UNC 2007 Football Season In a Nutshell: The Drummers of Spinal Tap

As of right now, UNC has the title of “most excusable 2-6 team in the nation”. However, it really has been difficult to categorize this exciting, yet frustrating year. It’s much easier to characterize our losses than the season as a whole, and with the magic of the Internet, I’ve stumbled upon something comparable: the ill-fated drummers of Spinal Tap.

This is exactly where UNC is this season: on the cusp of success, but always losing under bizarre and mysterious circumstances (most of which are their own doing).

ECU and Virginia games: “Bizarre gardening accidents.”

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The game at East Carolina was the first time the Tar Heels faced a division I-A offense, and it showed. Patrick Pinkney had a field day against the Carolina secondary, on route to over 400 passing yards. However, UNC’s offense was able to keep pace, and had the ball in a 31-31 game, in ECU territory, with less than two minutes left.

This is where things got out of hand. First, Yates fumbled the second down snap. Then, on 3rd and 4 from the 34, UNC have the ball to tailback Johnny White, who was stopped for no gain and set up a 51 yard field goal attempt. The snap was good, but Ryan Bauchom completely botched the hold, he had to fall on the ball. East Carolina regained possession near midfield with 53 seconds left, and eventually won on a last second field goal of their own, ironically after their kicker had missed his last 3 attempts.

Against Virginia, one of the plays that prevented us from winning the game was the 4th quarter interception by defensive lineman Chris Long, which eventually set up the game winning field goal. The Cavaliers did not always put pressure on T.J. Yates in the second half, but the entire game the defensive line managed to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. On one such play, Chris Long managed to deflect the ball to himself, catch it, and run 30 yards the other way into field goal range. Julius Peppers is the only player I can recall who was able to make such a play in college. it was simply unbelievable.

The way we lost our first two games were so bizarre that we may never again see the Tar Heels lose in quite the same way.

Virginia Tech and South Carolina games: “You can’t really dust for vomit.”

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The Tar Heels had kept each of these games close, but had allowed teh game to slip away due to their own very-ill-timed mistakes.

Against Virginia Tech, North Carolina was well into the third quarter, only trailing 10-3 and driving to score. Ryan Houston had played a solid game up to this point at tailback, and Carolina was faced with a second a goal at the 5. Houston got the ball and was stopped at the line, but the ball was propelled out of his hands and into the end zone, where Virginia Tech recovered. Not long afterwards, T.J. Yates, having just gotten out of terrible field position, threw a pass that deflected off of Kenton Thornton’s fingertips and into the hands of Xavier Adibi, who returned the interception to the 3 yard line and set a up Brandon Ore’s game-winning touchdown. Without those turnovers, UNC wins the game.

The South Carolina game was even more self-sabotage. For example, Quan Sturdivant had recoverd a Mike Davis Fumble at the SC 15 yard line, and the UNC offense quickly proceeded to throw away their golden opportunity; sack, holding penalty, uncontested rush to the left side, ill-advised throw under pressure, easy interception. The Joe Dailey trick play pick was just as inexplicable. (The one pass they let him throw all year and it’s an interception. Go figure.) A few other missed opportunities, such as Greg Little’s two dropped touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, would have almost certainly changed the outcome of the game.

Certainly we had help along the way with these two games, but for the most part, we were responsible for our own demise.

South Florida and Wake Forest games: “You know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It’s just not really widely reported.”

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These were two games in which the Heels screwed up in just about every way possible. Carolina did a good job of keeping it under control for the middle of the game, but the team fell apart in spectacular fashion at the beginning and end of each of these contests. By the time it was over, all that was left of them was “a little green globule”.

Any future losses in 2007: “Well, I’m sure I’d feel much worse if I weren’t under such heavy sedation. “

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With four games left in the 2007 season, absolutely nothing should surprise us about this team. We have shown signs of promise in nearly every game we’ve played. More than 50 of the 84 players on our roster had never played a down of college football until this season. The Tar Heels have a nucleus of talented young players (42 true or redshirt freshmen), most of whom will be suiting up in 2008, 2009, and even 2010. This team will be very good, very soon. However, our inexperience makes pretty much every game a crapshoot; we cannot truly claim to know what will happen. So, losses to Maryland or Georgia Tech shouldn’t get your blood boiling too much.

The Duke game, of course, is when we make it big in Japan.

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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.

