Talking Points: Heels have no margin for error
Posted November 4, 2013
1. North Carolina created the shiniest object in the room when a couple of Tar Heels celebrated their win over NC State by pounding the Wolfpack’s new midfield logo and the rest of the team chanted "Who's State? Our State!” on their way to the locker room.
Because I’m obligated to have a general “hot sports take” on the low hanging fruit, here it is — whatever.
If NC State wants to use what happened on Saturday as motivation, they’re free to knock themselves out doing the “never forget” thing. The new Wolfpack coaching staff got a bitter taste of what drives a local rivalry after only hearing about it from former players and boosters. It would be more concerning if head coach Dave Doeren didn’t say he’d remember what happened on the field and shrugged his shoulders over the matter.
However, I do have a different take specifically for the subset of salty NC State fans who want an acknowledged rivalry with North Carolina. Don’t be upset when the Tar Heels give the Wolfpack the recognition you so desperately crave and actually engage in rivalry shenanigans.
“…but North Carolina fans say we’re not their rival!”
Here’s a pro-tip — stop being trolled so easily.
2. After starting off the season 1-5, credit to North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora and the rest of his staff for keeping this team on the rails. Props also go out to quarterback Bryn Renner. The senior could have easily bristled at sharing snaps Marquise Williams, but Renner put Heels' overall needs ahead of his own.
However, the Tar Heels have left themselves no margin for error in pursuit of bowl eligibility. UNC has remaining games against Virginia, Pittsburgh, Old Dominion and Duke. All winnable, but two of those contests are also very losable if North Carolina’s defense reverts to giving up big plays.
Fedora credited the defense for “bowing up” the last two weeks. The Heels kept ACC leading rusher Andre Williams to just one big touchdown run of 56 yards in a win over Boston College. The unit adjusted to NC State’s ground plan featuring quarterback Brandon Mitchell and forced him to throw two interceptions thanks to pressure from Kareem Martin.
Circle the Nov. 16 road trip to Pittsburgh and the regular season finale against Duke as the most troublesome match-ups down the stretch. The Panthers will present a challenge to North Carolina’s susceptible secondary with wide receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. The Blue Devils will no doubt have a balanced game plan from head coach David Cutcliffe.
3. NC State head coach Dave Doeren’s inaugural season in Raleigh is analogous to the classic Nintendo game “Metroid.”
Work with me here.
In the “Metroid” series, the protagonist usually arrives on a mysterious planet with a fully stocked power suit. The game teases you by showing off suit’s maximum capability in an introductory level before stripping the player down to the bare minimum through a plot point. The player must then traverse the game world, slowly regaining parts of the suit to advance through previously unreachable levels.
When Doeren landed on the strange planet of Raleigh, he lost the fully capable power suit and is now going through the process of finding the parts again.
That’s the best comparison I could come up for NC State’s offense because I’m total geek. It might explain the aggressive nature of play-calling seen against Wake Forest, Syracuse and North Carolina. Those fake punts and funky formations are just attempts mask the deficiencies of the personnel. Doeren’s coaching staff is trying to get on the board early because it knows numbers have been and continue to be difficult to put up.
The 19 points against North Carolina on Saturday was the most they’ve scored against a conference opponent this season. NC State has only scored 10 touchdowns in 26 trips to the red zone.
4. Miami running back Duke Johnson will miss the remainder of the season with a broken right ankle.
Terrible news for the Hurricanes, but a possible opening in the schedule for Duke. Without Johnson and the possibility of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett still on the sideline due to an MCL tear, Duke’s defense won’t have as many dynamic playmakers to worry when they host Miami in two weeks.
Duke is very much in the Coastal Division race thanks to Virginia Tech’s loss to Boston College. The Blue Devils could get additional help if the Hokies drop the Hurricanes this weekend.