ACC Roundtable Roundup #2

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Welcome to the roundup of this week’s ACC Roundtable. Our esteemed panelists for this week are Myself, BC Interruption, Block C, College Game Balls, From Old Virginia, Gobbler Country, and The Legacy x4.

Okay, first things first: could someone please explain what the hell just happened this past Saturday?

The general consensus here is that the events of Saturday are less unexpected than at first glance. Sure, Wake, UNC, and Virginia Tech may have all been ahead in the standings. But, as From Old Virginia points out, those were all conference road games, which are never, ever easy.

BC Interruption sees the reason for the ACC’s “fluctuation” has less to do with the teams themselves and more to do with that the media “is easily distracted by shiny things” and constantly re-assesses the state of the conference from week to week.

College Game Balls, however, may have the best answer of anyone:

Heather Dinich used her Greek Goddess abilities to flip the league on top of its head, again.

Dinich bathes in the schadenfreude emanating from the ACC. Of course, CGB’s statement requires the suspension of disbelief that Ms. Dinich has abilities, is Greek, or is anything close to Godliness.

I happen to be of the belief that what happened last Saturday was less a product of superstition and more a product of the three offenses scoring nineteen combined points in regulation. An extra fourteen, of course, came courtesy of Chris Crane throwing to Hokies.

Block C takes his answer in another direction, answering what happened to Clemson against Georgia Tech. The saga of their beloved Tigers’ season is enough to fill a book. Hopefully, it has a happy ending with a new, smashingly successful coach. Wait, did I just use the word smashing?

Good Maryland, Bad Maryland, we’ve seen a fair share of both in 2008. Good Maryland may be the best team in the ACC, while Bad Maryland could probably lose by 20 to anyone left on their schedule. Which Maryland do we see for the rest of the season and where do you expect the Terps to finish?

No one on the panel is particularly optimistic about the Terps for the rest of the season. Currently at 5-2, No one except me expects them to do any better than 8-4, and everyone expects the Bad Terps to show up at least once. Most panelists, like From Old Virginia and The Legacy x4, point out their now-backloaded schedule will keep them from winning more than 3 games. Both Virginia Tech panelists mentioned that the Bad Terps usually show up on the road, while the Good Terps come out of the shell at home. (Hooray for more bad puns!) Most interestingly, Gobbler country discusses Maryland big weakness:

The key for the Terps this year has been their rush defense. If you can run on Maryland, you can beat them handily. But if they stop you from running the ball, things aren’t going to go well for you.

Whatever the case may be, the Roundtable is unanimously bursting Maryland’s Atlantic bubble.

Injuries are a part of college football, but they seem to have ravaged ACC offenses this year. Wake Forest has been without Sam Swank, Clemson is without C.J. Spiller, UNC is without T.J. Yates and Brandon Tate, Virginia Tech is without Kenny Lewis Jr., and NC State is without just about everybody. Which team misses their fallen star(s) most and why?

There seem to be two distinct camps here. Both BC Interruption and College Game Balls say that the conference’s most costly offensive injury is the one to Wake’s Sam Swank, the closest thing to an automatic kicker in college football and a big difference in close games. Which makes sense, until you consider that is reasonable to expect the Wake Forest offense, with all its talent, to score more than one TD in three conference game. Then there’s the factor that Wake’s defense usually keeps them in every game and–

You get the idea.

From old Virginia goes a different direction and points to the gradual loss of staff in Virginia Tech’s offense that has led, in part, to their 110th ranked offense. (And UNC gave up a 14 point lead to it? Yeesh.)  On defense, FoV references the injury to BC linebacker Brian Toal.

With four votes, however, the player whom the panel thinks is missed the most is UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. This completely florred me, not because it isn’t a good answer but because I never expected my conference brethren to have any sympathy toward the injuries of my beloved Tar Heels. Then again, I probably probably shouldn’t confuse sympathy with acknowledgement.

