Sunday, October 19, 2008

we're going streaking

Once again, proven wrong in the sort of way that I like. I said we'd need a running game in order to take down UNC and that UNC had proven they can beat a team without one. Now they've proven that they don't always. I'll further call myself out and retract the claim that a win here would make me feel confident about winning the rest of the games on the schedule. After the semi-explosion against Maryland, the running game has regressed back to where we started: 58 yards is not going to get it done consistently.

However: streak. (!!!) Or curse, whichever. I kind of wish we could call it the Curse of Curry or something like that but it was already almost 20 years old when he took over at UNC.

So, some thoughts from the game, and promise, not all of them will be of the complaining sort.

- First off props to the production crew at ESPN/ABC for giving us so many excellent shots of the Grounds in between plays. They even got a shot in of my old stomping grounds, Maury Hall. Ah, memories.

- UNC fans are stocking up on pitchforks and torches for some trick-or-treating at Everett Withers' house. Withers is the Carolina defensive coordinator and the one calling the coverages - specifically, that abominable prevent defense with a 3-man rush that Verica took apart with ruthless prejudice. 47 seconds. That's all it took to go 82 yards. It was so fast, the Heels had to kneel the ball twice in order to run out the rest of the clock to get to overtime. (Carolina fans aren't too chuffed about that call, either.) Deunta Williams admirably tries to shift the blame from the coaches to himself and his cohorts (a lesson Cullen Harper could use), but I'm not buying it. The prevent defense should only ever be used when a score by the other team would be harmless, because it's an invitation to gain yardage and lots of it, fast. If the roles were reversed and Bob Pruett had pulled that stunt, this post would have more swear words in it than Pulp Fiction.

- Hey, kid in the Papa John's commercial: Take your damn hat off at the dinner table.

- I'm well aware that sideways passes are a pretty inextricable part of the offense, but I wonder, at what point was Mike Groh going to recognize that Carolina was shutting them down? In doing my review of Verica's play, I counted 11 sideways pass plays. Not safety-valve dump-offs, I mean designed passes to the flat or near it. Three worked, and by worked I mean "picked up four yards or more." The rest were smothered by the Carolina 'backers. Three of them, none of which were even remotely successful, were a fake handoff followed by a rollout to the other side to drop it off to the tight end. You could see these coming from the comfort of your couch, and UNC had no problems with them. Mike: Stop calling them. At least, stop calling them so frequently when they are being shut down every time.

- Hosses: Cedric Peerman and Marc Verica. Not that you needed me to tell you that, but I needed to say it. After Verica lofted a beauty to Phillips for first-and-goal in OT, I was praying for handoffs to Peerman. Just punch it up the gut. Lo and behold, they just punched it up the gut and scored. I'm fond of being critical of Mike Groh, but, give him credit for not getting too fancy near the goal line. He tried the fanciness once and it almost caused a game-ending interception. Good for him, filing that idea where it belonged and keeping it simple on the next three calls. Good for him also, finally ditching the sideways crap on the final drive after the umpteenth completion for zero yards and sending his receivers to the soft spots in the zone. And Verica? Still looks like a fifth-year senior out there. It helps that his linemen are giving him a near-perfect pocket all day long, but even when it breaks down he's always got his wits about him.

- Defense, I'm calling a mixed bag. The defensive line consistently got blown the hell off the ball and UNC controlled the ground all day. The only pressure on Sexton came when Sintim rushed and was inexplicably single-teamed, which caused one sack and one blown-up third down play. Not a good day for the D-line, outside of Jenkins' INT. On the other hand, they made big plays at big times (Glaspy's INT) and huge stops in OT, both of which are hallmarks of a successful defense. And you can't overlook the fact that they held a ranked team to a touchdown and two field goals even while missing two starters.

Let's check out Verica's day:

Actual stats: 24/38, 217 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Adjusted stats: 27/39, 264 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

1st throw: The very first play of the day and it should have resulted in a pass interference call. Ogletree was basically wrapped up before the ball got to him; the defender was in the process of tackling him as the ball arrived and while Tree's arms were free to make the catch, he shouldn't have had to do so while being knocked over. Add a completion and 6 yards.

4th throw: A completion to Covington that was called back for illegal formation. Add an attempt, completion, and 9 yards.

7th throw: Sheeeeeesh. Verica threw into triple coverage so heavy you couldn't even see the number of the intended receiver on replay. It got deflected and damn well should have been picked off, and nearly was because the defender let a fluttering ball right through his hands. So add one interception. We got lucky.

13th throw: I'm being a little bit generous here. Looked to me like the ball got to Ogletree's hands before any defender did. It appeared that the Carolina defender made a nice play to get there and knock the ball free, but I think the ball was already dropped by the time he got there. Still a nice play by the defense, but we'll call this a drop here and add a completion and 32 yards.

We can let the warm and fuzzy glow sit for a while - it's nice to be in contention in the division. But not too long. A trip to Atlanta is next up, and Georgia Tech is the division leader and another ranked team - and this time we have to do this on the road. Worse yet, Bobby Dodd is a place where we typically lay a big fat egg. In 2002 we were fresh off a really excellent streak-extending win over UNC (the one where we were down 21-0 at the half and reeled off 37 straight points) and rode a six-game win streak into Bobby Dodd only to forget everything we knew about winning football games. So this one's a big hurdle, and if GT's offensive line pushes us around like Carolina's did we will be in for a very long day against that throwback offense they run. Maybe the toughest game we have until our trip to Blacksburg. Of course, the more you win the bigger the games get, but this is a big one.

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