Yeah, that's about par for the course when UNC plays Georgia Tech.
Someone for GT ends up looking like all-world (yesterday it was receiver Steven Hill), UNC shows offensive ineptitude (like Renner's INTs and the awful final 2-minute drill), and ultimately the Heels cannot stop Tech when it counts. It is a script that seems to be repeated every season and the only consolation is that Carolina typically plays the Jackets early so UNC can go ahead and get this aberration out of the way early.
Saturday's game had some strong individual performances and some positive intangibles, but also continued to highlight this team's shortcomings, which have not shown marked improvement from week-to-week. With that in mind, here is this week's GBU report:
Gio Bernard: Once again, the redshirt freshman lives up to the hype as he accounted for over 200 yards of total offense, or nearly 67% of UNC's offensive output. His play-making ability is special.
Dwight Jones: Showing why he is one of the ACC's premier receivers, Jones hauled in seven catches for 85 yards when his QB was having a rough day.
Resiliency: One of the most impressive things on the day was the fact that UNC never gave up. Down 20-7 early in the 3rd quarter, unable to move the ball and having given up 20 unanswered points, UNC came back to tie the game at 28. It would have been easy to fold the tents and head for the airport, but the Heels kept fighting until the final possession.
Bryn Renner: It was bound to happen that Renner would finally have a day that inexperience caught up to him. His two interceptions negated UNC takeaways, his throws were not crisp at all, and the two-minute offense at the end of the game was dreadful. He continues to try and force the ball into tough spots and has yet to learn when to throw the ball away and not take a sack. But he also led the team back from a two-TD deficit to tie the game. It is important to remember that going into this game he had exactly three career starts. He should improve in these areas with game experience and coaching.
Offensive line: Yet again, this group should be a strength of this team and they continue to disappoint. They surrendered seven sacks (although Renner's unwillingness to throw the ball away certainly contributed to that number), had two false start penalties, and still for some reason cannot consistently open holes between the tackles. In addition, they seem to have a hard time actually landing blocks on people when they pull. As one of my old line coaches used to say, they look like Tarzan but play like Jane.
Punting: One more thing that finally caught up with Heels. After nearly having punts blocked last week against UVa, GT finally got through and put their hands on a kick.
Receivers not named Dwight Jones: Renner was having a bad enough day; he didn't need his receivers dropping balls at the rate they were on Saturday.
Defensive secondary: No word if the UNC defensive backs have been able to remove the bandages from being repeatedly burned throughout the game. ESPN's Bob Davie made a great observation about the cornerbacks having to play run support and the safeties having to rotate over in coverage. That did not happen often and the Jackets burned UNC for an easy TD and should have had another but for an inexplicable dropped ball. It was simply too easy for Tech QB Tevin Washington and his receivers.
UNC's Strength and Conditioning: Watching the game, I couldn't help but notice that GT's players, especially the receivers, seemed consistently stronger and more agile than the Tar Heels as they seemed to easily shed blocks and tackles. UNC does have a new S&C coach this year, but that may be coincidence.
Many UNC fans are lamenting the fact that the Tar Heels could have won this game, and with the ball on the final possession with a chance to tie, there is something to that. On the other hand, Tech had two red zone turnovers and dropped a wide-open touchdown pass, so the game just as likely could have been a blowout.
My immediate concern is that there are issues such as the O-line, secondary, and special teams that have not shown significant improvement over the past four weeks. On the other hand, Tech played fairly well for most of the game and UNC did not, and yet UNC had the ball at the end with a chance to extend the game.
The next three games are looming large as all are certainly winnable and yet all may be toss-ups. Carolina will certainly get ECU's best in a night game in Greenville next week, followed by a pair of home games against Louisville and Miami. The ultimate success of the season may be told in these three games because the Heels end on a brutal five-game streak full of the ACC's two best teams and their other Big Four rivals.