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.

UNC vs. #23 USF Live Blog

Today UNC is in Tampa to play the USF Bulls, who are ranked for the first time in history. To get ready for the game, see the UNC-USF preview.

12:03 pm: USF gets the ball to start the game. A good start on defense is crucial.

12:05 pm: On third down, Matt Grothe runs the draw, and gets through a big hole to get 15+ yards and a first down.

12:07 pm: We’re starting with the exact same problems we had against Virginia. The D-line is getting overpowered, the secondary is being caught out of position, and when we get to the ball, we can’t wrap up.

12:08 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Mike Ford runs to the outside, and he runs untouched into the endzone. 7-0, USF early in the first quarter. Junior Ben Williams brought them down the field, but Ford finished off the drive. Thing’s aren’t looking good for our defense early. The D-line is, once again, allowing themselves to be dominated physically at the line of scrimmage.

12:12 pm: Our Mascot’s name is Rameses. Get it right, Pam Ward.

12:13 pm: With the short kickoff, UNC starts at the 40 yard line.

12:14 pm: Yates complete his first two passes, first to Hakeem Nicks and then to Brooks Foster, and UNC gets the first down.

12:15 pm: SACK! George Selvie gets a huge jump on the ball, sacking T. J. Yates and forcing a punt. Selvie ran off the line of scrimmage so fast, I had to watch the replay to make sure he wasn’t offside. That guy is fast.

12:17 pm: Jamar Taylor takes the swing pass on first down, and he’s able to get through several defenders for the first. Our secondary HAS to stop arm tackling.

12:19 pm: I’m not saying anything, but my first impression of ESPN’s Rob Simmelkjaer was this:

12:20 pm: With USF advancing the ball again, UNC takes a timeout on 3rd and 3.

12:24 pm: Either the UNC secondary is really lapsing, or USF’s receivers are fast eoungh to get wide open in the middle. My guess is both.

12:26 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Grothe fires a bullet in the red zone to Amare Jackson, who breaks yet another UNC arm tackle to get in the endzone. 14-0, USF, as the Bulls have their way early on offense. UNC needs to respond with a score on this next drive, or else this game could get ugly.

12:29 pm: Brandon Tate’s kick return bring the Tar Heels in good field position again. They’ll start at the 36.

12:30 pm: UNC run their first rushing play of the game. Johnny White gets 4 yards.

USF brings the cornerback blitz on second down, and Yates’ bootleg fails miserably.

12:32 pm: INTERCEPTION! Yates rolls out on third down, and he fires a deep pass intended for Brooks Foster. The pass isn’t even close, and USF takes over inside their own 20.

12:33 pm: MARVIN AUSTIN WATCH: Marvin gets a huge tackle on first down, for a loss of 4 yards.

12:34 pm: UNC finally catches a defensive break, forcing a three and out after Deunta Williams breaks up a pass on third down and forces a punt.

12;35 pm: ESPN showed this interesting stat: UNC has as many freshman on their roster as they have players in all other classes, combined (42). We might be losing now, but the future is bright, for sure.

12:36 pm: Johnny White gets a first down on a 10 yard gain to open the drive.

12:37 pm: Holy crap, stop the presses! UNC may actually have an effective running game today! three runs, 25+ yards, two first downs.

12:38 pm: I knew it! Selvie is jumping offside. He’s quick, but he isn’t that quick.

12:39 pm: The first quarter ends, as USF has grabbed a 14-0 lead. UNC faces 3rd down to start the second quarter, and they need to convert to help get back in this game. It’s still early, but USF can make a blowout out of this.

12:43 pm: T. J Yates fires it to Hakeem Nicks, and he gets big yards after the catch and gets inside the USF 30.

12:44 pm: UNC is really committed to the running game on this drive. Johnny White gets another nice run to get to the 20.

12:45 pm: After a loss on 2nd down, Yates throws to Nicks again. This time, Trae Williams breaks up the pass. UNC settles for a field goal. USF leads 14-3, But UNC is finally on the board, and finally having a good running game will help both our offense (opens up the passing game) and our defense (Time of possession).

12:52 pm: USF starts with good field position off of the kick return. Ben Williams gets a big run, and suddenly the Bulls are past midfield.

12:53 pm: What a catch by Cedric Hill. I thought Deunta Williams had the interception, but the huge tight end out jumps him for the ball.

After Ben Williams goes nowhere on first down, Grothe finally misfires on two passes, forcing the Bulls to kick a field goal. USF leads 17-3, but thankfully we’ve yet to allow this game to get out of reach. If we can get it together for the next two and a half quarters, the Heels could still get a win today.

12:58 pm: Brandon Tate has a chance for a big return, but he does WAY too much dancing around, and UNC will start on the 22.

1:00 pm: Anthony Elzy gets a decent gain on the swing pass, but he gets a big hit from Gachette, who hit so hard he has to to leave the game, at least temporarily, with a concussion.

1:01 pm: Yates finds Nicks again for a first down, but UNC has yet to make a big play in the passing game, save Nick’s run after the catch to get in field goal range.

