Last week, when I did my recap of the UNC/Louisville game, I talked about a tale of two halves. This time, as the North Carolina football program took care of East Carolina by the final of 27 to 6 in the friendly confine of Kenan Stadium, the key phrase should be: business as usual on offense and sack happy on defense.
While the second part of my phrase should not too hard to decipher, as the Tar Heel D had seven sacks in the game, tied for most in the conference with N.C. State for this season, which is one more than they had the first three games of the season, the first part is a bit more complicated to figure out, especially if you do not follow the team too closely. Business as usual means that once again the offense was not too productive in the first thirty minutes. In the games against Wake and L’Ville Bryn Renner, who went 27 for 43 with 321 yards and 2 TDs, & Co. had scored an average of 10.5 points. Against East Carolina it was much the same, as UNC would just score 10 points in the first half of the game.
“Going in 10-6 I felt pretty good,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said.
“I don’t know. It’s not the halftime speeches. I’ll assure you. But it’s guys trying to come out with the same intensity level that we do at the beginning of the game. That’s always a struggle for any team, to come out just as intense in the second half as you do in the first half. I think our guys have maybe done a better job of that than we have at the beginning of the game.” (Coach Fedora on being dominant in the 3rd quarter so far this season)
However, in both of the losses this year it seemed that North Carolina’s offense would awaken in the second half, outscoring the opponents by 40 to 10. This time around, against the in state foe, the script would be once again followed, as the Tar Heels would shut out their opponents seventeen to nothing after intermission. The good news about this could be that the coaching staff knows how to get to its players and finds a way to tweak the game plan. The flip side of that has to be how many times can the team outscore the opposition enough to come back? Truth be known I rather not find out, since we witnessed what happened in the Bluegrass State against L’ville, and see head coach Larry Fedora and his staff finding a way to get the offense going from the first whistle and not the one to start the second half of play.
In my preview I talked about several points, including…
Rack’Em Up Renner. Even with starting tail back Giovani Bernard, 18 carries for 50 yds and 1 TD & 6 catches for 52 yds and 1 TD, back on the field the passing game, 321 yards, was a lot more fruitful than the running game, 129 yards, in this game. In all Renner hit eight different team mates, five of them for multiple catches, three for five or more completions. But, maybe even more importantly, the junior quarterback never completed a pass to a ECU defender (aka have an interception), playing a smart game and leading good drives down the field. To be noted that Renner’s numbers could have been much higher in this game if not for what seemed way too many dropped balls, including a pair by Eric Highsmith, which if caught were points for the Tar Heels. Having said all of that Renner’s 684 yards in the last two games is the highest ever in the program’s history.
Talking about all time records, with the total yards from this game Renner is now sixth all time with 4,291 yards. He needs less than 100 yards to over take the fifth spot on that list. While the junior’s 37 total touchdowns puts him third on the all time list.
“I think you have to give (ECU’s defense) credit for some of the things they were doing. They were getting an extra guy down in the box and moving people and bringing a guy quite a bit of the time. But I was really happy to see Gio get back out there, to see him get hits, see him make people miss, see him jump, see him catch the ball, see him get in the end zone.”
“That’s just going to give him more confidence. This week in practice he felt better the next morning each day after practice than he had the week before. I was really hoping it was going to feel that way. The good thing is just talking to him a few minutes ago, he said he felt fine and felt really good.” (Coach Fedora on Giovani Bernard)
Romar was not built in a day. With Bernard back this was a bit less of a point for the game. While Morris still had some touches (4 for 19 yds on the ground and 2 for 12 yds through the air), it was nowhere as close as it could have been if the starting tail back was still on the side line. With the two scores Bernard now has a total of 19, of which 15 on the ground. However there should be some concern about why this team that relied on the run so much a year ago isn’t able to do the same with such an experienced line this season.
Speaking of Bernard, while he did play the whole game, he surely did not seem like tail back I saw last season or the one that was running rampid all over Elon in the first game of the year for Carolina. Fortunately for both him and the team the redshirt sophomore will have two weeks before the Tar Heels head into the meat of the season, which should give him plenty of time to get back to full form.
Do not play it down. I am not sure if the Tar Heels played this game down as much as it was just another game where UNC could not come out and play as good as they can from the get go. While the first half was still of the lack luster type it was nothing like the one against Louisville, where the players seemed to be lost on and off the field. The second half it seemed that all parts of the game, offense ~ defense ~ special teams, clicked and if not for some drops on offense and some miscues on D the team seemed to be focused on their opponent and winning the game.
After this game there is no doubt that this squad is still a work in progress, but not many programs, with a first year head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, can say differently after four games. As I said in my preview, with some help this team could be undefeated, but would not really reflect the type of team this squad is. On the other hand being 2 and 2 might not as well. Add to that the many injuries in the first quarter of the season, and there is no way that you can really tell where this team is at right now, nor how much more they can improve during this campaign. The key is that neither the offense or the defense regress any with each week and opponent.
@a_e_m ECU is bad. UNC is not as bad.
— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) September 23, 2012
Next week’s opponent is going to be Idaho, which is still looking for its first win of the year, having lost to Top 5 LSU 63 to 14 last week and going to overtime against Wyoming yesterday. And while for North Carolina this needs to be a win at all cost, the staff needs to keep the team focused and not get them in the “looking ahead” syndrome as Carolina will face Virginia Tech the following weeks in what has been donned the “white out” game (see t-shirts to the left about the match up). Just like the game against ECU, the game against Idaho will be a 3:30 p.m. EST kick off, and ESPN3 (computer) will be the place to see it nationally.
For more information about North Carolina football and/or basketball, teams and players, present and past, make sure to check back often on isportsweb!