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

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

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

UNC vs. USC Live Blog: 2007 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Tonight UNC plays Southern Cal in game 2 of the East Regional semifinals. For a preview of UNC, see What UNC must do to win the National Championship. North Carolina will be looking to play a very fast game, dominate the pain,t and tire out the comparably thin Trojan lineup. USC, coming off a win against Texas, will be relying on Taj Gibson and Abdoulaye N’Diaye to defend the paint, but their undersized lineup will need to rely on good perimeter shooting and clamping down on UNC’s guards. Ironically, that’s exactly how teams have beaten us this year.

10:07 pm: Ginyard is starting in place of Terry, who will see limited action due to strep throat.

10:08 pm: 2-1, USC. The Trojans score first, a turnaround jumper inside.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jim Nantz and Billy Packer!

10:09 pm: 6-1, USC. Wow. USC is attackin ght einside, and they’re winning. Spreading the ball out forces our forwards outside, which gives USC better opportunities.

10:10 pm: 6-3, USC. Lawson drives inside and gets a layup, the Heels’ first basket of the game.

10:12 pm: 10-5, USC. Hansbrough gets lucky as his 18 foot jumper rims in, but the Trojans get a three on the next possession.

Southern Cal has been quite comfortable playing a transition game.

10:16 pm: 12-5, USC. The Tar Heels seem to be lapsing defensively. Nick Young completely fools the defense.

More importantly, the UNC faithful are very tepid in East Rutherford tonight.

10:17 pm: 12-7, USC. WAYNE’S WORLD! WAYNE’S WORLD! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT! WHOOOOOO!!! (riff)

10:18 pm: 15-7, USC. Gibson gets the basket on Hansbrough AND the foul. Ugh. Where the hell is Brandan Wright?

10:20 pm: Okay, something is definitely wrong with the Tar Heels right now. They aren’t battling for balls, they just let the Trojans get the long rebound. They need to contest every ball.

10:21 pm: 18-7, USC. This is very,very frustrating. USC hits another three, and they take a double digit lead.

The Trojans have done a good job of keep the ball away for Hansbrough and Wright.

10:22 pm: 18-12, USC. Deon Thompson scores off a putback, and on the next possession hits an open three from a kickout pass inside.

10:24 pm: As we go to an official timeout (less that 11 minutes left), Tyler Hansbrough is already in foul trouble.

10:27 pm: 20-14, USC. Wright finally gets on the board with a nice hook shot.

10:28 pm: 22-14, USC. How can such an undersized team have their way against one of the best frontcourts in the country? This doesn’t make sense.

10:29 pm: 22-18, USC. At least things seem to be clicking for the Heels offensively. Wright gets an easy putback off the transition.

10:30 pm: What is Hansbrough doing on the court with two fouls and this much time left?

10:31 pm: 22-20, USC. Wayne Ellington gets an offensive rebound and hits the baseline jumper to bring the game within two.

10:32 pm: 24-20, USC. Official timeout, 7:54 left in the first half.

10;35 pm: So it isn’t my imagination. USC HAS severely outrebounded the Heels, 16-8.

10:36 pm: 24-22, USC. Wright gets another easy basket inside, but Lawson picks up his second foul. Quentin Thomas comes in.

10:37 pm: 26-24, USC. Brandan Wright has taken over the paint for the Tar Heels.

10:38 pm: 26-26. WAYNE’S WORLD! WAYNE’S WORLD! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT WHOOOO!!!

The Heels have actually done a better job with some bench players in the game.

10:38 pm: 32-28, USC. Gabe Pruitt makes an unbelievable three point play. He steals a pass in midair, drives insides, gets the basket and the foul.

10:40 pm: 34-33, USC. Terry hits two straight shots, the last a three. I think that’s only our second three of the game. That’s a big concern, and yet it’s not.

10:44 pm: 38-33, USC. The Trojans, and Gibson in particular, continue to get easy shots inside. I’m concerned because Roy isn’t exactly a master of mid-game adjustments.

10:45 pm: USC continues to dominate the boards. It looks like the Tar Heels aren;t even trying to box out.

Wow. Tyler Hansbrough has brass ones. He’s taken two charges even though he has two fouls.

10:47 pm: 39-33, USC. Right now, the Heels have inexplicably stooped looking inside and started chucking up outside shots. The Heels seem to still be in a collective mental haze. USC is outhustling them 80% of the time in this game.

10:50 pm: 42-33, USC. Young gets the basket and the foul to put the Trojans up 9.

Bobby Frasor is playing really bad tonight. He can’t get anything done versus the speedy backcourt of Southern Cal.

