UNC lost on Saturday which means there is plenty for the fan base to gripe about. Since panic and fretting is a common response to a bad game, we here at want you know we are here for you. Consider this your counseling session to let you know its probably not as bad as you think it is.
The venting begins after the jump.
Gio Bernard goes from "could have played in the 2nd half vs Elon" to not even getting on the plane for the trip to Louisville???
This is possibly the biggest source of frustration for UNC fans and the members of the local media alike. The Tar Heel running back suffered a sprain MCL in the first half of UNC's season opener versus Elon. Following the game head coach Larry Fedora said Bernard could have played but there was no need to put him back on the field. Bernard himself, told the media the following Monday he felt good. The Wake Forest game came and went without Bernard playing. At that point, Fedora indicated Bernard didn't feel comfortable but it was "close." That gave way to the assumption that Bernard would play at Louisville which was reinforced by reports he was practicing at full speed and additional public statements by Fedora.
Then comes Saturday and Bernard doesn't even make the trip to Louisville. Not UNC thinks he might play. Not he is doubtful so we are going to test the knee pre-game. No, the decision was made by at least Thursday which begs the question of what is Bernard's true condition? Is it a case where Bernard was fine but on Thursday something else happened and the decision was made for him to not travel to Louisville? That would be reasonable and cast Fedora in a better light since the alternative is that he's was very publicly yanking everyone's chain earlier in the week.
If Fedora wants to keep opposing teams in the dark about injuries, simply saying a player is questionable accomplishes that without all of the confusion and frustration. Given what we've seen so far, I don't think that is going to happen.
So this defense is going to get better right?
I think it will. Right now I am operating on the notion that there is still a learning curve involved. At least that would explain some of the missed assignments or the fact Louisville receivers were camped out there with huge cushions. The number of missed tackles is a little disconcerting as was the degree to which the Caridnals' offense line opened up gaps to run the football. The former is just a matter of better individual execution while the latter is something UNC fans may have to live with.The ultimate bright spot is UNC has a highly touted defensive coach in Vic Koenning who has shown at multiple stops in his career he can produce a top notch defense. The only issue is whether or not there is friction between him and defensive coordinator Dan Disch. It is also unclear who is calling the games between Disch and Koenning which Fedora has kept quiet. The presence of two coaches who are perceived to be "in charge" of the defense can lead to all sorts of issues. Whether that is even happening or what we see on the field is a result of it remains a mystery.
Erik Highsmith was totally interfered with and possibly assaulted on the final play of the game.
It sure looks that way and I am a mildly surprised how little this has been discussed. The announcers on the ABC broadcast didn't say anything about it despite looking at multiple replays which showed Highsmith's helmet fly off his head. I know helmets have a tendency to come off hence the stupid "helmet rule" the NCAA instituted. However there is plenty of evidence Louisville defender Andrew Johnson got his hand into Highsmith's facemask resulting in the helmet taking flight. There is also an argument to be made for interference on the play as well.
The problem is, as Doc pointed out, that one play didn't cost UNC the game nor would a correct call had ensured a UNC win. It would have given the Heels four more shots since the result of the penalty would have been an automatic first down and there was plenty of time left in the game. The bottom line for UNC is not putting yourself in a position that the officials can decide the game for you. The Heels dug a hole so big it needed everything to go perfectly in order to come all the way back and unfortunately that sometimes means officials getting calls correctly at a crucial moment in the game.
UNC is 1-2 so talk me off the ledge
Aside from the first half on Saturday, UNC has not played horribly. Have they played as well as they could have against FBS opponents? No and again there is a learning curve when it comes to both units picking up new schemes. In addition to the team learning a new system, losing Gio Bernard for two games obviously has an impact. Bernard is such a dynamic player, you can argue his mere presence on the field causes an opposing defense to approach the Tar Heel offense in a different way. Bernard is also the kind of player capable of breaking off a big run or changing the momentum of the game with a huge play. Not having him matter though UNC has handled his loss fairly well, the first half against Louisville not withstanding.
Ultimately, this team has time to gel with the benefit of three straight homes games. Obviously ECU will be a tough game but one UNC should win. Idaho should not present an issue but the October 6th "White Out" game against Virginia Tech will be huge. The Hokies have been less than impressive so far and if UNC can go into that game 3-2, the Heels would have a shot at fully righting the ship by the season's halfway mark.