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:

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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.

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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.

Previewing UNC vs. South Carolina

Five ways for UNC to pull off the upset:

  • If Anthony Elzy has a big day. Carolina now finally has an established running back in Elzy, who has 169 rushing yards, over 200 total yards, and 2 touchdowns in his last two games. Keep in mind that these stats were against two tough defenses in Virginia Tech and Miami. The Heels will need him to have a big day against the Gamecocks; while they’re #1 in the nation in pass defense, they’re also 99th in run defense.
  • If T.J. Yates doesn’t spend most of the game on his back. T.J. Yates first three games at QB: 58 for 88, 902 yards, 9 TDs, 3 interceptions, 5 sacks. His next three games: 42 for 75, 485 yards, no TDs, 5 interceptions, 12 sacks. Yates has steadily improved over the time frame of three games, and he didn’t turn the ball over against Miami. However, he can’t be very effective as a quarterback when he’s constantly under. If he gets time to throw from his young offensive line, he’ll be able to do what he did best early in the season: throw to his three main receivers (Tate, Nicks, and Foster) in position to get yards after the catch.
  • If the defense can stop South Carolina’s offense from getting momentum. In each of UNC’s last three losses, the Tar Heels were forced to play from behind the entire game because their defense let the opposing offense score a touchdown on their first drive. In two of those games, they were in essence the only offense touchdown the team would score and thus the difference in the game. (I’m counting VT’s second half touchdown as a defensive touchdown, since Xavier Adibi returned a Yates interception to the 4 yard line before Brandon Ore punched it in.)

And that starts on the defensive line. Hilee Taylor, E.J. Wilson, Kentwan Balmer, and Marvin Austin are capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. If they’re effective in stopping the run and pressuring Chris Smelley, the entire defense can be effective.

  • If UNC can win the turnover battle. In UNC’s two wins, their turnover margin is +4, including forcing 4 turnovers against Miami (5 if you include “Quantavius Sturdivant”‘s punt block). In their 4 losses, the TO margin is -7. UNC’s offense will need to take care of the ball, while players in the secondary such Deunta Williams will need to take advantage of any mistakes that Smelley makes in the game.
  • If UNC can perform well on special teams. Connor Barth has yet to miss a field goal this season. Brandon Tate is one of the best kick and punt returners in the nation; he’ll need to have a good game, if not for scoring then for field position. As stated before, the blocked punt by Sturdivant became the difference in last week’s game against the Hurricanes.

Five ways that the Tar Heels can lose this game:

The exact opposite of the preceding five points.

Five players who must come up big for the Heels today:

  • Elzy. See above.
  • Sturdivant. Not only has he been an essential special teams player, he’s established himself as UNC’s linebacker of the future, playing well in his last few games alongside Durell Mapp.
  • Jermaine Strong/Tavores Jolly. Kendric Burney has solidified himself at one side of the defensive secondary, but the other side was left open after Kendric Willams tore his ACL against Virginia Tech. Strong played well against Miami before shoulder issues set in. Jolly stepped in for the second half and got absolutely burned in the third quarter, responsible for at least two of Miami’s four touchdowns. The first touchdown was the result of a Jolly holding penalty in the endzone, and it was Jolly who got burned on Darnell Jenkins’ 97 yard touchdown. Talk about a baptism by fire. If neither of them can come through, we may see a lot of nickelback Charles Brown in this game.
  • The guys at the line of scrimmage. If our offensive and defensive lines lose the battle in the trenches, we’ll lose. It’s simple.
  • Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster: They have a responsibility to keep Yates off the turf as well. If they can’t get open, the result will be a lot of coverage sacks for the Gamecocks. UNC’s passing offense also depends on the receiver’s ability to get yards after the catch.

Five players to watch for South Carolina:

  • Chris Smelley. He’s SC’s quarterback because he’s able to manage a game and, unlike Blake Mitchell not make big mistakes. If he has time, he’ll have a good day throwing the ball against a non-SEC defense.
  • Cory Boyd. UNC’s defense has struggled against the run in earlier games. Boyd is the best running back they’ve seen yet. If the front seven can’t keep him in check, the Tar Heels are in for a long game.
  • Eric Norwood. He’s the centerpiece of the Gamecocks’ top defense, an excellent defender against the run and the pass. He was responsible for two key touchdowns on fumble returns against Kentucky last week.
  • Ryan Succop. He’ll be doing double-duty today as kicker and punter, and he’s among the best in the SEC at both.
  • Captain Munnerlyn. His name alone is enough, but he’s also the anchor of South Carolina’s secondary and kick return units.

