Posted: 4:36 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013
By Brian Barbour
Before the season I wrote this about the first four games.
Panic!: 1-3 or 0-4: Losses to either MTSU or ECU are unacceptable, especially the latter since no one wants to deal with Pirate fans with puffed out chests. And if ECU somehow beats UNC and NCSU? God helps us.
There are no words formed by the lips of angels, demons or man to describe just how bad the Tar Heel defense was today. But since I have write something, it probably can be best summed up with this.
ECU came into the game as the 120th rushing offense in the country. They averaged 25 rushing attempts per game to the tune of 63.3 yards per contest or 2.4 yards per attempt. ECU running back Vintavious Cooper entered this game with 161 yards rushing in three games with 95 of those coming against Florida Atlantic.Today against North Carolina's "defense"? 186 yards on 35 carries. So an offense that primarily passes the ball and runs rushing plays just for the heck of it, ran up over 220 yards on the ground while still passing the ball with effectiveness. On the day, ECU had 605 of total offense. Starting quarterback Shane Carden threw for 376 yards, three touchdowns and rushed for two more. ECU punted exactly one time all game making trip after trip after trip into the red zone. At the end of the day, ECU had 36 first downs, ran 101 plays and scored 55 points.
So, as you know, last season when the defense played poorly, it could be mitigated to some extent by the offense. Obviously there were times when it didn't work so well like scoring 50 on Georgia Tech but giving up 68. For the most part, UNC could overcome giving up 30-40 points because the offense was really good. Running an efficient offense helps the defense since it puts pressure on the opposing offense to keep up. It also keeps the ball out of the hands of the opposing offense. When the defense is playing poorly, three and outs are the worst possible thing that could happen.
That is pretty much what happened. Now, to be fair, UNC was without Romar Morris and Sean Tapley which hurts. Still, Bryn Renner may have played one of the worst games of his career. He was off all game long and threw an interception. Even the passes that found someone required extra effort from the receiver. Ryan Switzer had to come back and camp under one bad pass. Nic Platt snagged a high one and then fought his way to the end zone. Renner just plain struggled to do anything well. He was pressured some but for the most part just didn't throw the ball well. Likewise the running game churned out a grand total of 82 yards since almost every rushing attempt into the line was stuffed. Without Romar Morris is was next to impossible to get anything going on the perimeter. A.J. Blue wasn't enough of a factor to move the chains. The only bright spot on offense was Quinshad Davis finally showed up with 111 yards of receiving and his third touchdown of the season. Davis also threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Thorpe on a flea flicker which was better than anything Renner threw all day. Yes, really.
Then there were the penalties. So many penalties and many of them of the braid dead variety. The Tar Heels had nine penalties for 94 yards including at least three personal fouls and a roughing the passer call. Positive plays were nullified, seemingly every time in the first half, by penalties. The penalty bug has been an issue since Fedora showed up but really goes back even before him. That may be an issue with the players left over from Butch Davis but whatever the case, the current staff needs to figure out how to cut down on those miscues.
Things could and probably will get really messy from here on out. UNC heads to Blacksburg on five days rest to face a very good Virginia Tech defense. This is the defense that held the ECU offense that just steamrolled through Kenan Stadium to 10 points. The Hokie offense has struggled but given how bad UNC's defense has been 17-20 points will probably be enough given how well the Virginia Tech defense has played. After that Miami comes to Chapel Hill with a very potent offense. If stopping ECU was a problem, I can only imagine what Miami might do.
Dropping to 1-5 is a real possibility at this point with UNC needed to go 5-1 on the back side of the schedule just to get bowl eligible.