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Clemson 59 UNC 38

Meltdown baby.

There are games when the team plays like complete crap and there are games where a variety of things go completely wrong in such comical way you would laugh if it wasn't so painful to watch.  This was both.  The third quarter was so horrible children watching with their Tar Heel fan fathers fled the room in tears and apparently cannot sleep tonight. If you didn't see the game or have it DVR with any designs on watching it. Don't bother, you will be better off for it. It was a meltdown of epic proportions.

I would me remiss if I didn't point out that the first half was less disastrous that it ended up being. UNC did commit the early turnover but managed to stay in the game to the tune of a 24-17 halftime deficit. This was after giving up passing TDs left and right plus Bryn Renner's attempt to float a screen pass over a Clemson defensive linemen only to have it plucked out of the air and taken to the house for a pick six. The whole game was weird that way. At times the offense and defense made plays. The offense was able to score enough to stay close going into the third quarter. The defense, for all its issues, did register the occasional stop. The opportunity was there just after halftime to keep the contest close.

When the third quarter opened, Clemson received the kickoff and UNC promptly got a stop to get the ball back trailing by seven. After a five yard Gio Bernard run and a four yard Jhay Boyd reception, UNC had 3rd and 1 at its own 29 yard line when John Shoop, for reasons that defy understanding, decided to fling the ball deep to Boyd who was double covered and had the ball knocked away. So instead of moving the football, perhaps getting a touchdown against a defense which quite honestly was not that good(UNC had 418 yards of total offense) the Heels gave the ball right back to a Tiger offense that had basically been imposing its will on the Heels.

What followed was the twelve minute stretch from hell. Clemson drove the ball right down UNC's throat hitting several easy pass plays to go up 31-17. On the kickoff UNC fumbled the ball giving Clemson an easy shot from the Tar Heel 12 which the Tigers promptly cashed in for a 38-17 advantage. UNC tried to stem the tide on T.J. Thorpe's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to close within two scores and plenty of time on the clock. And it appeared UNC might get something cooking on defense forcing Clemson back to 3rd and 18 on the UNC 42 following a Quinton Coples sack. Now, I don't know the exact odds of success when it comes to 3rd down and distances exceeding 10 yards. If I had to guess, the success rate on 3rd and 18 is probably fairly low. If I had another guess, I would speculate that whatever those odds are they go up 60% when facing UNC's secondary. Bearing that in mind, it should shock no one that UNC promptly gave up a 42-yard TD pass from Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins wiping out whatever hope UNC had left which you would think would be enough but wait! There's more! Following a quick three and out which included a 5-yard reception, a three yard loss for Bernard and an incomplete pass(which was probably in front of the down marker meaning it would not have helped) Clemson waltzes downfield to make it 52-24. At this point, you were probably thinking, "How can this get any worse?" Oh, I don't know. How about Renner fumbling the ball and having it scooped up for a 26-yard touchdown return to cap off a 35 point quarter for the Tigers. I mean, do you know how many things have to happen for a team to squeeze 35 points into one quarter? You do now.

On the day UNC committed six turnovers. Renner was responsible for four of them on three INTs and one fumble. I still think Renner will end up being a very good QB at UNC but it is clear he has hit a rough stretch in his first season as starter. As poorly as UNC's defense plays sometimes, pretty much the worst thing the offense can do is give up 14 points directly or put the opposing offense on a short field which happened twice resulting in 10 points. That is 24 points either directly or indirectly given up by the offense. Again, the defense has its share of problems but when the offense keeps putting them back on the field or adds to the deficit itself, 59-38 is what you end up with.

Now the question is whether this team can recover. This game unfolded in such a bad way I think there has to be real concern it stays with this team to the point of crippling them going forward. In fact, the pace of regression and the seeming lack of enough "good things" to take away from the past 2-3 games is so acute, I am wondering if this team could end up losing out. Every game left on the schedule is imminently losable. Even as bad NCSU has been at times this season or as little regarded as Duke might be, both of these teams have enough of a passing game to pick UNC apart. Not to mention UNC has not been able to beat NCSU in four years and hasn't exactly dominated Duke. UNC will get outcoached versus Wake Forest with Virginia Tech potentially doing unholy things to the Heels in a Thursday night affair. Oh and it looks like Bernard is struggling with a hip injury which could hurt his production, Renner is struggling and John Shoop is still the offensive coordinator.

Two weeks ago it was clear UNC had started a slow motion stumble which today ended with the team flat on its collective faces being kicked in the head with a steel toed boot. I would hold out hope UNC can get the ship righted. However Everett Withers is an interim coach, with no head coaching experience and at this point must certainly know he is not getting the job. He and his staff has never shown any inclination to adjust to problems on the fly or stick with something that works. Fan confidence that this is going to end well is about as low as it can get.

The upside, if you can call it that, is at least we are not spending time begging for a coaching change. Such a change is inevitable. Hopefully it will be a good one.