There's a certain subset of UNC fans who get a lot of grief for bailing on the football team at the first misstep, immediately talking up basketball. And there's a second group of fans, of which I often myself agreeing with, who detests this first type of fan. But watching today's game, I kept thinking that I can't fault the fans who give up on the football team. Because the offense can't be bothered to show up for the State game, why should the fans?
Make no mistake about it, this was a disaster. N.C. State had the second-worst scoring defense in the ACC, and Carolina couldn't put a single point on the board. Passes bounced uselessly off the hands of receivers. The offensive line put up less resistance than a stiff breeze. Two of the Heels' three longest drives ended in interceptions. The rushing game was held to 50 yards, a number that was completely obliterated by the 47 yards Bryn Renner lost over the course of three quarters. The best play of the game, a seventy-plus yard strike to Dwight Jones was called back for holding. Carolina never made it into the Wolfpack red zone; the one time they crossed the thirty the series ended on downs.
And then there's the punting. The horrible, horrible punting. C.J. Feagles apparently won the job in practice this week and kicked the ball to State eight times. Three went less than thirty yards. Renner threw a first quarter interception 42 yards, longer than all but two of the Heels' punts. The Wolfpack started drives on UNC's side of the field three times, all after punts they didn't attempt to return.
Given the lousy hand the offense gave them, the Heels' defense didn't do so badly. Charles Brown got things off to a good start, intercepting Mike Glennon on the opening drive. (UNC responded by working themselves into a 3rd and 38.) They held the Wolfpack to 290 total yards, forced seven punts, and gave the offense every opportunity the could to win the game. And Carolina responded with nothing. Giovani Bernard was the closest thing to a success, becoming the first Tar Heel to rush for over 1,000 yards since 1997. For his reward he was punished mercilessly by his own offensive line, which allowed him to be tackled for no gain or a loss five times. Renner had it even worse, leaving the game in the third with concussion-like symptoms. His replacement Braden Hanson faired only slightly better, possibly because the Wolfpack defense was bored with sacks by that point.
This was just a miserable performance. There can be no excuses; UNC did not come to play and they were embarrassed because of it. They have ten days to dwell on this before facing Virginia Tech, and I'm afraid they'll just march right out and get stomped again. Forget basketball season; I'm jumping ship to the field hockey team. At least they make the effort.