Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, September 16th, 7:00 PM
Records: UNC 0-2, Furman 2-0
This is a must win game.
Ned Barnett wrote as much in the News and Observer on Wednesday when he detailed why it was important for UNC and NC State to win on Saturday. The problem was he still couched it as though UNC losing does not destroy the season it simply puts it on the brink. Sorry, Ned, but if UNC falls to 0-3 with the schedule they have in front of them the season is done, more or less. If UNC is 0-3 come Sunday morning I can name, off the top of my head, four certain losses with elminates them from bowl eligibility: Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame so let's dispense with the BS shall we? From this point forward when UNC takes the field against a team other than those four it will be a must-win game or the possibility of a bowl is finished.
As for the game Cam Sexton will get the start and since Bunting is still devoted to the two-QB system by saying Dailey will play, we have no idea how long Sexton will play. We also do not know what kind of circumstances might push the coaches to pull him from the game. And unless they show me something here, I am ready to deem the two QB system a failure for 2006. I understood the initial reasons for using it since you have two fairly equal QBs with different skill sets. I loved Dailey's mobility against Rutgers and I thought he did good things except for the two INTs which I thought were not that bad. The VT game was a different story and his INTs there were awful. The evidence is clear that the 19 INTs at Nebraska two years ago were not flukes or merely the result of his failure to handle the offensive scheme but a deeper issue regarding his field vision. Of course Sexton did not look much better despite throwing one TD pass, he also served up two INTs of his own, one for a VT touchdown.
At this point though I think it is best to pick one QB and stick with him not so much for this season but because I think it helps UNC going forward. Sexton is young and I am more than willing to put up with his mistakes, even through the rest of this season because he is young. I think he has to be given a chance to develop as a QB and I think the only way he does that is play the bulk of the minutes. Will due respect to Dailey, I think there is far less patience for a junior QB who already had his shot at playing the big time and did no get it done. The only circumstance I forsee playing Dailey, who has only one year of eligibility left, is if he is so far ahead of Sexton it will win games for you. Otherwise, if the two are even then play Sexton and allow him to gel with that young receiving corps which will hopefully create a very good passing offense in the coming years. And this does not mean 2006 is lost. It is almost lost, but if UNC can get to a bowl behind Sexton then how much better will 2007 look with an experienced QB and receivers accustomed to one another. It would be nice if those to areas were firmly secured for the next 2-3 years.
And since the offense is so uncertain it becomes absolutely necessary for the defense to come out and shutdown Furman on the first few series. The need to control the Furman running game is paramount to fully exorcising the ghosts of Ray Rice running for 200 yards on this defense in the opener.
(Speaking of running games, how glad am I that West Virginia is not on the schedule. The running game I saw last night versus Maryland was frightening and if Rice went for 200 on UNC, Steve Slaton would have 200 by halftime)
And while much attention has been paid to the quarterbacks because of their predeliction for passing to the other team may I take a moment and ask where the heck the running game has been? All we heard during the preseason was that the running game was supposed to carry the offense and that the passing game was a complimentary piece. Now, the running game has been medicore and since the passing game has been interception prone it means defenses so far have had an easy time limiting the points. So it would be nice if Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards could push that defensive front(with some help from the young offensive line) and if Sexton can complete enough passes to keep the Furman defense off balanced it should open up for a nice balanced attack.
Not that the performance against Furman shows us a great deal but it is a good opponent to allow Sexton to get comfortable and build some confidence. I fear for how much Bunting may want to rotate Dailey in and rob Sexton of the opportunity to run the offense for the whole game. Jesse Holley says he is a confident kid and while I chargin any display of arrogance Sexton might bring forth I think there is a lot to be said for giving him the offense with the knowledge that it is his to run. That can be a powerful motivator.
Heels defense does the majority of the work and Sexton has an outing which shows a lot of promise. UNC 28 Furman 10.