clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Report: ECU

New, comments

Ah, the legislatively-mandated Kobayashi Maru game. A curse we share with our lupine brethren, UNC is forced by the General Assembly to play East Carolina on a semi-regular basis in a no-win scenario. Carolina (and State, for that matter) is expected to beat the Pirates, so a win is par for the course. But lose, and not only can it be a crushing loss, but you have to hear it at work in a way you wouldn't have to if the Heels lose to Miami of Ohio or even Furman, as famously happened in the last decade.

UNC began the game in the first half looking like a pretty good football team, but in the second half they spent the game on roller skates. ECU's self-inflicted wounds in the form of four first-half turnovers gave UNC the chance to build an insurmountable 28-3 lead, but the Pirates moved the ball at will in the second half. Frankly I'm glad there wasn't another half or even quarter of football to play because I'm not sure the Heels could have held on.

But a win is a win, particularly against a dangerous opponent in a juiced-up atmosphere in a trap game on the road. So without too much complaining, here is the GBU report:

GOOD

Bryn Renner: The sophomore was an efficient 13-20 for 230 yards and four, count 'em, four touchdowns. More important, Renner threw the ball away on at least three occasions where earlier in the season, he might have taken a sack. Once his game management skills match his athletic ability, watch out.

Dwight Jones: Jones continues to put up all-ACC numbers with six catches for 93 yards and two TDs. His one-handed grab in the end zone was certainly SportsCenter-worthy.

Erik Highsmith and Jhey Boyd: Glad to see these guys could make the trip this week. Highsmith had 94 yards on only 3 catches while Boyd had a TD catch and another 34 yards rushing. The more involved these guys are, the more pressure is taken off of Renner and Jones.

Gio Bernard: Bernard rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown. Bernard has given the Tar Heels a rushing facet to the offense that has been missing in recent years.

Thomas Hibbard: The freshman walk-on punter showed why he wrested the starting job away from C.J. Feagles. Three of his four punts were inside the 20, and two were inside the 5. With some experience under his belt now, Hibbard can be a weapon for UNC.

Offensive line in the 1st half: Now this is what we expected from these guys all year. The O-line man-handled ECU and opened holes for Bernard to gain 110 yards before halftime.

Generating turnovers: UNC entered the game -4 in turnover margin, or 110th in the country. The Heels got the Pirates to cough it up four times in the first half, including some nifty interceptions. Through five games, however, Carolina's turnover margin is now zero on the season. Still not very good at all.

BAD

In-game adjustments: THF mentioned this in his game story, but I have to question the in-game adjustments made by UNC's coaching staff each week. I will say that there is certainly evidence of being coached up during the week (see Renner and Hibbard, for example) but on game day it seems that the game plan is what it is. UNC never really stopped ECU except on turnovers (ECU only punted twice) and it never seemed like UNC's coaches made any adjustments, or if they did, the adjustments didn't work.

Defensive front seven: A quiet night for the D-line and linebackers, save for a single sack and Sylvester Williams' interception. When five of UNC's top 7 tacklers for the game are in the secondary, the guys up front aren't shedding a lot of blocks and making stops.

UGLY

Defensive secondary: Hate to keep picking on these guys, but holy cow was it awful for the D-backs. ECU QB Dominique Davis threw for a school-record 417 yards and two TDs and made it look easy. You just know opposing QBs are licking their chops at the thought of picking on Carolina's secondary.

Offensive line in the second half: If the first half was what this group could be, the second half is what they have looked like all season. I remain amazed week-to-week that Carolina cannot consistently run between the tackles behind guys who average 6-5 and 320 pounds. And nothing epitomized this more than when Ryan Houston could not get in the end zone on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. If your bull back can't get one yard against a Conference USA D-line that you out-weigh by 50 pounds per man, something's wrong. I questioned UNC's strength and conditioning last week and I wonder again if there's something wrong in that area. As easily as UNC was man-handling ECU up front in the first half but couldn't get a yard in the second half makes me wonder if the big fellas ran out of gas.

So on the whole, more good than bad, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But for the second time this season UNC won a game where it was out-gained in yardage, and for the third time this year the defense gave up in the neighborhood of 500 yards of total offense. The Heels have one more game where they should be favored and in good shape before heading into the far more difficult second half of the season. The Heels must get better defensively or the 4-1 start could be a distant memory.