The primary reason seems to be, despite the admirable job that Cam Sexton has done in his stead, that the Heels just plain don’t lose that game of Virginia Tech if Yates had remained healthy. And that’s probably true. But that throws into question all of the other games that followed. Of course, if we have the same 5-2 record but with losses to Miami and Notre Dame instead of those teams from the Commonwealth, we’re probably in much better shape in the conference race.

Last one: the pretty much unanimous division champs were Virginia Tech and Wake Forest last week. Given all the craziness that just happened, give us your updated ACC Championship scenario.

But enough about my team. With two losses to teams ahead of them in the division, it would take a miracle for UNC to win the Costal at this point.

Many panelists (CGB, Gobbler Country, BC Interruption, and The Legacy x4) are opting for homerism and picking their own teams to go to Tampa. Fortunately for them Virginia Tech, Boston College and Georgia Tech are three of the teams in better position to win. Both BC and GT have daunting schedules, though, and the Jackets would lose any tiebreakers with the Hokies. Despite the Terps’ lights-out performance this past Saturday, no one has the guts to put Maryland in the Championship game as of yet (see Question 2). Of all the CG predictions, my own FSU-Miami pick was probably the most ambitious, and while I had reason to defense the pick, it ultimately boiled down to “this conference is crazy”.

In the final tallies, though, it’s 2.5 votes for Georgia Tech, 3.5 vote for Virginia Tech, 1 vote for Miami, 3 votes for Boston College, 2 votes for Florida State, and 2 votes for Wake Forest.

No team won a majority, but the plurality points to a rematch of last year’s championship game between Virginia Tech and Boston College.

You can almost feel the cynicism oozing out of your screen right now.

If you are an enterprising ACC blogger and are interested in joining the roundtable, just send an email with a link to your site. The more panelists, the merrier.

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ACC Roundtable #2: I Couldn’t Come Up With a Clever Title

Hello and welcome to the second edition of the ACC Roundtable. I will be your gracious host this week. The roundup of everyone’s answers will be posted later today.

Okay, first things first: could someone please explain what the hell just happened this past Saturday?

I’ts not very often that three on one conference’s “top” teams lose on the same day. Conversely, the ACC has been a league completely devoid of frontrunners in 2008. Most experts kind of had a hunch that would be the case coming in to the season, but certainly not to the extent that the unanimous preseason favorite might not go bowling (which very well may be the case with 3-4 Clemson, who only has one FBS win).

There were some overriding factors, though. Maryland is especially tough at home, where they’ve had their more impressive performances this season. UNC hasn’t won in Charlottesville in the Welsh/Groh era. But the biggest factor that led to the three favorites losing is that they scored 19 points on offense in regulation. Combined. You can’t win ball games with offenses that are so…well, offensive.

Ha ha! Bad puns!

Still, we are the designated bizarro conference, and nothing should come as a surprise to us anymore.

Good Maryland, bad Maryland. We’ve seen a fair share of both in 2008. Good Maryland may be the best team in the ACC, while bad Maryland could probably lose by 20 to anyone left on their schedule. Which Maryland do we see for the rest of the season and where do you expect the Terps to finish?

it all comes down to consistency and circumstance. The Terrapins clearly have the offensive tools to compete with anyone left on their schedule: Chris Turner, Darius Heyward-Bey, and a solid rushing attack led by Da’Rel Scott. And having a good offense can be the difference in teh ACC, where everyone has a passable defense.

After hosting NC State, thee Terps have four games against some of the better teams in the conference (@VT, UNC, FSU, @BC). You can pretty much guarantee that they are going to drop at least one of those games (UNC please!). In my opinion, the Terps can finish as well as 6-2 in the ACC and 9-3 overall. Is that good enough to win the Atlantic? who knows.

