Well that wasn't all that much fun. A winnable game, on the road against a superior opponent and we basically laid an egg. The offense amassed nearly 470 total yards, but just 17 points. For reference, so far this year, teams averaging 470 yards score roughly 36 points. If we had scored 36, we would've won.
There is plenty of blame to go around. The defense struggled early on to contain the UNC passing attack, and then later to contain their rushing attack. But, if the offense had cashed in on the early opportunities, it is likely that UNC wouldn't have had the flexibility that they had offensively. If we could've forced UNC into a more one-dimensional offense, I feel like we would've been much more successful.
More after the jump...
In the first half, the Hoos had 4 drives of at least 50 yards, and came away with just 3 points. That was the game. We can spend hours breaking down the missed tackles and assignments and how the defense couldn't stop UNC. All of that was a result of the missed opportunities earlier. I don't mind a missed FG. Robert Randolph had been perfect, and that wasn't an easy kick. The problem is that this has been the trend all season long, leaving points on the field. We should've beaten W&M by more than we did. We should've beaten Indiana by more than we did. And we should've beaten UNC, but we didn't capitalize.
That said, I am still disappointed in the defensive performance. I thought we would have trouble stopping the UNC ground game, and we did. But it wasn't really as I expected. UNC's RB rushed for a grand total of 16 yards in the first half. QB Bryn Renner rushed for 23, and WR Erik Highsmith rushed for 19. That is a total of 58 yards rushing for a half, which is respectable. The problem is that we once again struggled to keep a mobile QB contained (and Renner isn't even all that mobile), and that we fell for a not-very-hard-to-recognize WR handoff. That is because, once again, our LBs failed to maintain their positions, and overcommitted. This is an ongoing theme and simply must be corrected, or teams will continue to exploit it.
On the other hand, in the first half, Renner was 11-15 for 115 yards. Those numbers aren't overwhelming, but they include completions of 17, 19, 15, 18, 15 and 11. All 6 of those went for first downs. The coverage on every single one of those plays was poor. Our secondary is supposed to be a strength, but it was not.
The second half was worse, from every direction. It started with a 40 yard run by UNC freshman RB Giovani Bernard on the first play from scrimmage. UNC finished with 171 yards rushing in the second, and that includes a 9 yard sack of Bryn Renner, the only sack of the game for the Hoos. In the second half, the UNC offensive line simply dominated the game. This included runs of 40, 29, 17, 15, 11 and 10 yards. There was also another WR rush for 14 yards.
Renner was just 5-8 for 64 yards in the second half. He didn't need to throw it, because handing it off was working so well. We have enough talent on the DL that this shouldn't happen in the 2nd half, because we should be able to rotate enough guys in keep the players on the field fresh.
I feel like there is more, but I just don't have the strength to write it. That game was deflating, and painful to watch. Both teams played very poorly. From UNC, that was somewhat expected. For the Hoos, it was not, and I'm disappointed that we are now 15 games into the Mike London era, and we're still making the same mistakes as we did a year ago.
A few more notes on the game, in no particular order:
- I sorta mentioned it already, but I was very disappointed in the play of the DL. UNC's OL is good, but they aren't great. We got very little pressure on Renner, and when we did it was DBs and LBs. Considering we are starting 3 seniors, we need to get more production from them. We need to see more of Justin Renfrow and Will Hill. For one thing, it'll help us down the road, but beyond that...they might be better than Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins. Conrath was never a DT, and hasn't performed there nearly as well as he did as a 3-4 DE.
- I absolutely believe Tra Nicholson is going to be good. But right now, he isn't. Especially not when paired up against a bigger WR. I do not understand why we keep putting him in those situations, without any help. Dom Joseph is bigger and more experienced. Brandon Phelps is also bigger. If we are going to continue to rely on Tra in those situations, please give him some safety help.
- For all the hype that Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings had coming into the program, Tim Smith is still the best playmaker we have on offense. He needs to see the ball more. E.J. Scott looked better on the KR unit than either of the true freshman, so he should be back there more.
- I was thrilled to see Kris Burd finally break out after not seeing the ball much the first couple of games. I think that as Michael Rocco gets more comfortable, Burd is going to see the ball more and more.
- Matt Snyder can't catch. I know he is supposed to have great hands, but he has far too many drops this season. A drop here and there is ok, but Snyder has had multiple drops in key situations. At what point do we see somebody getting those opportunities?
- Our running game could be devastating. The OL is playing great, the RBs are extremely talented, and all 3 bring something to the table that the others don't have. We should probably be running the ball more. It is just a matter of time until somebody breaks off a huge run. I hope it's this week against Southern Miss.
- Rocco is also looking more and more comfortable. Yes, he threw two interceptions. However, both of his interceptions were late in the game, when UNC knew we had to throw. Yes, they were both poor throws as well as poor decisions. But when the game was still in question, Rocco was playing very well. We really have the potential for a good offense. But we have to stop bogging down at about the 30 yard line. For one thing, FGs just don't get it done. And for another thing, Randolph is far more effective from inside 40 yards.