The Hokies rolled in and out of Kenan Stadium and the Heel defense put up by far its most impressive performance of the season but the offense wilted against the Hokie defense. From the first play from scrimmage, a strip sack of Marquise Williams, the Heels showed that their offense was not ready for this game. The defense kept the Heels in the game until the fourth quarter when the Hokies sustained a long field goal drive to put the game away. The Heels offense showed many weaknesses during this game that Hokies exploited well. The defense showed up and if the defense plays like this for the rest of the year then UNC may still be able to qualify for a respectable bowl game going forward.
Onto the grades:
Get the defense off the field: B-
The first quarter was rough for the defense. After the quick score following the Williams fumble, the Hokies moved the scored a second touchdown after a sustained drive of 82 yards. The tackling on these drives remained poor, costing the team numerous opportunities to get the Hokies off the field. The defense's main weakness early in the game was its poor play on first down. The Heels frequently gave up large gains on first down, leading to easy 2nd and 3rd downs for VT. The defense considerably improved as the game went on, pressuring the quarterback and limiting the run game throughout the rest of the game. The pass rush forced many bad throws including the interception. There were several dumb penalties that gave the Hokies unnecessary first downs and negated big plays by the UNC defense. The unit still played well, the Hokies were held to 3.0 yards per carry and 6.2 yards per pass attempt. The offensive play was too weak to keep the Hokie offense off the field, only holding the ball for 18:57 of the game. Some of that time of possession weakness was due to coaching failures. The Heels ran 66 of the 150 offensive plays in this game (44%) but only held the ball for 31.5% of the game. If the Heels had held the ball more, then the VT offense could have been limited.
Score a lot and often: F
The offense was the Heel's easiest avenue towards winning this game and played by far its worst game of the season. This game will hopefully be the deciding factor that leads Larry Fedora to completely bench Mitch Trubisky. It can easily by argued that playing Trubisky lost this game for the Heels. Williams got in a decent rhythm late in the game and if he had played every series throughout the game, then he might have gotten into his groove earlier and been more effective. Trubisky definitely cost the Heels seven points, throwing an excellent touchdown pass to Kendall Fuller. (After the game, Fedora said that the receiver quit on his route on this play, he did not. Trubisky stared down his receiver from the snap, and then threw to the front, inside shoulder where Fuller was rather than to the back shoulder where his receiver could have boxed out Fuller for a 1st down catch)
Until the second half the Heels offense looked completely impotent. Williams ran the ball relatively well and the Heels ran a few sets of plays that were exclusively read-option plays during the second half. These had decent success, something to keep an eye on going forward. Outside of Williams, the running game was poor, the tailbacks had 9 carries for 15 yards. The Heels need to fix their running game if they want to be competitive for the remainder of the season. Penalties hurt the Heels throughout the day and the offensive line inconsistently protected Williams. Williams looked timid in throwing the ball in a few stretches during this game before righting the ship in the 4th quarter. The offense played better in the fourth quarter, with Williams getting the ball to Ryan Switzer for a few productive plays before Quinshad Davis caught a touchdown pass to bring the game within 10 points. If coaching improves; reducing penalties, benching Trubisky, and the play calling improves then the team may be able to make a recovery like last year.
Keep the Virgina Tech rushing offense unproductive: A-
Outside of the first quarter, the rushing defense was vastly improved from the rest of the season. The Heels held the Hokies to 3.0 yards per carry and the defensive line continued their improved play. The offsides penalties were killers due to the times they occurred but that should not overshadow the good performance of the defensive line. The defensive backs tackled well in the open field and the linebackers plugged up running lanes. The defense forced VT to throw the ball and the offense was unable to capitalize on their time on the field.