People are trying to make a big deal out of Spurrier returning to Kenan Stadium for the first time since his Duke team crushed UNC 41-0 in 1989. I actually don’t care much about it, as it was before my time; Florida State is far more likely to draw my eternal football ire*. This is more about pulling off the big upset as establishing the Tar Heels as a team on the rise.

As always, stay tuned for the live blog at 3:30 pm.

*No, I still haven’t forgiven the Seminoles for that cold November might 10 years ago.

Men, In This Can Lies The Solution To All Of Our Problems!

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Our record says 2-4, and our statistics are roughly at where a 2-4 team should be (50th nationally on defense, 84th on offense). However, I can point to three plays this season–one in each game–that could have made us 5-1 if they played out differently.

All we had to do was not fumble.

  1. Fourth Quarter, about 10 minutes left. UNC is driving to score against the Pirates, game tied at 31. Hakeem Nicks catches a pass and runs to a first down at the 34. but he fumbles the ball, and ECU recovers. If he holds on to that ball, the continuing drive would have almost certainly led to a score. if UNC scores a touchdown or a field goal, ECU’s final drive is to go for the tie. UNC’s defense holds its own in the red zone, as they have the entire second half, and hold on to win. TheTar Heels are now 2-0.
  2. Fourth Quarter, eight minutes left. UNC is driving, down 22-14 to UVa. Yates completes a pass on 2nd and 4 to Zack Pianalto who gets a first down inside the 35. But the ball comes clean out on a fumble, and UVa. recovers. If he holds onto that ball, UNC would have gotten themselves at least in field goal range. Yate’s touchdown pass to Quinn with less than two minutes left gives UNC a 23-22 win. The Tar Heels are now 3-0, 1-0 in the ACC.
  3. Third Quarter, three minutes left. UNC is at the 5 yard line. It’s second and goal, the Heels are down 10-3, and they looked poised to tie the game. They hand the ball off to Ryan Houston, who is stopped at the 5 yard line comes flying out of his arms into the endzone. If he does nothing else but hold on to the ball, or even the Heels outhustle the Tech defense to the loose ball, UNC is almost assured of points in that drive. With a score, Yates doesn’t throw that interception to Xavier Adibi, and Carolina hangs on for a close victory on the heels of a great defensive performance. The Tar Heels are now 4-1, 2-0 in the ACC.

Other plays which could have turned the tide:

T.J. Yates’ botched snap: If he finishes the 2nd down play on the final drive, UNC gets a first down and continues running down the clock; UNC, not ECU, gets the game-winning FG as time expires.

Chris Long’s interception: That was a freak play, that required unbelievable athleticism on the part of long. Without the INT, the score remains 19-14, and UNC’s last-minute TD wins the game.

Eddie Royal’s reverse: on Virginia Tech’s very first play from scrimmage, their offense caught the Heels defense red-handed in overpursuit, running the reverse for 50-plus yards down the right sidelines to set up their only offensive touchdown of the day. Without that play, it’s the Hokies coming from behind the entire game.

One final statistic: in these games, UNC’s turnover margin was -5 (7 giveaways, 2 takeaways).

In each of these games we were one, or at the most two, plays away from victory. With those victories, UNC would be 5-1, 3-0 in the ACC, and 1st place in the Coastal division.

Now, the vast majority of these players have less than 300 collegiate plays from scrimmage under their belts, so they have a lot to learn. The Tar Heels have played their hearts out all season, and have improved some facet of their play in every game. The mere fact they were competing in all of these games shows that strides that Carolina has made in 2007. Also there are many, many other areas in which the Tar Heels need to improve. However, this exercise shows how much the outcome of a game, or even a season, can change with one play, especially turnovers. At some point in the next few years (or even this year), The Heels will be making those kinds of plays instead of giving them to opponents.

We’ll need a lot of stickum for when Spurrier and the #7th ranked Gamecocks come to Chapel Hill on Saturday.

UNC vs. #17 Virginia Tech Live Blog

Today UNC faces another road game, going back into the ACC schedule against the 17th ranked Hokies. For what you need to know for this game, see my preview.

Yates is probably going to need a big game, but Xavier Adibi and VT’s linebackers are going to keep him under pressure all day.

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12:11 pm: A perfect day for football today. UNC will get the ball to start the game, which means they’ll finally have a chance to try and play from ahead.

12:12 pm: Johnny White is still starting at tailback, but I’m hoping that Ryan Houston will get a lot of carries early.

Brooks Foster gets the ball to start the game. He gets 4 yards.