1:02 pm: Nicks drops a pass that was right on his hands in stride. Fortunately, USF is caught offside.

1:03 pm: I know the bootleg didn’t go well, but why aren’t we using play-action yet? That run play was way too predictable.

1:04 pm: A big cornerback blitz catches Yates by surprise, and his pass was thisclose to being intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Tar Heels have to punt.

1:11 pm: We are very fortunate, as Grothe nearly misses a deep pass downfield, and USF is called for holding on his big 3rd down run. Now we finally have a favorable 3rd down situation.

1:12 pm: Are you kidding me? Grothe finally gets some pressure, but he fires a bullet to the sidelines, and a wide receiver is there to catch, and juuuuuuuust get the first down. If we can’t stop these guys on 3rd and 15, our defense doesn’t stand much of a chance in this game.

1:14 pm: Kentwan Balmer is about to choke someone. He is angry at this defense.

1:15 pm: Grothe is finally forced to throw it away, at it brings up 4th down. Marvin Austin did a good job of pressuring the Bulls.

1:16 pm: This is the worst mistake that the Tar Heels could possibly make. The defense finally holds, and then the UNC punt team is caught offsides on 4th and 3, and now the defense has to get back on the field.

There are a lot of mistakes that UNC could make, but I have to believe that jumping offside on 4th down is the worst. You have to know the situation!

1:18 pm: Great. More arm tackling. USFkeeps advancing the ball.

1:22 pm: Finally, we finally get a sack on Matt Grothe. He is elusive.

1:23 pm: Way for Burney and Williams to break up the pass. They almost got an INT on that.

1:23 pm: FUMBLE! Wesley Flagg strips the ball as Grothe tries to run for the first, and Trimane Goddard recovers. Finally, the defense forces a turnover, and has something go their way as halftime approaches.

1:25 pm: INTERCEPTION! UNC commits yet another mistake at the worst possible time. Yates tries to get the ball to Foster, but Gachette intercepts the ball at the USF 40 yard line. The Tar Heels keep relinquishing any and all momentum that they’ve gotten in the first half.

1:27 pm: Grothe finds a wide open receiver in the middle, and he gets out of bounds inside the 20.

1:31 pm: USF kicks a field goal before halftime. The Bulls lead 20-3 and crank dat Soulja Boy. UNC doesn’t feel like dancing.

And we’ve hit halftime. If UNC wants any chance is coming back, 3 things need to happen.

  1. T.J. Yates needs to get back in a rhythm and get the passing game going. Of course, the receivers need to help him out on that.
  2. On defense, we need to finish the tackles that we start. USF is getting too much yardage after contact.
  3. NO MORE MENTAL MISTAKES! We’ve been beating ourselves more than anyone this season. I know this team is young, but we need a better presence of mind. There was no presence of mind with the 4th and three offsides, or with the second interception.

1:49 pm: Oh no…another Lou Holtz pep talk. Penn State is doomed.

2:04 pm: Rejoining the game a bit late. After UNC’s pffense opened with a punt, Grothe fumbled the ball, Hilee Tayolr recovered, and UNC is back in good field position.

2:06 pm: Just like that, T. J. Yates throws yet another interception. He now has 3 bad interceptions and 0 touchdowns. Fir the first time in his UNC career, Yates has the look of a QB who has only played 3 games in college and 14 games in his life.

2:08 pm: USF gets within field goal range after the interception return. they quickly go three and out, but make the field goal to make it 23-3, Bulls. Fortunately, UNC’s defense held to keep it a 3 score game. If Yates can get it together, he might be able to mount a comeback, but it looks like the South Florida secondary has just been too much for him to handle.

2;11 pm: Brandon Tate, one of our few bright spots today, gets another nice kick return, and UNC will start at the 39.

2:13 pm: You know that the Bulls defense is dominating this game when they nearly intercept a screen pass.

2:14 pm: T.J. Yates is sacked again, as absolutely no one is open downfield. The Tar Heels are forced to punt.

2:20 pm: Finally, UNC is making some big defensive stops. If not for Yates’ interceptions, it would still be a more manageable 17-3.

2:22 pm: I know that USF has a great defense, and I know that Yates has finally been flustered in this game. But throwing 4 picks in any game, including two to linebackers, is inexcusable.

After his first three games, UNC fans were talking big about T.J. Yates, myself included. The Tar Heel faithful felt that he was the best QB we’ve had since at least Durant, and he still could be that. But the fact remains that he’s very inexperienced, and we should have seen a bad game coming from him. Even so, I doubt that anyone expected it to be in this game, or for it to be quite this bad.

But no one, I repeat, NO ONE start calling for Mike Paulus to start next week. Yates has had three great games, he’s earned himself a leash of at least 3-5 bad games.

2:27 pm: USF drives down the field, get a fourth down conversion in the red zone, and Ben Williams powers his way 6 yards into the endzone. USF leads 30-3, and they have likely ended any chance the Heels have of coming back.

2:33 pm: FUMBLE! USF muffs the fair catch, Brooks Foster ensures the fumble, and the ball is recovered at the 16 by Ryan “Bacon”, as the ESPN guy called Mr. Baucom.

