Otherwise known as "The Very Hard Day for T.J. Yates and the defense"
First for the young QB. Yes, we all knew the shoe would dropped at some point and Yates would have a game that in no way resembled the first three. I will admit that it was a little worse than I thought it should have been given how well Yates had played. In Yates defense the Bulls were very good in both pressuring him and even when they did not necessarily rush him with defenders the coverage down field created some sacks and bad throws.
In the way of criticism(and I do so only constructively) Yates generally made some poor throwing decisions. On one hand you can probably tie those decisions to the pressure USF was applying and to the fact they had speed in the secondary to keep Nicks, Foster and Tate in check. Yates threw one INT because he locked in on one receiver and the linebacker made the pick despite the fact he took two seconds to lick his lips first. Pressure does that. It makes a QB more anxious to get rid of the ball and in some cases he might lock on to one guy so he throw before the defensive ends shows up on his back side. On other INTs he threw into coverage, possibly anticipating the speedy trio of Heels receivers to have created some separation. That did not happen and it just ended up being a horrific day. On the other side of the coin, Butch Davis stayed with him, had Yates take his lumps with the idea being he must bounce back and learn from what he did wrong on Saturday.
"I told TJ: I stood on the sidelines in 1989 in Dallas when the Philadelphia Eagles came to town, and they sacked Troy [Aikman] that day either 11 or 12 times,'' said Davis, a former assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys. "He got absolutely beat up; pounded into the ground, they sacked him ... I don’t know if we even had 100 yards of offense. And I told T.J., 'These have got to be great learning experiences. You’ve got to be able to process the things you did wrong, the mistakes that you made, and learn from them. And not carry the baggage.' [ACC Now]
When it is all said and done, I am still optimistic about Yates which is a feeling I am not getting when it comes to the UNC defense. The defense is terrible on so many levels. The USF offensive line basically whipped the Heels front four, the pass coverage was weak and has been the case now for years its missed tackles galore for any opposing ball carrier. And at this point I am more or less convinced that it is inexperience on one hand and the need to recruit a better quality of defensive player on the other is the only fix for this unit. That basically means we are going to see only incremental improvements through this season into the next 2-3 years.
I also don't know what to make of players jawing at each other on the sideline and nearly getting into fisticuffs as was the case on Saturday. I am sure this kind of thing happens more than we realize both during games and in practice. Tempers flare and the Heels defensive players are drowning in a sea of frustration over their inability to stop anyone. You can only hope such activities point to a fire in the belly which will somehow bring results on the field. The positive we do take way from the defense on Saturday is the fact they forced three turnovers which is something. Not much but something.
So what does the next few games hold? A whole lot a hurting I am afraid. Two great defenses that will give Yates more fits in Virginia Tech and Miami. SCAR is going to just be an annoying game to lose and Wake Forest may have the wheels back on the wagon. Based on the "Anything Can Happen" corollary one of those might be up for grabs but I seriously doubt it. That leaves closing out the season out with Maryland(coin toss), NC State(really bad coin toss), Georgia Tech(loss) and Duke(who the heck knows). I will refrain from asking"When will basketball get here?" because UNC football is what it is right now. My preseason position still stands, this season is not about wins it is about reviving the fan base and improving the program. There are still many things to be accomplished where those goals are concerned and we as fans should stand firm and stay excited about UNC football because the commitment to having a elite program in Chapel Hill demands that the fan base weather the storm and support the team.