Injuries are a part of college football, but they seem to have ravaged ACC offenses this year. Wake Forest has been without Sam Swank, Clemson is without C.J. Spiller, UNC is without T.J. Yates and Brandon Tate, Virginia Tech is without Kenny Lewis Jr., and NC State is without just about everybody. Which team misses their fallen star(s) most and why?

Losing Sam Swank hurts, especially because the offense goes from “guaranteed to score if you get inside the 35” to “he might shank the extra point”. However, I should be able to expect the likes of Riley Skinner, Josh Adams, D.J. Boldin and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke to score more than one touchdown in three conference games.

Photo: W-S Journal

I am very, very tempted to say Yates or Tate here, since I have bore witness to every minute of their absence, and both are vitally important to the Heels’ offense. UVa game aside, Cam Sexton has stepped in admirably for the injured Yates, going 3-1 as a starter and exceeding all expectations that anyone had of him coming into the season. However, one has to consider the circumstances of UNC’s two losses. If Yates is healthy, UNC wins these two games against Virginia Tech and Virginia. (Of course, they may have lost those close games against Miami and Notre Dame and we’d be sitting at 5-2 anyway. Such are the murky waters of the “what ifs”.)

Last one: the pretty much unanimous (predicted) division champs were Virginia Tech and Wake Forest last week. Given all the craziness that just happened, give us your updated ACC Championship scenario.

Well, this is a Bizarro conference, so how about a Bizarro answer: Florida State-Miami.

Miami is still only a two loss team, and they may have found their offensive solution in Jacory Harris. The Hurricanes certainly have as talented a team as anyone in the ACC. Most importantly, however, they have circumstance on their side. Three of their remaining games in November are against current Coastal frontrunners Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Virginia. If they win out, the Canes hold all the tiebreakers against those teams. They would only need the Tar Heels to lose a third conference game, and that shouldn’t be too difficult.

As for Florida State, they only have only loss (to Wake). Much like Miami, the Seminoles have the fortune of circumstance. They can take out two of their opponents, Maryland and BC, to end their conference schedule. They just have to make it through the Techs unscathed first.

So why not Miami-Florida State? It makes about as much sense as anything else that’s happened so far.

UNC vs. NC State Live Blog: Second Half

Carolina finished on a 9-0 run to end the First. Will they continue their momentum in the second half, rather than play the way they played for the first 15 minutes? The end of the lunar eclipse could point to yes. Yes, that’s irrational, but since when is college basketball fandom supposed to be rational?

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8:02 pm: 36-31, UNC. Hansbrough opens the second half with the turnaround baseline jumper.

8:03 pm: 38-33, UNC. Hansbrough gets an easy one inside, but Thompson does a not-so-great job on the defensive end.

8:04 pm: 40-33, UNC. Qiuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…

8:04 pm: 40-36, UNC. Another three-pointer for the Pack. This time it’s Costner.

8:07 pm: 42-36, UNC. Ellington draws a foul and hits two free throws.

At this point, the Pack seem to be letting Hansbrough catch the ball in the lane at will.

8:08 pm: 46-38, UNC. Hickson finally gets a nice shot inside, but Hansbrough hits another easy basket in the lane.

8:09 pm: 48-38, UNC. Q hits an outside shot. Believe me, that’s a big deal. Carolina has the game’s first double-digit lead.

8:15 pm: 52-38, UNC. Ellington gets a layup in transition. The Pack are starting to let this game get away from them. In part, that’s because our defense is finally clamping down.

8:17 pm: 56-38, UNC. Uh-oh. This could get ugly. Ginyard gets a dunk inside, and Hansbourgh gets the steal and dunk on the ensuing possession.

8:17 pm: 56-40, UNC. The Pack finally stop the bleeding.

8:19 pm: Ellington is called for the offensive foul.

8:23 pm: 56-41, UNC. Just for the hell of it:

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8:26 pm: 59-42, UNC. Ellington hits another three. He has 16 for the game.

