In a record setting performance the Pirates looked at all of UNC's weaknesses and attacked them mercilessly. The Heels were unable to stop the Pirates on offense, in both the pass and the run. On offense the Heels continued to show inconsistency in moving the ball. The score in this game was not indicative of the performance of the two teams, the Heels were boosted by two first half trick play touchdowns, a blocked field goal and garbage time scores against ECU backups. The Heels were much worse than the score line indicated, as hard to believe as that may be.
The Heels did not play well at all this game. The only bright spot was that the wide receivers played relatively well, there were not tons of drops nor were they poor route runners. Most incompletions were due to poor throws caused by either the ECU pass rush or just quarterback misfires.
On to the grades.
Playing the pass well in nickel sets: F
The pass coverage and pass rush were each terrible throughout the game. ECU QB Shane Carden had time in the pocket to throw and he used it well resulting in the senior completing 30-48 passes. Against a proven and quality quarterback like Carden the pass rush must get home. When the pass rush did not get home Carden had ample time to just pick apart the UNC secondary. The secondary did not play well and coverage slipped as the game went on. The secondary also missed tackles and was bad at getting around down field blocks. The Heels would have escaped a failing grade due to their first quarter interception of Carden but the team played so poorly in pass coverage that it did not matter.
Time of possession: D
Against the most potent offense that the Heels have faced this year the Heels' coaching staff showed no real desire to control the clock. Before they were forced to throw to try to catch-up the Heels did not balance the run with the pass. They still threw more than they ran the ball. They also played up-tempo and rushed to the line. This is not the approach to take when you struggle to stop the opposing team. The Heels ran more plays than the Pirates but they did not dominate time of possession like they should have. They needed to take the air out of the ball early and often to keep the Pirate offense off the field but the team failed to do so.
Stop the run: F
All around defensive play was poor throughout the game and this includes the run defense. The Heels continued to show their weakness against the run. The penetration by the defensive line was poor the entire game and this especially hurt the team in run defense. The team also missed tons of tackles throughout the game. The plays that stand out the most are the third and twenty-eight run converted for a touchdown in the second quarter and the 85 yard run up the middle in the third quarter. The middle of the field was left open for most of the game as the coaching staff searched for ways to stop the Pirates by moving personal around and failed. The secondary failed to get around blocks and the first player failed to make the tackle nearly every time. If the Heels do not get better at stopping the run then this season could turn ugly quickly.
Coming off easily UNC's worst performance of the season and maybe even the Larry Fedora era, the Tar Heels face a daunting stretch of games. Relief, if it there is any, won't be coming any time soon.