12:13 pm: A great play action fake for UNC, but Yates misfires to a wide open Brandon Tate. Third down.

12:14 pm: Sack! UNC tries another playaction, but Chris Ellis gets past the left tackle, bringing down Yates and forcing a punt. Now UNC’s defense has to have a decent start (and by decent start, I mean no touchdown on the opening drive).

12:16 pm: I guess that was too much to ask for. The defense completely commits to one side, and then the Hokies run the revers to Eddie Royal, who makes a huge run all the way to the UNC 17.

12:18 pm: Kendrick Williams is injured on third and short. Hokies get a first down, but more importantly, Williams has to be taken out of the game. The last thing we need is for our defensive depth to get even thinner.

12:21 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Tyrod Taylor scrambles for the touchdown. UNC had him trapped in the pocket, but Taylor slips away from the grasp of Kentwan Balmer, and he beats the secondary to the pylon. Virginia Tech leads 7-0, and this is exactly what the Tar Heels didn’t want to happen: having to play from behind early.

12:25 pm: Tate takes the kickoff to the 31, and UNC will start with decent field position. I will say that a basic run play on first down is WAY too predictable.

12:26 pm: Houston gets his first carry of the day, gaining 3 yards.

12:27 pm: Yates is under pressure again, and he fires a bullet into double coverage, which Hakeem Nicks almost catches. But he drops it, and UNC faces another third and long. Yates calls a timeout.

12:30 pm: A great pass from Yates to an open Nicks, who gets past midfield for a first down.

12:31 pm: Tate gets the ball quickly and gets another first down. More importantly, UNC might be able to keep the defense honest.

12:32 pm: What was Yates thinking on that throw? Adibi should have picked that off.

12:32 pm: After a short run, the Heels run another quick pass to Tate, but he goes nowhere. It’s 4th and 3.

12:33 pm: The Heels go for it on fourth down. Yates gets under pressure, but his pass to the left is incomplete, as his receivers stopped moving.

I’m okay with the decision to go for it on fourth down, and I might even be somewhat okay with the play call. But the execution was horrible, and it will only serve to give the Hokies more momentum.

12:39 pm: UNC holds their own on defense to force a punt, but someone needs to check if Tyrod Taylor has oil on his jersey. No one on our D-line seems to be able to tackle him.

12:41 pm: The Heels fake the end-around, and Houston runs up the middle. A great first step, a seven yard gain, and UNC is close to a first down.

12:42 pm: Houston gets the call on 3rd and 1, but Vince Hall and the VT linebackers stuff him in the backfield. Another 3-and-out for Carolina.

12:45 pm: Brandon Ore isn’t having the kind of day that UVA’s Peerman had against our defense two weeks ago, but he’s getting some nice runs.

12:46 pm: Even when we put pressure on Tyrod Taylor, he manages to create a lto fo time to throw for himself. Only a great play by Deunta Williams (and a VT penalty) prevents a great play.

12:48 pm: A great screen play for VT, but I’m sure that I saw a hold downfield. The refs saw it too, and it’s 2nd and 16.

12:49 pm: Another holding call. Looks like the UNC defensive line is flustering the Tech O-line. 2nd and 26.

12:52 pm: A HUGE mistake by Hilee Taylor. They were going a force another VT punt, but Taylor roughs the quarter back, and the Hokies have an automatic first down. It’s these kinds of plays that can cost UNC the ball game.

The first quarter ends, with VT leading 7-0. They have a chance to extend the lead thanks to a big mistake by the Tar Heels.

Seriously, all that great work that the Heels built up on defense, and that one lapse of judgement brings all the momentum back to Tech.

12:58 pm: INTERCEPTION! After Taylor overthrows the ball, it’s tipped by a receiver and into the hands of Deunta Williams, who returns the ball all the way to midfield. After that penalty, a turnover is exactly what we needed.

12:59 pm: Yates fires a great pass on third down, getting out of the pocket and finding Hakeem Nicks, who takes it inside the 30. Already the Heels are in field goal range.

1:00 pm: Ryan Houston runs up the middle, busting through a hole and getting another first down at the 18 yard line.

1:02 pm: Yates is forced into a third and long after the first two plays go nowhere.

1:03 pm: Yates complete the pass to Nicks, but he can’t get yardage after the catch. Still, UNC gets the field goal off of the turnover, and now trail only 7-3. If they didn’t go for it on fourth down earlier, this might be a 1-point game.

1:06 pm: Wow, VT girls are ugly. They look like 60 year old women. Wait…they were 60 year old women? Nevermind, then.

