Joe Ovies

Talking Points: Zero Dark Heartbreak

Posted October 18, 2013

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora during the Tar Heels' 27-23 loss to Miami on Thursday, October 17, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC (Photo by Jack Morton).

1. North Carolina had opportunities to bury Miami in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels ended up giving those opportunities back to the Hurricanes. It cost Carolina a win on Thursday. 

Up 23-20 with 9:40 left in the game, North Carolina defensive back Dominique Green intercepted Miami quarterback Stephen Morris at the Hurricanes' 49-yard line. Morris' fourth turnover of the night gave the Heels another chance to sweep the leg, except North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner was intercepted by Miami's Tracy Howard inside the red zone just three plays later. 

The Tar Heels limited the damage of their own late turnover by forcing a three-and-out and initially drove to the 50-yard line with under 6:00 left in the game. On 3rd-and-1, quarterback Marquise Williams was subbed out for Renner. As the play clock ran down to 10 seconds, Renner was still getting instructions from the sideline. The offense didn't line up until there was five seconds left and looked generally confused. Renner pointed to the clock as officials held the ball until the substitutions were complete. miamiunc15 Slideshow: North Carolina falls to No. 10 Miami, 27-23

Instead of burning a timeout, the Heels were hit with a delay of game penalty and head coach Larry Fedora exploded on the sidelines.

On the next play, John Heck committed a false start and pushed the Heels back for a 3rd-and-10. Renner was sacked and North Carolina was forced to punt. 

ESPN announcer Rece Davis prophetically stated that those two plays were "why [UNC] is 1-4." They'd end up dropping to 1-5 on the season following a gut-punch scoring drive by the Hurricanes. 

Starting on their own 10-yard line, Miami ran the ball five straight times for 41 yards. The Hurricanes converted a 3rd-and-2 to North Carolina's 28-yard line. Morris settled down and took a couple shots down the sideline to move Miami down to the Heels' 3-yard line. Dallas Crawford punched it in for the go-ahead touchdown and the eventual win.

2. Miami entered Chapel Hill with a reputation for explosive plays, but key injuries to wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Duke Johnson took away their fastball early on in the contest.

Dorsett, who left the game after taking a helmet to his knee, set up a field goal with a 69-yard reception. Johnson, who left the game after taking a knee to his head, set up another field goal with a 59-yard run. Neither player returned.

Then there was Morris, a quarterback with plenty of preseason focus thanks to a strong finish last year and buzz generated at the Manning Pass Academy. Except the Hurricanes secretly replaced Morris with Jacory Harris at some point during the week and wanted to see if anyone could tell the difference. Morris was generally erratic and threw four interceptions, including one that doinked off the helmet of Seantrel Henderson

Until the final 92-yard game-winning drive, North Carolina's defense had done a decent job pressuring Morris and creating turnovers. Big plays were nullified in the red zone early on, forcing the Hurricanes to settle for field goals.

3. Renner took the majority of snaps at quarterback for North Carolina and finished the night with 300 yards 28-of-36 passing. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Williams was used in a change-up package and threw for 98 yards on four completions. 71 of those yards came on a touchdown pass completion to Eric Ebron late in the first quarter.

For the most part the tandem was effective and exposed Miami's defensive passing statistics as a false positive. Florida was the best offense the Hurricanes had seen up until Thursday night in Chapel Hill and the Gators coughed the game away in the red zone. 

Fedora left himself open to second guessing with a curious substitution pattern.

Williams was inserted into the game on North Carolina's second drive, which Renner had engineered to the Miami 32-yard line, and threw an interception. During the awful delay of game sequence late in the contest, Williams was subbed out in a short yardage situation and left many to wonder why the quarterback who posed a ground threat was not on the field. 

At 1-5 and bowl eligibility slipping away, how Fedora handles the rotation going forward will be fascinating to watch. 

4. Speaking of Ebron, got a hunch he'll be playing on Sundays. 

5. North Carolina continues to be plagued by mistakes in the red zone and special teams gaffes. 

Miami kept constant pressure on the edges during field goals. An attempt was blocked early in the second quarter, snagged by Ladarius Gunter before the ball touched the ground and returned for a touchdown. At one point, the Tar Heels didn't have enough players on the field for a punt. 

