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Joe Ovies

Talking Points: Big plays make big difference

Posted August 30, 2013

1. Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Spotting South Carolina a 17-point lead in the opening quarter isn't a recipe for success.

North Carolina's defense was as much, if not more, of a concern than their offensive line establishing a defense mechanism for the destroyer of worlds known as Jadeveon Clowney. The Tar Heels had a nasty habit of giving up big plays last season and it took the Gamecock's until the third play of the game to expose those woes when quarterback Connor Shaw hooked up with Shaq Roland on a 65-yard touchdown. 

South Carolina racked up over 200 yards on the Tar Heels after 15 minutes of play. That's...not very good.

2. Despite the wobbly start and down 20-7 coming out of halftime, North Carolina had a fleeting moment where it appeared they might just claw their way back into the game. 

After finally establishing an offensive rhythm, the Heels drove down to the South Carolina six-yard line. The Gamecocks defense looked gassed and the door was open to pull within six points. North Carolina ran Romar Morris up the middle twice without success. Quarterback Bryn Renner was rushed out of the pocket on third down and threw behind A.J. Blue for an incomplete. The Tar Heels had to settle for a field goal after reeling off 17 plays over seven minutes.

Mike Davis rushed 75 yards for a touchdown on South Carolina's following possession with 7:52 left in the 3rd quarter. It was a devastating punch to the gut and North Carolina wouldn't recover.  

The Tar Heels took a smaller punch in the 2nd quarter after T.J. Thorpe fumbled a punt and gave the ball back to the Gamecocks. The result wasn't as crippling as the Davis touchdown, but just another example of a blown opportunity to wrestle back a small amount of control in the game. 

3. Clowney entered the season opener with a Chuck Norris-like mythology built up during the offseason. Everybody has seen "the hit" on every possible visual medium, from looping GIFs to endless SportsCenter Top Ten segments. An entire afternoon was spent at the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro asking North Carolina representatives if they were scared of college football's version of Galactus.

The hype was fierce. Unfortunately, that hype was never going to be fulfilled. Do we really expect a drive exploding defensive play out of Clowney every week this season? If that's the case, we'll be left sorely disappointed. Especially when opposing teams compiled every minute of tape in an effort to gameplan against him.

Clowney's stats on Thursday night, which lacked a single sack, won't appease the Heisman honks. Those moments where he looked winded or spent chunks of time on the sideline won't help either. North Carolina's James Hurst did a decent job keeping the human Death Star in check as well. 

However, saying Clowney didn't have an impact on North Carolina would be disingenuous.

It was jarring to see North Carolina come out of the gate conservative, with Renner throwing screen passes and averaging just under five yards per completion in the first quarter. With the Tar Heels unable to establish any rhythm, North Carolina only threatened South Carolina's lead once in the game. 

4. The NCAA made a big stink about about cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits, causing mass hysteria during conference media days over what would and would not constitute a legal contact. The last thing college football observers wanted was more judgment calls for the officials to potentially screw up, especially ones that could result in the ejection of a player.

The referees got their first test when North Carolina safety Brandon Ellerbe lowered his head as South Carolina's Victor Hampton fell to the ground during a punt return. While the hit caused much debate on ESPN and social media, there was no flag thrown and no ejection given.

5. The timeout war between Steve Spurrier and Larry Fedora, following an extended lightning delay, was rather precious.

34 Comments

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  • VT1994Hokie Aug 30, 2013

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    I have no doubt about the ACC competing with the SEC. All I see is that the SEC has the best recruits each year. Bama has guys on the 3rd and 4th stings that could be starters in the ACC in a few positions. VT's opening games vs the big guys hasn't been all that much. I do believe that teams learn from playig the tough teams early. I just hope that our new coaches can learn from this game, and teach them a bunch better than lately.

  • StunGunn Aug 30, 2013

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    Or just cover your eyes completely:)

  • StunGunn Aug 30, 2013

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    So true, Ken, and out of all the games, I think Clemson has the best chance to put a "W" in the column.

  • Hammerhead Aug 30, 2013

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    Be sure and wear eye protection when viewing.

  • StunGunn Aug 30, 2013

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    I take it you haven't seen the Maryland Unis.

  • jmcdow2792 Aug 30, 2013

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    I agree, SC did appear to be faster. A lot of UNC plays drew gang tackles even when it initially looked open. But SC didn't look like a top 10 team to me last night. Their performance just wasn't crisp and they didn't look focused at times. Might just be first game jitters, but I don't think they will get far without improvement.

  • 45HEELSFAN45 Aug 30, 2013

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    It doesnt matter how much of the face mask you grab. Clearly his head jerked but then the hand slipped off to make it look like it wasnt much. Penalties are a part of the game...

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 30, 2013

    View quoted thread

    I agree. UNC did look like they were better conditioned.

  • Ken D. Aug 30, 2013

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    To me it wasn't just the defense that looked slow. I thought USC was noticeably faster on both sides of the ball.

  • Honesty first Aug 30, 2013

    Clowney was the difference in this game. No big trophy for the big boy. Ha ha

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