8:27 pm: 59-44, UNC. You know you’re in the country when the big sign below the scorers table reads: “Enjoy North Carolina Peanuts”.

8:28 pm: 63-46, UNC. Carolina’s transition is revving up in the second half. meanwhile, Deon Thompson’s defense is still iffy (perhaps his knee is still not 100%).

8:30 pm: 66-49, UNC. Ellington’s on fire tonight!

8:31 pm: 68-52, UNC. The Wolfpack finally hit a three. If they have anything left in the tank, Sidney Lowe’s team needs to use it now.

8:34 pm: 70-52, UNC. Hansbrough (28 points) finally takes a breather.

8:36 pm: 72-53, UNC. QIUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!

8:38 pm: 72-58, UNC. Looking for something nice to say…well, Sidney Lowe really knows how to whistle.

8:39 pm: 75-58, UNC. J.J. Hickson has not been a factor in this game.

8:40 pm: 78-58, UNC. It’s one thing to be up against a better team, but it looks like the Wolfpack have just given up. They just let Ginyard drive and dunk from the top of the key. It was awesome, but it shows that Carolina is putting a lot more effort into this game than their opponent.

8:44 pm: 80-60, UNC. Green with the reverse layup.

8:45 pm: 80-62, UNC. Oh, sure. NOW Hickson makes his presence felt in the paint.

8:47 pm: 82-64, UNC. After that nice little shot that hung on the back iron before falling in, it just occured to me: Carolina has completely shut down Gavin Grant in the second half, after he was the leading scorer for the Pack in the first half.

8:50 pm: 82-67, UNC. Oh God, no. Plese tell me Mike Patrick did not just do that, Tell me he did not just compare Hansbrough to Wojo. I know what you’re trying to say, Mike, but that’s the last comparison we need.

8:52 pm: The game goes final: UNC wins, 84-70. An impressive victory for the Heels, who dominated the second half. Hansbrough delivers another spectacular performance, with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 steals. Ellington has 21 points, and Thomas has 10. Carolina is now 25-2, and will next face Dino Gaudio’s red-hot Wake Forest team in Chapel Hill.

 

We Interrupt Coverage of Wednesdy’s UNC-Duke Game…

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…for coverage of Monday’s UNC-Duke game.

UNC vs. Clemson Live Blog

Tonight, the Tar Heels open their ACC play in Littlejohn Coliseum against the #19 Clemson Tigers.

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In addition to being the first conference game of the year, this is one of the first games in which Carolina stands a good chance of losing. Clemson has traditionally been a tough road game to play, and this year’s Tigers team looks to be one of the best in years. To make matters worse, the Heels could be without three of their most important bench players. Bobby Frasor is out for the season with a torn ACl, Alex Stepheson is unavailable tonight due to a family illness, and Quentin Thomas may see little or no playing time due to a sprained ankle. Tonight, one of our greatest strengths could be our weakness. For us to win, Danny Green, Mike Copeland, and Will Graves need to have good performances. in addition, the starting five cannot get into foul trouble.

7:37pm: Duke almost lost to Cornell this afternoon. I would say that such a performance is embarrassing, but I have little moral authority.

7:44 pm: 4-0, Clemson. James Mays strikes first blood, and K.C. Rivers follows with an easy basket inside.

7:46 pm: 4-2, Clemson. After a fast start, both teams seem to be forcing a few shots right now.

7:47 pm: 8-6, UNC. Three baskets in 8 seconds. Oliver Purnell intends to run with the Tar Heels. Given our lack of depth tonight, this might be the time to do it. Hansbrough and Lawson get on the board.

7:49 pm: 10-8, UNC. Ginyard gets an easy basket inside to take the lead, but I’m too distracted by Purnell’s dark orange suit. At least he had the presence of mind not to wear purple.

7:50 pm: 13-10, Clemson. The Tigers take back the lead thanks to a three from K.C. Rivers. Or “K.C. without the Sunshine Band”, as the FSN announcers called it. Blech.