Then there was the delay of game sequence. The coaching staff was confused by the officials holding the ball as the play clock ticked away.

“I didn’t think they were going to hold it up all the way to the end, but again, that’s my fault, I should have called a timeout– it’s my responsibility," said Fedora.  

“Well I was hoping to pick up a first down. It was 3rd and 1 and we substituted and they felt like they needed to stand over the ball and we couldn’t snap it. I’m not sure I understand that yet, so I’ll have to get an interpretation there," said Fedora. "Again, that’s my responsibility, that’s my fault we didn’t get that off."

6. Much has been made about "Zero Dark Thursday." There was the black uniform and matte helmets, which will always annoy purists. Then there was ticket sales for a showcase game on ESPN. Regardless of bare spots in the stands, the entire promotion came across successfully on television.

7. I've written enough to cross ESPN's green line that indicates field goal range.

29 Comments

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  • YouGotThatRight Oct 18, 4:33 a.m.

    UNC lost. History only remembers the victors.

  • 4tarheels Oct 18, 5:58 a.m.

    Joe, you touched on mostly negatives as usual. How about UNC found their present and future running game in true freshman TJ Logan. I've got a feeling you won't be able to avoid mentioning him in the future. GO HEELS!!

  • MARKIEsuckie Oct 18, 6:27 a.m.

    Joe, you touched on mostly negatives as usual. How about UNC found their present and future... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    JUST ANOTHER CHEATING BUM!!!!!

  • Gunnstigator Oct 18, 7:17 a.m.

    Joe, you touched on mostly negatives as usual. How about UNC found their present and future... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Yes, Joe did touch on the negatives, but he was just recapping the reason(s) UNC lost the game. TJ Logan is definitely a bright spot and he'll be a difference maker for Carolina.

  • Maxxx Oct 18, 7:52 a.m.

    Like I said yesterday. Cheaters never win.

  • RaleighPirate Oct 18, 7:55 a.m.

    Joe, you touched on mostly negatives as usual. How about UNC found their present and future... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Go back and read the title of "his" article: "Talking Points: Zero Dark Heartbreak" I don't think that title implies that he was going to talk about the positives in that article, do you.

  • Wheelman Oct 18, 8:08 a.m.

    Too much "razzle dazzle" coaching when it wasn't necessary. If something is working for the most part (Renner moving the ball) don't swap QB's for reasons no one else can understand. That dumb move in the 4th qtr. did cost UNC the game. It gave Miami the extra possession they needed to win. Also poor clock management and use of timeouts on UNC's last possession. While they still have some significant problems in some areas, they played well enough to win. Coach owns this one and should let the team know it.

  • huxter72 Oct 18, 8:56 a.m.

    Right on cue, doesn't seem to matter whether its football or any other sport, UNC has a lead, and promptly loses. And in the Miami game coulda, shoulda, woulda, is irrelevant now, but should have and could have routed Miami. And the beat (downs) go on. Nothing ever changes with UNC football. Such optimism every Fall and usually before September is out, the season's over, as is the 2013 season. Face reality, UNC is good for a season every 10 years or so.

  • Xanroc Oct 18, 8:57 a.m.

    I just don't get the black uniforms. I am an ECU alum and I hate the black uniforms we are wearing now. What Maryland wears defies description and would be more appropriate on a team of clowns. Our colors are purple and gold, Carolina's colors are Carolina blue and white. If the uniform designers can't come with something using the school colors then let's find better uniform designers.

    This is what happens when you turn your athletic program over to Nike Incorporated. Thank God schools like Alabama, Penn State and Michigan haven't succumbed to this fad!

  • Six String Oct 18, 9:13 a.m.

    I just don't get the black uniforms. I am an ECU alum and I hate the black uniforms we are... View More

    — Posted by Xanroc

    I agree. The uniforms are almost as ugly as the 4th Quarter UNC game. They played well for most of the game, like them or not.

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