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.

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.

 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.

UNC vs. NC State Preview

It’s that time of year again…time to make young Wolfpack fans cry.

It would always be great for us to beat the Wolfpack (4-5), UNC’s biggest football rival (as Duke continues to reject football as a sport), but above all this game is about keeping the Tar Heels’ (3-6) slim bowl hopes alive. It won’t be easy as the Heels search for their first road win against a suddenly hot Wolfpack team, who after a terrible start have won their last three games to return to the bowl bid discussion. (Although, it’s worth mentioning that Duke is the only ACC team that has been eliminated from bowl eligibility.) This game will go a long way to determining who will represent the ACC in either a bowl in an earthquake zone sponsored by a snack or a New Year’s eve game in Boise.

The key to this game will be turnovers. That may sound like such a simple concept, as there has been a direct correlation between lack of turnovers and wins for both teams:

UNC’s TO margin in their 3 wins: +2

UNC’s TO margin in their 6 losses: -11

NC State’s TO margin in their 4 wins: +6

NC State’s TO margin in their 5 losses: -17

So, this game could very easily come down to an ill-timed turnover. Hmmmm…

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Yes, Pack fans. I am aware of the strong possibility that TA McClendon crossed the goalline on the previous play. However, that doesn’t diminish his inability to secure the football in the picture you see above. (Photo courtesy Andrew Synoweiz) 

Or, it could be far more complex.

Offensively, these teams are almost evenly matched. Both the Tar Heels’ and the Wolfpacks’ passing attacks rank in the top half nationally in yards per game; however, T.J. Yates, Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck have combined to throw 30 interceptions in 18 total games. It’s important for both teams to have an efficient passing game. For the Heels, this means that Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Greg Little must get good yardage after the catch and take the pressure off of T. J. Yates to make bad throws. For the Wolfpack, this just means that Beck (2 TDs, 9 INTs) cannot step onto the field. Without good passing the game could get ugly for one or both of these teams, whose rushing attacks are among of the nation’s worst (107th and 110th, respectively). UNC has yet to have a 100 yard rusher, or even a a back who has rushed for 75 yards more than once. So the difference could be which team can run the football well. Or more specifically, which defense allows their opponent to have a good day on the ground.

Speaking of which, defense could be where the Tar Heels have an advantage today. UNC ranks 28th in the nation in total defense; NC State, just 71st overall, and 100th in run defense. However, the Wolfpack have an upper hand in passing efficiency defense, ranking 18th overall to 68th for the Heels. It thus becomes vitally important for Carolina to have a good running game today.

Butch Davis is still looking for his first road victory as the head coach at UNC, and the Wolfpack will give their best effort of the season in order to beat their hated neighbors from Chapel Hill and keep their bowl hopes alive. Still, I’m confident about our chances on Saturday. Unless, of course, Tom O’Brien struts the sidelines with a pencil mustache and an oversized red blazer. In which case, we’re doomed.

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UNC vs. South Carolina Live Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elzy runs again, and he’s stuffed again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Carolina is called offsides.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They will kick the field goal.

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

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

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

Kenton Thornton catches again. Inside the 40.

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

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

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