If you have gone around to North Carolina web boards, read twitter, checked out facebook or spoken to any of the Tar Heel fans you will see that winning does help morale. So, when Saturday, UNC (2-5 & 1-3 ACC) defeated Boston College (3-4 & 1-3 ACC) 34 to 10, scoring 28 unanswered points after BC was up 7-6, some of the fan base that had been so down on this squad changed their tune after the team snapped a four game slide. Which is good, as this squad does need to be supported, but winning something does hide the flaws as well, and that is not so good.
Overall it feels like head coach Larry Fedora has had this team improving every game in the last month. While that did not help much in the prior games, against the Eagles it meant a convincing win for a team that could easily be 2-3 games better than its record shows. But as the old saying goes… it is what it is, and for right now, it is a UNC team that has two wins on the season.
I will eat some crow myself, saying that I was not really happy about how the two QB system had worked in the Thursday night game against Miami, this time it seems to have been just fine. Bryn Renner did his job, with a 18 of 21 performance that piled up 227 yards and 2 TDs. With the duo of scores Renner now had 64 all time, which is just four behind the all time leader, Darian Durant. The fifth year season also surpassed the 8 K yards passed, becoming only the third QB to do so at North Carolina, along with Durant and T.Y. Jates. When on the field back up Marquise Williams got his yards both through the air, 4 for 8 for 55 yards and a TD, and on the ground, 55 yards on 7 rushes, which is half of what the Heels got rushing.
To be fair, if not for the minus 22 yards that were charged to Renner the team would have had 132 yards on the ground. On the other hand when your best receiving threat, tight end Eric Ebron, is called in to do an end around you know that the rushing game just is not working, or at least just isn’t working well enough.
I am still a believer that when it comes to quarterbacks one is better than two, but for this game the double QB system worked. Am I convinced that it will always work? Not really, but for now I will take the way it went and enjoy it.
To be noted, the offense should be complimented for not committing any turnovers in this game. That shows that in this area the team has been working hard and if they can keep up this trend it will go a long way to getting to six wins on the season. On the flip side Carolina D’s allowed just 59 passing yards, the fewest by any this season, the next lowest was GA Tech’s 104, and this is the fewest ever since Clemson threw for 37 yards in Death Valley over 15 years ago.
Speaking of the gunslingers, what I also liked about the duo against Boston College is that nine players caught passes, seven of them having multiple grabs, and the most had just four catches, meaning that the tandem of Renner/Williams spread the ball around. That alone will make the next opponents have to worry about all the receivers and not just focus on the Heels’ biggest threat, Eric Ebron (4 catches for 67 yards), who has 599 catching yards this season.
For more pictures check out her Facebook page here[/caption]On the other hand, with yet again another below average performance by the backs, you would have to believe that the D’s that North Carolina will see in the rest of the season will concentrate on the passing game as the running game just is not there. In my preview of this game I asked if T.J. Logan would start and if he would have an effect on this game. With just five carries for one yard, the answer is pretty evident. Tail back A.J. Blue rushed eight times for 25 yards and his 1st TD of the season, nothing compared to the ten he scored last season.
The offensive line is not working when it comes to the running game, but it is not doing much better for the aerial part of the offense either, as they have allowed seventeen sacks in all, which is a half dozen more than all of last season. Of course it might not all be the big men up front, young receivers might not be finding a way to get open which can lead to Renner to hold the ball too long might also be part of the problem. However, while the rest of the team is improving, this department isn’t.
What did work was the BC’s running game, as once again, just like in the last part of the game against Miami, UNC could not stop the opposition’s rushing game. Andre Williams, who is the conference leading rusher, had 172 yards, which was over two times as much as all of the running backs for Carolina combined.
When we can go on and discuss if the D is getting better or not, or if the dual QB system can work or not going forward, or whatever else you wish, the one thing that you can really not argue is that North Carolina once again was flagged for bad plays.
Sure, it was only four penalties, compared to the usual eight, but the D was flagged twice for roughing the passer, by Justin Thomason and Jeff Schoettmer, while also having another personal foul penalty late in the game. This just can not go on if the squad wants to find a way to win four more games in this season. If you wish to find the bright side to this, BC had five penalties in the game, one more than UNC.
Continuing on mental lapses, after 191 consecutive extra points, a bad snap early in the game ended that streak for the Tar Heels.
So, while you have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, who has been able to work through the bad times in this season. You have to give credit to coach Fedora and his assistants for getting young men to still play hard even with a season that has gone totally different from what they thought. But, while that is all good, you have to also pick on the coaches for not getting these guys to buy into playing with a bit more discipline.
One of the players that was happy that flags did not affect him was freshman Ryan Switzer, who had two touchdowns called back due to penalties earlier this season. Against the Eagles he was able to finally find the end zone and not have it disallowed.
Along with Switzer’s touchdown it was nice to see that in this game Carolina scored when they arrived in the red zone. Against Miami had the Heels turned their opportunities inside the 20 into seven points there would have been an upset in Kenan. Against Boston College the Tar Heels scored on all five of their drives in the red zone.
In the overall scheme of things this team was able to rebound from a crushing lost ten days before. And while the ABC’ers and haters will say that the win was against a program that is overachieving for a first year coach, the reality is that North Carolina could have given up on this campaign after some of the losses they have had, and yet have stuck to it and now has two wins on the season.
Now, with one of the most important things in college sports on their side, momentum, Carolina will travel to play against one of their Tobacco Road foe in N.C. State, who was crushed 49 to 17 by FSU (42-0 at the half). With the Wolfpack being 3 and 4 on the season, getting to six wins and being bowl eligible, they must win this game. For the Heels, which are 2 and 5, this is without a doubt a must win game if they hope to get to .500 by the end of the season.
With this being a rivalry game, in a must win situation for both programs, coming off a year ago where UNC took the game away from N.C. State thanks to Giovani Bernard’s great punt return with less than a half a minute to go in the game, this could definitely turn out to be a great game. Both teams have their backs against the wall, it will be interesting which one comes out victorious from this one, as the losing one might just have dashed their post season hopes.