Joe Ovies

Talking Points: Chapel Hill, we have a problem

Posted September 29, 2013

1. To paraphrase Silky Johnson from the "Player Hater's Ball," what can be said about North Carolina's defense that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan: It looks bombed out and depleted.

It's not just missed tackles or a tendency to give up big plays. The Tar Heels have a big problem stopping the run.
  • South Carolina: 228 yards on 38 carries.
  • MTSU: 159 yards on 41 carries.
  • Georgia Tech: 324 yards on 71 carries.
Against East Carolina, a traditionally pass-heavy squad, it was more of the same. The Pirates rushed for 194 yards on 54 attempts. Vintavious Cooper did the bulk of the work, running 35 times for 183 yards. 
In ECU's loss to Virginia Tech, Cooper ran for only 28 yards on eight carries. While it's easy to chalk up his limited production to a rejuvenated defense out of Blacksburg, consider Cooper had just 133 yards on 32 carries in wins over Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic.
East Carolina ran 101 plays, the most ever by an opponent against the Tar Heels, and only punted twice. The Pirates dictated the pace and North Carolina didn't have any answers during the game. Head coach Larry Fedora didn't seem to have any after the game, either.
"You’ve got to play with energy, no matter what happens," Fedora said. "It doesn’t matter. You can’t let one play affect the next play. We obviously don’t have that right now.”
2. High scores are nothing new for North Carolina under Fedora. Virginia Tech put up 34 points, NC State scored 35 points, Georgia Tech dropped 68 points and Maryland kept it close with 38 points. The Tar Heels won three out of those four in Chapel Hill because the offense stayed one step ahead.
The Tar Heels are not afforded the same luxury this season. 
Yes, they miss Gio Bernard. Yes, their offensive line lost key players to the NFL. And the Tar Heels were without Romar Morris and Sean Tapley against East Carolina. However, the offensive woes in Chapel Hill have lingered throughout the early part of the season.
Bryn Renner finished with a good looking box score. 28-of-46 for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns. He threw one interception. That masks a shaky first half where the ball just wasn't leaving his hand right. Fedora used a little trickeration with Quinshad Davis passing to T.J. Thorpe for a 32-yard score to finally get on the board.
3. North Carolina doesn't appear to be a focused team at the moment. For starters, look at the penalties. 
The Heels continued a nasty trend from their loss to Georgia Tech and were penalized nine times for 99 yards against the Pirates. North Carolina is doing a good enough job beating themselves by destroying offensive rhythm and taking touchdowns off the board (once against the Yellow Jackets and another one against the Pirates). 
More disturbing is the talk of complacency coming out of A.J. Blue. The senior runningback called out his teammates for not giving 100 percent against East Carolina and labeled the attitude of some as front-running.
The flat effort isn't lost on Fedora, who told Lee Pace of the Tar Heels Sports Network at halftime that he'd just like his team to "play football" at some point. It's up to the coaching staff to snap them out of this funk.
4. NC State bounced back from a tough loss to Clemson with a drama free win over Central Michigan. 
The Wolfpack defense jumped on the Chippewas early, erasing any thoughts of a Richmond repeat from a couple weeks back. NC State intercepted quarterback Cooper Rush three times, including D.J. Green's pick-six on the second play of the game, and limited Central Michigan to just 259 yards of total offense. 
NC State's primary attack was on the ground. Fifty-two carries divided between 10 different Wolfpack players for 259 total rushing yards. Shadrach Thorton got the start and lead all rushers with 71 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he saved the media from a scary spider.
5. Duke was on the right end of another high scoring affair, beating Troy thanks to the work of Brandon Connette. The quarterback threw three touchdowns and punched a couple in on the ground. Connette's development from change-of-pace quarterback to starter due to injury is the biggest story of Duke's young season and important to making another bowl.
Say this about the Blue Devils' defense, they keep things interesting. David Cutcliffe might lose the rest of his hair in the process, but he'll take it. The unit got stronger after initially getting knocked back on it's heels by the pace of Troy's offense.
Duke's schedule following the bye-week isn't especially daunting, but the defensive issues make even the winnable games toss-ups.

This blogpost is closed for comments.

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  • bigfella Sep 29, 9:48 a.m.

    Fedora must go. All talk no action. Defense has been the worst in a long time.



  • iron fist Sep 29, 9:57 a.m.

    Comparing sports to war/bombing is wrong and should never be done.

  • rjgolfcat Sep 29, 10:03 a.m.

    One of the writers hit it on the head
    Fedora is a mid atlantic coach and that is the way the team played. No pep or excitement at all. Blue said that on the bus on the way to the game.

  • lec02572 Sep 29, 10:27 a.m.

    Reason for Carolina failure:
    10. cheerleaders distract the team;
    9. 4 and 5 star recruits really are 1 star recruits;
    8. the weather was too good to be playing football;
    7. coach is over rated;
    6. the press said we should win the coastal division and we just have to show up;
    5. we don't have to play Clemson or FSU so why should we worry; 4. on defense the other teams have a force field around the person with the ball and we can't tackle; 3. basketball is just around the corner; 2. got a party to go to in Miami; and 1. have to really attend classes and don't have time to practice.

  • jdupree Sep 29, 11:16 a.m.

    Too much talk and not enough action. Fedora hyped expectations really high and he has a real nightmare on his hands. Defense is bad, not deep and everyone will now play them on an extreme hurry-up offense. With a long season, injuries that always happen and morale, it does not look too promising. Unless he gets some real positive results, he may not be back in 2014.

  • charlesboyer Sep 29, 11:29 a.m.

    The pine trees must love Pirates more than Tar Heels.

  • PricelessGemUNC Sep 29, 12:14 p.m.

    This is my first post but I am tired of Fedora. Time for him to go. Please visit my twitter #FireLarryFedora

  • harleymanusa Sep 29, 12:17 p.m.

    The one constant thing is we are talking about the defense and their lack of. I believe this prevent defense (the one that prevents you from winning) just don't work. If you score 31 points a game in all reality you should win. So keep the head coach and look on the other side of the ball. The one thing positive going forward is that the success ECU is having is their head coach has been there for 4 yrs. Fedora is just in his second year and doesn't have the recruits he recruited on the field much or are just not up the speed on the college level yet. Let's be real here....Giving up 603 total yards of offense is just more than enough proof that the defensive coordinator need the revamp his style to the talent he has or continue to get post such as this or worse...

  • olivechapel1000 Sep 29, 12:22 p.m.

    Comparing sports to war/bombing is wrong and should never be done.

    — Posted by iron fist

    Wow there is a comment. Sports and war have always from my memory been compared.




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