2:35 pm: Yates is sacked for the fourth time, but a facemask brings them to the 11, and Ryan Houston runs to set up a first and goal. Yet another freshman getting PT for the Heels.

2:37 pm: UNC will face third down, as USF leads 30-3 at the end of the third quarter. At his point, kicking another field goal does nothing, so I think that if the Heels face a fourth down inside the 10, they need to go for it. Even if they miss, the Bulls will have bad field position, and it’s not like we can make this situation any worse.

2:41 pm: I stand corrected: a false start. Why isn’t there a silent count?

Selvie goes through the line completely untouched, and USF now has 5 sacks.

2:42 pm: Yates throws a floater, Trae Williams breaks it up in the endzone, and UNC has to turn the ball over on downs. It was the right call to go for it, but it doesn’t make coming up empty any less painful.

2:43 pm: Out goes Grothe, who had a pretty good game today.

2:50 pm: UNC makes another defensive stop and forces a punt, But the Bulls down the punt at the 1 yard line. Even when they’ve done something wrong, they redeemed themselves pretty quickly.

2:58 pm: USF’s defensive pressure, even with a big lead, refuses to relent, and UNC is forced into a three-and-out. Nicks almost catches a deep pass, but the Heels have to punt.

3:06 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Another USF tailback rushes it in, and the Bulls take a 37-3 lead. There’s no point leaving Yates in now.

3:10 pm: Hey USF, throw us a friggin’ bone. Let Brandon Tate take a kickoff for a touchdown. No one would lower their opinion of you, and we would get some semblance of happiness in this otherwise miserable game.

3:12 pm: Wait…T. J. Yates is still in the game? Keeping him in accomplishes nothing. He doesn’t need the extra 4 minutes of experience, and he might get injured.

3:14 pm: I know it’s garbage time, but Ryan Houston isn’t looking half bad. He;s fighting through tackles and has an very quick first step.

3:15 pm: I give huge credit to South Florida’s defense, who completely dominated this game. I hope to never again see T. J. Yates’ jersey get this dirty.

3:18 pm: TOUCHDOWN! Ryan Houston ends our scoring nightmare, using power and agility to get in the endzone. UNC now trails 37-10, but Ryan Houston has officially thrown his name into our running back battle, and he’s showing signs for becoming a very good back.

3:24 pm:  It’s officially over: USF wins 37-10. I don’t anyone expected the Bulls to beat us quite this handily, but their defense really stepped up, in particular George Selvie. T. J. Yates never got into any rhythm, and threw for 4 interceptions today.  Two bright spots though:

  1. UNC’s defense showed, for about a 30 minute stretch, that they are capable of shutting down a good offense. They just need to do it for 60.
  2. Ryan Houston may finally solve our problems on the ground.

USF is a talented team, but this huge loss foreshadows what might happen in our next three games.

 

UNC vs. South Florida Preview

What to watch for in UNC’s game against South Florida.

  • This game features two of the best underclassman QB’s in the nation, UNC freshman T.J. Yates and USF sophomore and 2006 Big East Freshman of the Year, Matt Grothe. Yates is ninth in the nation in passing efficiency, and averages 10.2 yards per pass attempt. The USF defense, led by a great cornerback combination of Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins, who allow 4.4 yards per pass attempt. One of these stats will take a serious hit on Saturday. Meanwhile, Matt Grothe’s mobility as well as his arm will give the UNC defense fits all afternoon.
  • If UNC’s run defense hasn’t made some serious adjustments, the Bulls’ freshman running back Mike Ford and junior Ben Williams are going to have a field day.
  • USF is in the Top 25 for the first time in school history. Even though West Virginia looms next week, they probably won’t be looking too far ahead. They’ve been the underdog too many times to underestimate the Tar Heels.
  • UNC is the first non-conference BCS team ever to play USF in Tampa. The big crowd in Raymond James Stadium will be pumped…assuming that there’s a big crowd.

Enough with this “analysis”. Here’s what really matters:

  • This will be UNC’s first appearance on National TV This season. This is very good news for fans because, ladies, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen all 320 pounds of Marvin Austin in high definition.
  • You think I’m kidding, don’t you Austin might be the prettiest thing you see all day. Have you met USF’s mascot, Rocky the Bull?

  • In a desperate attempt to shore up their defense, Butch Davis has decided to take advantage of his 1/8 Cherokee heritage and perform a rain dance before the game starts. The plan will backfire when, instead of watching a good defense on Saturday, coach Davis will really “make it rain”. Which will surprise no one, because It’s my understanding that Tampa is the world capital of “precipitation”.

 

Enjoy the game and the live blog…GO HEELS!

 

Just So You Know…

This is the quarterback that our defense has to face on Saturday. Matt Grothe is the 20006 Big East Freshman of the year, threw for 15 touchdowns, and is perhaps USF’s most athletic player regardless of position. He can do this:

And this:

UNC’s defense is in for their biggest challenge yet. Tune in for the live blog at noon Saturday.