7:55 pm: 15-14, Clemson. Will Graves and Danny Green are in for Carolina.

Aside from the shot clock violation, the Tigers have yet to turn the ball over.

7:58 pm: 16-15, UNC. Hansbrough hits the jump hook to give UNC the lead. Carolina has played good defense since the first TV timeout, not allowing a field goal in 4 minutes.

8:00 pm: Quentin Thomas is in for Lawson, which is a good sign. Carolina turns the ball over on Q’s second possession, which is a bad sign.

8:03 pm: 16-16. Marcus Ginyard, how do you miss that shot?!?

8:05 pm: Clemson seems to be playing with a higher energy than North Carolina. Luckily for us, the Tigers are missing their free throws.

8:06 pm: 19-18, Clemson. The Tigers hits another three for the lead. Carolina escapes the full court pressure on the ensuing possession, and Deon Thompson hits a shot from the right side.

8:11 pm: 27-22, UNC. Thanks to a few bad possessions from Clemson, Carolina gets some quick baskets in transition to take momentum. The last basket was an Ellington layup.

8:15 pm: 29-23, UNC. Clemson is shooting only 29% from the field, but Carolina’s shots don’t look pretty either.

8:16 pm: 29-29. K.C. Rivers basket, steal, Rivers basket, steal, Cliff Hammonds basket. Within 15 seconds, Clemson has the momentum back. Quentin Thomas is clearly not at full speed yet.

8:21 pm: 31-31. The Heels are playing sloppy right now. In particular, they’re settling for bad shots in transition.

8:24 pm: 36-34, UNC. Ellington hits Carolina’s first three-pointer of the game. Keep in mind, as we near halftime, that only four combined shots have been made from behind the arc thus far.

8;27 pm: 39-38, Clemson. Thompson and Hansbrough have no excuse for allowing Clemson three chances inside. They have to box out and get the rebound.

8:29 pm: 41-38, Clemson. K.C. Rivers hits a shot inside with less than 10 seconds left, and Clemson has just finished a 18-9 run to end the first half. Ty Lawson has played well so far, but Carolina has not gotten the performances they need from Hansbrough or the bench. To win this game, the Heels need to force the ball inside on offense, and seal off the paint on defense.

8:47 pm: 43-42, Clemson. After a dunk by Trevor Booker to start the second half, the Heels get two straight baskets inside from their guards, Marcus Ginyard and Wayne Ellington.

8:49 pm: 48-44, Clemson. Cliff Hammonds cannot be left that open outside. Hammonds makes the Heels pay with a three.

8:50 pm: 52-49, Clemson. Ellington hits Carolina’s only second three pointer of the game, but Booker immediately responds on the other side of the floor, as Carolina continues to play out of sync.

8:54 pm: 54-51, Clemson. Lawson takes advantage of a poor Clemson shot, getting the breakaway layup.

8:56 pm: 56-54, Clemson. Ellington hits another shot from boynd the arc. He’s heating up as the game goes on.

8:57 pm: 58-56, Clemson. Whichever Carolina player’s mom sits behind Roy Williams is wearing wayyyyyyy too much gold jewelry.

8:59 pm: 60-56, Clemson. A nice outside shot by Booker, but it should have never happened. Stitt clearly traveled when he jumped without letting go of the ball.

Hansbrough has yet to play like his usual self tonight.

9:05 pm: 64-58, Clemson. Just as Carolina finally creates an easy basket, the Tigers respond with a three. What is going on with UNC’s defense right now?

9:08 pm: 65-63, Clemson. Ellington gets three from the free throw line.

9:09 pm: 67-63, Clemson. An unbelievable shot by Stitt, and he draws the foul on Lawson. However, he misses the free throw.

9:10 pm: 67-65, Clemson. Oglesby misses the three, and the Heels get an all-too-easy layup on the other end. I would ask for more three point attempts on Clemson’s part, but Rivers just hit another one to make it 70-65, Clemson.

