I hate it when UNC plays Georgia Tech.
I have a Wii and one of the games on there is Sports Resort basketball. It is a fun game except when the skill levels gets high enough beating the computer becomes nearly impossible. Maybe it is my reflexes have slowed but the games get to a point where nothing I do stops the computer from scoring. It hits every three pointer and any time I try to block a shot I go up to early giving it an open look. If I happen to get a block when I get possession of the ball I will miss an open shot or have it blocked. It almost feels rigged.
Having watched UNC play Paul Johnson's Georgia Tech offense for four years now, it feels the same way. UNC cannot stop the Yellow Jackets. It doesn't matter what the Heels do, GT finds a way to get the yards it needs to the point one wonders if they are cheating. Actually, a lot of people don't just wonder they outright accuse the Yellow Jackets of chop blocking on every play which may or may not be true. At any rate, it is an exercise in mounting frustration watching the Yellow Jackets roll along which leads to an eruption of profane phrases and unintelligible tongues when UNC does get a stop only to give the ball right back.
Of course I am less hung up on the defense that others are maybe because I have accepted that this defense is what it is at this point. I think people forget that even if the NCAA troubles do not happen at UNC, this defense was going to go through this sort of transitional year. The Tar Heel defense, especially the secondary has seen some serious attrition and it stands to reason at a few years of solid defensive play in the defensive backfield you are bound to run into one like this. Not to mention the triple-option, accented by an effective passing attack, is going to be incredibly hard to stop for most teams. People can complain about defensive schemes and what not but the bigger issue in this game is not so much what the defense gave up but the inefficiency of the offense, especially in the first half.
The odd thing about the offense today was when UNC was backed against the wall down 20-7 the offense stepped up and outscored GT 21-8 to tied the game up. After an abysmal first half, it would have been easy to call it a day and let GT blow their doors off. After the Jackets made it 20-7, Bryn Renner got himself into a groove and UNC drove for an immediate TD to make it 20-14. After GT answered, Renner again completed several passes to pull UNC back within seven. The problem with Renner in this game was his decision making and his awareness of the pass rush. Renner threw two interceptions at the worst possible times, negating rare stops versus the Jackets' offense. In first half Renner canceled out a Tech INT with one of his own and in the second half following a 15 yard punt giving UNC great field position, Renner made an awful throw which was picked off. In both of those cases Renner threw into heavy coverage or locked onto Dwight Jones too early. The Yellow Jacket pass rush has something to do with that as it seemed Renner was rattled some outside of the two crisp 2nd half drives. Then there was the issue of his ability to get rid of the ball under pressure. Renner was sacked seven times. Some of that was poor offensive line play but most of them were Renner not getting rid of the ball earlier enough.
It is very evident at this point that Renner is at that stage where he simply doesn't want to throw the ball away. He has not developed that sense good QBs have for opting to fight another down by simply tossing the ball out of bounds. The same could be said for Renner's two minute drive management which was in a word, awful. For the most part these issues are experience related. This is Renner's fourth game starting. He is a redshirt sophomore who has exceptional passing skills and command of the offense. This was also his first true road game. Thus far through four games, there is plenty to be excited about watching Renner play and the aspects of his game which generate the most concern should be resolved with more time behind center. That is why, for as much as Renner is to blame for today's loss it is blame assessed with restraint knowing he will get better. As Doc pointed out on Twitter, "Bryn Renner looked like a RS soph with 3 career starts today. And still UNC had a chance #notworried"
Despite all that went wrong, UNC still had a chance to win the game and as Renner develops, he will make the plays he couldn't make today. One player already doing that is Giovanni Bernard who has been so outstanding that it seems like Ryan Houston is being held out again for eligibility reasons. Bernard had 155 yards and two touchdowns on the day. For the season Bernard has rushed for 402 yards which now puts him over 100 yards per game. The per carry average is even more ridiculous with Bernard going for 7.4 ypc so far this season. It is clear the Heels have a bona fide star running back in Gio Bernard who is just plain fun to watch.
The question is can UNC bounce back from this loss and take care of business in Greenville next week. The Heels play a dreadful Lousiville team the following week to a win versus ECU and hopefully UL would put UNC at 5-1 heading into the real meat of the schedule. It is certainly doable despite some of the problems on defense which means this season still has nice potential despite what happened in Atlanta.