Talking Points: Heels still work in progress
Posted September 7, 2013
Updated September 8, 2013
1. North Carolina's penchant for giving up big plays on defense revealed itself once again as Middle Tennessee State opened the afternoon with a sustained drive featuring five first downs. The last one came on 3-and-6 just inside the red-zone, with Blue Raider's quarterback Logan Kilgore throwing what was initially ruled a touchdown to Kyle Griswould.
The ruling on the field was overturned, and the defensive mindset apparently flipped with it.
Middle Tennessee State could not punch it in with Jordan Parker. Following a false start and incomplete pass, Kilgore tossed another one into the endzone on third down. Tre Boston snagged the football one-handed for the interception.
North Carolina wouldn't give up another big play the rest of the first half and stifled Middle Tennessee State into just 17 more plays over the next five series. The Blue Raiders punted four times and Tim Scott picked off Kilgore for his second interception.
The Heels had a eerily similar shaky start to the second half, with Parker leaving little doubt his 22-yard run up the middle was a touchdown. North Carolina settled down and intercepted Kilgore a third time as the Blue Raiders were making another push into the red-zone.
Considering Middle Tennessee State ended the afternoon with 401 total yards of offense (158 of those yards on the ground), the North Carolina defense certainly did its share of bending By creating four turnovers and a couple turnover on downs in the 4th quarter, they certainly didn't break.
2. Wait a sec, did North Carolina really kick to Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of each half? Yes they did.
Middle Tennessee won the coin toss and elected to defer. Typically the team that defers will receive the kick in the second half and kick to the other team to start the game because that's what other teams will opt for 99.9% of the time. For whatever reason, North Carolina decided on an endzone to defend rather than elect to receive the opening kickoff.
“Ron Cherry was looking at me like I was an idiot," Larry Fedora deadpanned. "I didn't know why he kept looking at me like that until I found out afterwards. It was a poor job on my part."
According to quarterback Bryn Renner, who couldn't remember a situation like that dating back to youth football, turns out Quinshad Davis misunderstood the question at midfield.
"I think coach Fedora is going to handle that internally," said Renner.
3. While North Carolina opened up more of the playbook and ran the offense more to their liking, it was far from a perfect afternoon inside Kenan.
Behind Renner's 339 yards on 23-of-39 passing, he was hurried into errant throws and sacked twice. He broke 300 yards before tossing his lone touchdown. Renner had his career-best streak of pass attempts without an interception snapped at 140 in the second quarter. The offense stalled throughout the third quarter before eventually putting the Blue Raiders away in the fourth quarter.
Opposing defenses appear focused on shutting down Eric Ebron in scoring situations. It's only two games, but the tight end hasn't grabbed a touchdown.
The Tar Heels are very much a run-by-committee team at the moment. Romar Morris, A.J. Blue and Khris Francis each carried the ball 10 times and each rushed over 40 yards. Fedora was at a loss as to whether his backs struggled in production or the offensive line struggled to open up space for big plays.
"I’ll be honest with you that was the biggest mystery to me," said Fedora. "I’m sure it’s a combination of a lot of things. I don’t think it’s one guy that’s just not doing his job. That would be easy to see in a game. I think it’s just a multitude of things."
4. North Carolina made a couple changes to their game day experience. "Tar Heel Town" is now located in Ram Plaza instead of a campus quad and the student section now features a DJ to spice up the pre-game.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, especially if you're in the older demographic. What's wrong with the marching band and the standard musical fare heard over the public address system? Absolutely nothing. Tradition is very much part of college football.
However, that doesn't mean schools shouldn't try to create unique environments that cater to the changing tastes of today's college students and prospective recruits. DJ Forge did exactly that inside Kenan Stadium.