I think the white helmets are now jinxed. Can we go back to these, please? - Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Alternate title: The Good, Bad, & Defense Report.
Sorry this is a day later than usual. Also, in that time, Georgia Tech has scored another 137 points against the Tar Heel defense.
You know, I like Atlanta just fine. One of my roommates from Carolina and his lovely family live there, and I even like the Georgia Institute of Technology. They have a beautiful urban campus, the folks are very friendly, Grant Field is a wonderful place to watch a football game, and the Varsity is nearby. But I tell you, I hate when UNC plays Georgia Tech in anything these days. Basketball, baseball, football - it doesn't matter. Strange and bizarre things happen when the Heels and Jackets meet, and Saturday was no exception.
The game was characterized by nearly no defense being played at all, by either team. But UNC had by far more self-inflicted injuries and that made the difference in the ball game. Again, simply bizarre special teams errors, blown assignment after blown assignment, two costly turnovers, and once again falling victim to the Jedi mind trick that is Georgia Tech football under Paul Johnson. The game was so bizarre that, after leading Tech to a touchdown on its first drive, quarterback Tevin Washington - who tied former Jacket Joshua Nesbitt for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback - went to the sidelines and redshirt freshman Vad Lee then proceeded to gouge the Heels for a combined 281 yards on the ground and through the air, continuing a long line of GT QBs who have career days against Carolina. The game was so bizarre kicker Casey Barth was injured after being blocked on kick coverage. The game was so bizarre that Carolina gave up more points in the 3rd quarter against the Jackets than they had in the 3rd quarter all season. More points were scored than any other game in ACC history. UNC scored the most points ever in a loss, and came within one point of giving up the most points in program history.
The troublesome thing is that it is hard to explain UNC's futility against Tech. So much for the notion that they bye week before playing GT would help. The last two times UNC has had a bye before playing Tech, the Jackets have still won easily. In addition, this is an entirely different staff with an entirely different scheme, and yet Tech cut through the Heels like tissue paper. Every knock on the defense this season - weak secondary play, missed assignments, poor tackling - came back to bite Carolina time after time.
Nevertheless, here is the record-setting edition of the GBU Report:
Giovani Bernard: Just another day at the office for Gio, with 170 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. He has now passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season and has 17 touchdowns for the season in 8 games.
Special Teams Play: You might think this belongs in the "ugly" category, and based on the Barth injury, giving up a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD, and Tommy Hibbard's weak attempt at a fake punt, you would have an argument. On the other hand, the special teams did pick up yet another two-point conversion and Hibbard averaged nearly 52 yards on his three punts. So averaging out those items places this unit in the "bad" category.
Turnovers: UNC lost the turnover battle 2-1, and all three turnovers led to points for the other team. But Renner's two turnovers were particularly crushing, as his fumble was when UNC was in the red zone and his intercepted screen pass gave Tech a short field immediately after they had just scored. And while Hibbard's aborted punt is not technically a turnover, the effect was the same, with the Jackets again having a short field and scoring a touchdown on the very next play which effectively did the Tar Heels in for the day.
Defense: Enough said. Nearly 600 yards of total offense surrendered, and 68 points. Only two punts forced. Ask any coach about defending the triple option and you'll get the same answer: assignment football. But that didn't matter on Saturday, and to hear the players' comments after the game, it wasn't because they didn't know their assignments.
Secondary: Just when you thought this group was getting better. Tim Scott's interception return for a TD notwithstanding, the secondary gave up 208 yards passing on only seven completions, or an average of nearly 30 yards per completion. Wow.
Tackling: The defense as a whole just continues to be piss-poor tacklers. As a coach, I know there is nothing more frustrating that knowing you have a weakness, working on it constantly, and not improving week-to-week (just ask Roy Williams about the basketball team's free throw shooting). But Jiminy Christmas, these guys are awful in this phase of the game.
3rd Down Defense: What is the point in getting teams into 3rd down situations if you are going to give up a 60% conversion rate? And over half of GT's conversion were for 6 yards or more.
Maybe the only positive to come out of this is that there is no time to wallow in the loss. UNC has to turn around and play at a suddenly resurgent Virginia team Thursday so the Heels had to get right back to work on Sunday. The only danger here is not to let Tech beat Carolina twice.