the nation on third down, 29.7% in their 7 close games and an atrocious 26.1% conversion rate without the UVa game. Only Florida International has a worse overall conversion percentage.

  • Mi Agüita Amarilla: Penalties are where the discrepancy may be the widest, and Carolina has seen a lot of yellow in close games. Again subtracting the head-to-head matchup, Virginia has 32 penalties in 6 close games good for 20th in the nation in fewest penalties per game. UNC however, committed 49 penalties in their matchups decided by a touchdown or less, good for…112th. Not good.

So what did we learn? In these close games, UNC got behind early, turned the ball over, committed too many penalties, and couldn’t run the ball or convert a third down to save their souls, whereas Virginia…pretty much did the exact opposite of those things. Yes, it turns out the mystery behind Virginia’s ability to win close games, and North Carolina’s lack thereof, is little mystery at all. Heels fans should not get discouraged; this is a very young and inexperienced team, and if any one of these statistics had come in our favor, It would the UNC competing for the Coastal division. In the future, I will expect the Tar Heels to win these close games in 2008 and beyond.

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:

yates-handoff.jpg

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.