1:09 pm: Tech needs to continue running the ball. Taylor doesn’t look very comfortable throwing it.

1:07 pm: After USF’s upset of West Virginia, holding them to 13 points and forcing 6 turnovers, our performance against the Bulls suddenly doesn’t look as bad.

1:09 pm: Carolina forces another punt. UNC’s defensive line has really stepped up so far in this game.

1:11 pm: #8 of VT is a lucky, lucky man. That’s all I have to say.

1:14 pm: Hall and Adibi wrap up Yates for the sack, as Yates may have dropped back too far on that play.

1:15 pm: Johnny White takes the screen pass to the 38. 3rd and 6.

1:16 pm: Yates fires a bullet low, and Tate is there for the catch and a first down.

1;17 pm: Flea-flicker! But Yates is hit as he threw it, and the pass is too short for the receiver.

1:18 pm: Houston;s run to the left doesn’t get far, and UNC must convert on 3rd down again. Yates is back to throw, but he’s sacked again. Carolina is forced to punt again, as the Virginia Tech defense continues to harass Yates in the pocket. This game is starting to look like a defensive battle between these two teams. I’m just glad that our defense is playing well enough for me to say that.

1:22 pm: Uh-oh. Some nice blocking by Taylor, who fires it to an open receiver at the 40 yard line, and suddenly the Hokies are in business.

1:23 pm: Tyrod Taylor gets a sack from a linebacker, and its our freshman standout with perhaps the best name in college football: Quantavius Sturdivant (but you may know him as “Quan”). Tech punts again, and UNC has the ball with less than two minutes in the first half.

1:25 pm: Way for Yates to throw it away. The last thing we need is a turnover.

1:26 pm: White takes the ball, and surprisingly he gets seven yards.

1:27 pm: Just when UNC has a favorable 3rd and short, a false start.

1:28 pm: A QB draw on 3rd and 8, what the hell is wrong with you, John Shoop? UNC will punt with 35 seconds left.

1:30 pm: A nice punt by Brown, and UNC downs it at the 11 yard line with 23 seconds to go in the half.

1:31 pm: Tech takes a knee, and Virginia Tech leads 7-3 at halftime. UNC’s defense has kept it close, which is about all that we could ask from them. We actually have a chance to win this game, but the offense is going to have to find a way to take the pressure off of T. J. Yates and keep Tech’s linebackers honest.

If UNC’s defense keeps the pressure up on defense and if UNC’s receivers can make some big plays in the second half, the Tar Heels could actually win this.

Do you know when was the last time that the Heels beat a ranked team on the road? October 2001, when UNC embarrassed Clemson in Death Valley and ended Woody Dantzler’s Heisman hopes.

1:52 pm: The second half begins, and Tech will get the ball to resume.

1:53 pm: The short kick backfires, and Morgan takes the kick all the way to the UNC 42. Not a good way to start this half.

1:54 pm: Taylor falls, but we’ll give the sack to Marvin Austin.

Bad news for Tech. Taylor is hurt, and Sean Glennon has to come into the game.

1:55 pm: Glennon completes the pass, but Josh Morgan is short of the first down.

Unbelievably, Tech goes for the 52 yard kick, and it’s good! Tech leads, 10-3, but a good job by UNC to force a 3-and-out. It will be interesting to see how the offensive and defensive schemes will change with Glennon in at Quarterback. Tyrod Taylor has headed to the locker room, which means he’s unlikely to return.

2:01 pm: Houston gets the call on first and second down, but he goes nowhere.

2:02 pm: Interception! Or at least we think. The refs say it’s incomplete. Worse is that Chris Ellis delivers a late hit on Yates and give the Tar Heels a first down.

2:03 pm: Nicks gets the pass and fights his way through the entire secondary for another first down.

2:04 pm: A holding and an illegal shift by the Heels on the same play? That is the kind of stuff that will give Butch Davis gray hairs.

2:05 pm: Yates rolls to the left and fires the ball along the sidelines where only Tate can catch it. He gets the ball for a 19 yard gain. UNC gets a run up the middle the next play for a first down, and they’re inside the VT 42.

2:07 pm: Quinn nearly makes a spectacular catch, but VT is called for another running the passer. I question that call by the refs, but UNC needs all the yards that they can get.

2:08 pm: Houston gets the ball on first and second down again, This time he sets up a 3rd and short in the red zone.

2:09 pm: What a catch by Elzy! The play action plays off, and it’s first and goal at the 7.

2:10 pm: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Houston gets the ball on second down, but the ball comes flying ount of his hands, and Virginia Tech recovers in the endzone. Is there was one opportune moment for UNC to finally strike and get in position to win that was it. That was the absolute worst possible moment to turn the ball over.

