There is an old cliche that it is better to win ugly than lose pretty. That pretty much sums up Carolina's effort against Rutgers in New Jersey today.
When looking at Rutgers' anemic offense, it's easy to forget the Knights won 9 games last year with Tom Savage and Mohamed Sanu playing as freshmen. Rutgers also had one of the country's best defenses last year so playing the Knights in Piscataway is not an easy out.
On the other hand, Carolina clearly did not bring its A-game. The Heels looked out of sync much of the afternoon but got the key stops at the right moments and picked up a desperately-needed win. So, not looking the gift horse in the mouth, here is this week's GBU report:
Bruce Carter: Just wow. Carter really had his coming-out party as a big-time player two years ago at Rutgers and he must really love the Garden State (note to Giants and Jets: Bruce plays like a beast in New Jersey). With a big-time interception and return, blocked punt, and a tackle for loss, he looked like the Bruce of old. As a quick side note, Carter now has seven blocked punts in his career. Given the infrequency of blocked punts, for one man to have seven when some teams don't have that many in four years, is simply amazing.
Defensive front seven: After a shaky start against the Wildcat, the front seven settled in and stuffed the Rutgers offense. The guys up front recorded five sacks and hit Tom Savage into next Tuesday on a couple of occasions.
T.J. Yates: Again, solid senior leadership on solid numbers: 22-30 for 202 yards with a touchdown and an interception, which was not entirely his fault. Yates had made 117 pass attempts without an interception, which is a testament to his improved decision-making.
Running backs: Though the numbers were not gaudy, it was impressive how hard the running backs ran. Johnny White, Shaun Draughn, and even Anthony Elzy were running over and through people all afternoon.
Defensive preparation: Will someone please buy a copy of "Defensive Strategies for Stopping the Option for Dummies" for our defensive staff? After being sliced and diced by Georgia Tech's option, the defense spent the better part of 2 1/2 quarters being carved up by the Wildcat. Finally the defense put someone on Sanu on every stinking play and the bleeding was stopped. But you can bet all across the ACC, offensive coordinators are drawing up option and Wildcat packages to trot out against the Tar Heels.
ESPNU: OK, it's bad enough to have Pam Ward call your game, but was the 3rd period broadcast production class from Piscataway Township High School in the truck today? The graphics were often wrong and the cameramen were faked out by the options and play actions as much as the Carolina defense in the first half.
Offensive line: As solid as this group looked last week, they were just as shaky this week. For most of the first half, the Rutgers D-line had their way with Carolina, including not converting on a fourth-and-short. They also gave up two sacks and five tackles for loss to go with another botched center-QB exchange.
Fumble-itis: In three games this year, Carolina has put the ball on the ground 11 times, losing seven of them. Will someone please work on some ball security drills this week?
Just a quick note before you want to know why I did not add this to the ugly column: I am not pulling my hair out on the end-around call to Jhey Boyd on 3rd-and-2 late in the game. Given the fact that UNC had been stuffed on 4th-and-short earlier in the game, and that the two previous rushes for Boyd had yielded 18 yards, I can understand the call. The play set up well, but Rutgers gambled correctly and Dwight Jones whiffed on a block that might have sprung it. Not the call I would have made, but I get it. If Shoop dives Draughn into the line and he is stopped people would have screamed why did Shoop run up the middle, so he's doomed either way.
Nevertheless, for a team desperate for a win, this is a key road victory against a BCS team. The defense took a real step forward this week, which is important as the East Carolina aerial road show comes calling next Saturday in the legislatively-mandated Kobayashi Maru game. For the second straight week, Carolina will face a team who has had a bye before facing the Heels.
So UNC will take what it can get, and I'm sure will adopt the attitude of Nuke LaLoosh in this clip.