10:53 pm: Ellington’s buzzer beater rims out, but USC leads 42-33 at halftime. The Trojans have been able to use their small but fast lineup to their advantage, giving the UNC defense fits with guards consistently getting easy shots inside. They’ve outfought UNC for every ball, adn the Heels have shown a lack of mental focus, their biggest weakness from this season. To get back in the game, Lawson will need to stay out of foul trouble, the Heels will need to attack the inside, getting more contributions from Wright and Hansbrough, and they need to contest every Trojan shot, shutting the lane away from USC’s guards. I thought Wright vs. Young would heavily favor Wright, but Nick Young has had a field day of his own on offense. The Heels may need to go with a smaller lineup for short periods of time, with maybe Terry playing Young on defense.

11:15 pm: 44-33, USC. Oh crap. If we lose this game, I will forever hate Nick Young.

In case you’re wondering, the second half has begun.

11;16 pm: 46-33, USC. Damn it, Tyler, you can;t let your man get behind you lie that! he’s going to have a field day.

11:17 pm: 49-33, USC. The Trojans have scored the last 15 points. I am shocked at how badly the Heels have played thus far.

11:18 pm: 49-35, USC. Ellington finally stops the bleeding.

When is Roy going to make a coaching adjustment? Our gameplan doesn’t seem to be any different in the second half.

11:24 pm: 49-37, USC. Wow. Jason Ray, the man in the Rameses costume, was hit by a car today and is in critical condition. Here’s to hoping his full recovery. The game isn’t the same without you, Rameses.

11:25 pm: 51-39, USC. Danny Green throws it away underneath his basket AGAIN, and Pruett scores for the Trjoans AGAIN! This game is starting to get really frustrating. What’s it going to take to snap the Heels out of this?

11;27 pm: 53-45, USC. Terry hits a tough Jumper to bring the lead back to 10. Lawson steals the inbound pass and gets the layup to cut the lead to 8.

11: 28 pm: 57-45, USC. The Trojans hit two straight easy shots, but Gisbon goes to the bench with his fourth foul. He’s their only inside player; I hope that the Heels can finally take advantage of this clear mismatch.

11:29 pm: 57-49, USC. Brandan Wright takes advantage of Gibson’s absence with two straight baskets inside.

Official timeout. 11:10 left in the game. UNC is creeping back into it.

11:36 pm: 59-54, USC. Ginyard goes up for the unbelievable putback and the foul. The Heels are now within five.

11;37 pm: We had a perfect fast break opportunity. How did Wright not finish that?

11:39 pm: 59-56, USC. Wright nearly dunks in the opposing basket trying to catch a rebound, but he gets the nice baseline basket to cut the lead to three. I didn’t expect Hansbrough to struggle this much in the game, but Wright has certainly picked up the slack with 23 points and 9 rebounds. USC has been reeling in Taj Gibson’s absence.

11:42 pm: Gibson is back in with over 8 minutes left. UNC needs to attack them.

11:43 pm: 59-58, USC. Ginyard gets two offensive rebounds, including the putback to bring the Heels within one. The Trojans were too concerned with double teaming Wright, and Ginyard slipped by.

7:11 left in the game.

11:47 pm: 62-59, UNC. The Heels have taken the lead! YYYEEEEAAAAHHH!!!

It looks like our deep bench has finally gotten to the Trojans. They seem tired.

11:48 pm: 64-59, UNC. Brandan Wright cannot be stopped…

…except at the free throw line. 65-59.

11:49 pm: Playing the same type of game against an opponent until they run out of gas is a good strategy for winning. But damn! Watching these kinds of game are going to take 5 years off my life.

11:51 pm: 67-62, UNC. The Trojans finally break n 18-0 run by the Tar Heels. UNC is capable of those kinds of runs all the time, and while I wish they’d play like that earlier, how you finish a game is what matters.

11:53 pm: 69-62, UNC. 3:29 left. USC seems to be completely out of gas.

I can;t believe that we’ve made this comeback without Hansbrough being any factor whatsoever.

11:58 pm: 70-64, UNC, 2:45 left. USC is trying to run the full court trap. Damn it, we did not come all the way back to squander this game with a few turnovers.

12:02 am: Taj Gibson fouls out, but them Tim Floyd gets a technical foul. With 48.5 seconds and UNC getting two free throws and possession, that essentially ends the game. A huge lapse of judgement by Floyd.

12:06 am: The game ends, and UNC wins, 74-64! WHOOOOOOO!!!

This game scared the s— out of me, but after USC ran out of gas in the second half, UNC (in particular Wright and Ginyard) took over, outscoring the Trojans 25-5 to end the game. That is the level that the Heels are capable of playing, but where was that for the first 28 minutes? I have to admit, USC was a much tougher opponent than I had expected.

We play Georgetown next. I actually think we match up better against the Hoyas.