You know the old saying about how it's better to win ugly than lose pretty? Exhibit A is UNC's game with Rutgers on Saturday.
Carolina turned the ball over five times (2 fumbles, 3 interceptions) and fumbled but recovered the ball three more times, including on the final victory formation. The Heels gained over 400 yards of offense while holding the Knights to 1 net rushing yard, yet had nearly 100 yards in penalties and had to sweat out a close 24-22 win.
So without looking the gift horse in the mouth for grinding out a win against an improved Rutgers team, here is this week's GBU report:
Defensive front seven: The big guys up front put on a show on Saturday. The defense posted four sacks, held the Knights to a single yard rushing on 25 attempts, and stayed in QB Chas Dodd's face all afternoon. The goal-line stand from the 2-yard line in the first quarter may have changed the complexion of the game.
Gio Bernard's TD run: Not that a 60-yard touchdown run is not impressive enough, but Bernard avoided going out of bounds, adjusted mid-stride, and accelerated to another gear. Just wow.
Casey Barth: Barth, who is already in 3rd place on UNC's all-time made field goals list, easily kicked his 51st career field goal from 46 yards and added three extra points to extend his school-record streak of consecutive kicks made.
Defensive secondary: Wonder if the poor defensive backfield left Kenan Stadium and walked across the parking lot to spend the night in the burn ward at NC Memorial Hospital? The poor secondary was toasted all day long and only some poor catching by the Rutgers receivers and acute pressure on Dodd resulting in some errant throws kept this from being in the "ugly" category. The D-backs also had stone hands, dropping a couple of balls that could have been interceptions.
Running game: Carolina gained a respectable 132 yards on 29 carries, but 102 of those came on three runs: the Bernard 60-yard TD run, Ryan Houston's 33-yard game-clincher in the 4th, and a 9-yard Bryn Renner scramble. That leaves UNC gaining 30 yards total on the other 26 rushes. That will not get it done moving forward.
Turnover margin: Five turnovers, no takeaways by UNC. 'Nuff said.
Penalties and focus: Nine penalties for 94 yards (although at least one and maybe both of the roughing the passer calls were iffy at best), and particularly on the offensive end, Carolina just did not seem to bring the same intensity as to the JMU game. Maybe the ease with which UNC scored the first TD put the team on cruise control, but it was tough sledding afterwards.
The ACC Network: For as long as JP/Lincoln/ACCN has been broadcasting ACC football, you would think they could get it right by now. Instant replay was not only in HD but looked like it was on VHS tape. The telestrator apparently didn't work, and the normally unflappable Steve Martin was stumbling through the broadcast, often out of sync with the graphics on the screen. And was does it say about the inane Dave Archer when I long for the lucid analysis of Doc Walker?
The comment was made in the post-game that many of the issues that might be expected to be seen against James Madison actually came out in this game. The goal in football is to be better this week than you were last week, and I'm not sure that was the case. On the other hand, UNC did grind out a win - which could easily have been a loss - over an FBS opponent in spite of themselves. The fact that it was a win, albeit a decidedly ugly win - is part of the fact most of the facets of this report are not in the "ugly" category.
Virginia comes to town next weekend and strange things seem to happen when UNC plays the 'Hoos. The discipline and focus of the first game need to return but more important, the secondary issues need to be figured out before UNC faces UVa and a suddenly pass-happy Georgia Tech team.