9:15 pm: 72-69, Clemson. Carolina continues to keep it close on offense, but their defense is letting too many inside baskets through.

9:16 pm: Just what we need: a turnover during a favorable transition situation.

9:18 pm: Hansbrough is currently being neutralized, and no one other than Ellington is hitting outside shots. For the Tar Heels, this could be a nightmare scenario.

9:20 pm: 74-69, Clemson. Potter hits a shot from 15 feet, as no one challenges the jumper. Tyler Hansbrough still has yet to score a point in this half.

9:22 pm: 74-70, Clemson. Hansbrough finally gets on the board, making one of two free throws. With Four minutes left in this game and no sign of Tyler, Carolina is in serious trouble, as Clemson is beating the Tar heels at their own transition game.

9:27 pm: 77-70, Clemson, 3:32 left. Time to officially begin freaking out.

9:28 pm: 79-74, Clemson, 2:45 left. Don’t let the current rebound stats fool you. Clemson has dominated the boards when it has mattered most. If not for Clemson’s poor free throw shooting, this game would already be over.

9:31 pm: 81-77, Clemson, 2:20 left. Ellington keep us within reach, but Carolina has to take a stand in the paint on both sides of the court.

9:34 pm: 81-80, Clemson, 1:37 left. OOHHHHHHH!!! What a shot by Danny Green! He makes them pay for the missed free throw on the other end, and this game is not over yet.

9:35 pm: :59.2 left. Good job by Hansbrough to get the rebound on defense when it matters most, and he draws the foul, with the chance to take the lead for UNC at the line.

9:37 pm: 81-81, :47.8 left. Hansbrough hits one of two to tie, and then he draws the offensive foul.

9:40 pm: :24.1 left. Clemson confuses lawson with the zone defense, and Roy is forced to take a timeout.

9:41 pm: :13.7 left. Good defense by Clemson, but WAYNE ELLINGTON, WHAT THE HELL KIND OF A SHOT WAS THAT?!? Now we have to hope for a defensive stop.

9:42 pm: Clemson gets three chances, but they can’t make it! Good defense by UNC, who didn’t allow an easy shot, and we’re going to overtime.

9:45 pm: 81-81 (OT). A huge loss for the Tigers, as Trevor Booker fouls out. Unfortunately, Carolina can’t take immediate advantage, as Hansbrough misses both free throws.

9:48 pm: 83-82, UNC. Ellington hits two free throws to…finally…give Carolina its firs lead in a long time. Ellington has a whopping 31 points in this game.

9:50 pm: 84-83, Clemson, 2:31 left. Hansbrough missteps in the paint, and James Mays gets the dunk inside to give Clemson the lead. What’s even more frustrating is that David Potter is single-handedly destroying us on the glass.

9:56 pm: 86-85, Clemson, :49.4 left. If UNC loses this game, it will be because they were outscored 25-6 in points off turnovers.

9:57 pm: 87-86, UNC, :30 left. Lawson hits two free throws to take back the lead.

9:58 pm: :13.9 left. Danny Green commits a cheap foul, his 5th, on Stitt, who is Clemson’s best free throw shooter.

9:59 pm: 88-87, Clemson, :13.9 left. Stitt his the free throws, and Clemson has the lead again.

10:03 pm, :00.4 left. OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!! What a shot by Wayne Ellington! That is the clutch shot to end all clutch shots, as the raucous Littlejohn Coliseum falls silent.

10:05 pm: Clemson throws the inbound pass out of bounds, Carolina lets the time expire, and they hold on to win 90-88 on Ellington’s huge buzzer-beating shot. A clutch shot by Ellington, who had 36 points in the game, but many of Carolina’s true weaknesses were revealed in this game. Still, Wayne has truly established himself as a go-to player in the perimeter.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2:44 pm: The call stands, TOUCHDOWN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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  • 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.