2:16 pm: Taylor is back in the game. Tech is advancing the ball quickly after that fumble.

2:17 pm: How Taylor still manages to get big gains on the ground after his groin injury is beyond me.

2;19 pm: Taylor makes a great play and pass, but the catch is out of bounds. VT punts, but the Hokies down it inside the UNC 5 yard line.

2:22 pm: Nicks makes a nice catch, getting the first down and taking the Heels out of the shadow of their own end zone.

2:24 pm: Yates finds Nicks again on the left sidelines, and he takes it to the UNC 36.

2:24 pm: INTERCEPTION! The tight end tips the ball in the air, and Adibi picks it off and takes it inside the UNC 15. Again, two turnovers may cost them 14 points (7 that we didn’t get on one end, and 7 that Tech is about to get now).

2:27 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Ore pounds it into the endzone from the 1 yard line. Virginia Tech leads 17-3, and that tipped interception and subsequent touchdown may be what finally breaks the Tar Heels today. Even worse, the crowd is back in this game.

2:32 pm: The Heels get another 3-and-out. Our offense hasn’t been able to get anything done today.

2:34 pm: The third quarter ends, and Virginia Tech leads 17-3, and time is running out for the Tar Heels to make a move. The Defense needs to force a turnover or make a big play to compensate for the Heels’ fumble and interception.

2:38 pm: The Heels force a punt again, and a bad punt means that they’ll start at the 40.

2:39 pm: After a sack on first down, Nicks catches a short pass. He goes nowhere, as the VT secondary close in fast.

2:40 pm: Brandon Tate is open for a first down, but Yates, yet again under pressure, overthrows it. Fourth down. At this point, look for the Tech offense to run the clock down.

2:45 pm: A big loss on the screen pass is followed by a nice gain for Brandon Ore, but Tech faces third and 8.

2:49 pm: Another three and out for Virginia Tech. UNC’s defense played well; now the offense must atone for their earlier transgressions.

2:50 pm: A great run for the first down, but do our hopes for coming back in this game really rest on the legs of Anthony Elzy?

2:52 pm: After a quick pass to Nicks, Houston runs up the middle for another first down.

2:53 pm: A nice pass by Yates to Thornton up the middle, and suddenly, and the Heels are driving efficiently down the field. This game might not be over yet.

2:55 pm: Tech forced a fourth and 9 to possibly end the ball game, but Yates makes a nice pass to Elzy, who gets past the marker and keeps the game alive. But there’s less than 7 minutes left in this game.

2:56 pm: Elzy takes the run and gets a big gain, going down at the 1.

2:57 pm: TOUCHDOWN CAROLINA! Elzy finishes off drive, diving it in for the score. UNC now only trails 17-10, but there’s only 5:34 left in the game. UNC needs another big defensive stop, and give the UNC offense enough time to go for the tie. What gnaws at my brain is that, if not for the two turnovers in the third quarter, it would be 17-10 UNC right now, and we’d be on the verge of the upset.

3:02 pm: Okay, here we go. 3rd and 4, and we need to make this stop.

3:04 pm: UNC gets a big gift, as a wide open Josh Morgan drops the pass. 3-and out, and UNC will gets the ball with just over four minutes left. At the beginning of the game, I doubt that we could ask for a much better situation than this, but I cannot emphasize those turnovers enough.

3:06 pm: Elzy gets the ball and gains 8 yards on the right side. UNC is at the 22.

Why is UNC running the ball right now? They need big yards, and suddenly Shoop is going conservative.

3:07 pm: I stand corrected. Elzy takes it and gets HUGE yardage, taking it all the way to the UNC 47.

3:08 pm: The clock is running down to inside 2:00. But we still haven;t even considered throwing the ball.

3:10 pm: NO! Yates is sacked from behind, as Cam Martin storms through the backfield.

3:11 pm: Fourth and long, and we need this pass.

3;12 pm: Yates is under pressure yet again, but Hakeem Nicks very nearly come up with the pass. Tech breaks it up, and Virginia tech will win this game.

3:13 pm: The game ends, and Virginia Tech wins 17-10.  UNC did a good job of stayng in the game throughout. In particular, the defense completely shut down the Tech offense. But, for the third time this year, costly turnovers in the second half cost UNC the opportunity to win a game well within reach. Right now we’re a 1-4 team, but if not for turnovers at key moments in the game, we could be 4-1 just as easily.

 

UNC vs. Virginia Tech Preview

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

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

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

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