Editor's note: With Doc enjoying some vacation time, I will be your guide through the Good, Bad and Ugly of UNC's game on Saturday.
As noted in the postgame recap there were plenty of chances to pull out a win here and UNC simply didn't do enough to execute in those moments. Virginia Tech had something to do with that and deserves credit for making life difficult for the Tar Heel offense. The defense continues to have issues with more of that resting with the secondary than the front six/seven. Without further ado, here is your GBU Report for the week.
Marquise Williams - Yes, Williams threw a pair of interceptions and missed a couple of receivers but overall he played well in his first start. After all he was facing one of the better pass defenses in the country and still managed to post 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the air. Williams also led the Heels in rushing with 56 yards. I doubt there will be any real discussion of switching quarterbacks assuming Bryn Renner is healthy. However, there should be value in Williams' passing performance being on a tape for future opponents to see. Williams has been used at times as a wrinkle but he almost exclusively ran the ball when he came in the game. There was no need to account for the pass since he almost exclusively ran the ball. At least now the possibility of a pass is there and may help using Williams as a change of pace. Whatever happens the rest of the season, I have less trepidation about the quarterback for next season than I did prior to Saturday.
Offensive Playmakers: This offense can be very good if Eric Ebron and Quinshad Davis are both involved and that was the case on Saturday. Davis had 94 yards receiving and one touchdown which included a short pass he turned into a 40 yards reception. Ebron picked up 70 yards and made a man's catch in the end zone for UNC's first touchdown of the game. Davis and Ebron getting touches can only help this offense but they need to do it consistently.
Defensive Front: This is tough given how bad the Hokies can be on offense but it is still tough to ignore Virginia Tech only running for 48 yards and UNC getting two sacks and five tackles for a loss. Jeff Schoettmer had 13 tackles and Kareem Martin chipped in eight total. Darius Lipford had 1.5 TFL and 0.5 sacks. UNC has some defensive players up-front who made plays in this game. Hopefully there will be more of this against better offenses.
Special Teams: Amazing what a block in the back penalty(more on that in a bit) can do to drop the special teams into the "bad" category. That penalty wiped out the Ryan Switzer punt return for a touchdown and also means we focus solely on two fumbles by the Tar Heel punt returner. One went out of bounds and UNC kept the ball but the other came after the Heels had managed a stop in the fourth quarter. The miscue negated that effort and set the Hokies up for their fourth touchdown which ended any thought of a UNC rally for a win.
Reverses: I won't say UNC should just take these out of the play book but there are certain teams you can't run reverses against. Virginia Tech is one of them. There is far too much discipline in the Hokie defense to fool them with these kinds of plays. UNC twice ran a reverse using T.J. Thorpe. The first one gained a single yard, the second lost nine and was called on 3rd and goal at the ten. At that point I wasn't sure which was worse, the nine yard loss or the decision to call it at a point in the game where UNC really needed a touchdown. Given how little space there is that close the end zone, the reverse never had a real chance of getting to the end zone unless the Hokie defenders all fell down.
Running Game: Some of this is on the offensive line which is still having great difficulty opening up real running lanes for the Tar Heel backs. Romar Morris played sparingly coming back from injury. A.J. Blue was ineffective as was Khris Francis. Take away Williams running the ball and UNC's basically had no rushing offense to speak of in this game. The slight glimmer of hope(not counting Williams who might not plays if Renner is healthy) was freshmen T.J. Logan who managed 25 yards on just five carries. Logan showed some of his speed and it is possible, given a couple of games to acclimate, he might be helpful to a rushing attack that is struggling.
Penalties: 3. That is the number of touchdowns UNC has seen taken off the scoreboard in the past three games by penalties. The culprit this week was an illegal block while Ryan Switzer was on his way to the end zone. At that point UNC trailed 21-7 and the play could have turned the game in the Tar Heels favor. Instead UNC went three and out. The Heels are 112th nationally in penalty yards per game having committed 38 in five games to the tune 67 yards per contest. And if there were a stat for touchdowns lost, UNC would probably lead the country in that. And while we're here, the dumbest penalty of the day goes to Jack Tabb, he of the two game suspension for violating team rules, returned to the field only to get ejected late in game for punching a Virginia Tech player during the kickoff. Maybe he was provoked but it still qualifies as just plain dumb.
Pass defense: A permanent fixture here this season. Before this game Virginia Tech was 111th in passing offense with five touchdowns, six interceptions and a paltry 188.0 yards per game in the air. The Hokies were 104th in yards per passing attempt. Now? Virginia Tech jumped a full twenty spots to 91st overall in passing offense. QB Logan Thomas' best passing game to date was 258 yards versus East Carolina. His best rating was 163.46 the previous week versus Georgia Tech. Facing UNC's defense, Logan threw for 293 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and posted a rating of 193.12. Logan completed 67% of his passes, his second best in six games and the 10.5 yards per attempt was a season best. It was only the second game this season Thomas didn't throw an interception.
UNC takes the ordinary opposing quarterback and makes him look like Peyton Manning.
ACC Network: Obviously not a UNC item but it should be noted that ACC Network broadcasts continue to lead the nation in poor production value. The camera work is downright awful with key portions of plays being missed because the camera didn't follow the ball or decided to zoom on something irrelevant. I could tell you for sure if Jack Tabb threw a punch but the ACC Network couldn't find it on five different camera angles it had despite the scrum occurring near where the return was stopped. Then there is instant replay or the lack of it. For some reason, the ACC Network must think they owe royalties every time a replay is shown because they often choose not to do it. A great case in point was the crucial block in the back on the Switzer punt return. There was no replay of the block before the commercial break or after it. Not that I necessarily question the call but it would be nice to see it from a couple of angles. Was it egregious? Was it suspect? We have no way of knowing because ACC Network producers decided it wasn't important enough to show.
The notion that the ACC might launch its own full network was been bantered around. If it is anything like we saw in this game, I fear for it.