For those of you new to the blog, welcome! This is the Weekly Report Card, my weekly football game recap. In the opponent preview I write each week I pick three "assignments", things that are keys to a Carolina win or parts of Carolina's performance that need to be improved to be a better team. This piece will go over how the Heels performed on their assignments.
The Heels brought high hopes and expectations of a win in Bank of America Stadium on Thursday before a frustrating loss to South Carolina. The game featured two terrible interceptions by Marquise Williams and questionable play calling by Fedora. The Heels will have a rebound game next week in their home opener against NC A&T.
On to the grades:
Make Connor Mitch beat you: B
The Heels came out of the gate strong, coming up with multiple third down stops. Carolina kept contain on the South Carolina runs until late in the fourth quarter and forced South Carolina to use the wildcat since they could not rely on their quarterback. Mitch was unimpressive for the entire game and that was due to really good Carolina defense. The pass rush was still anemic and Carolina might want to add in a few blitzes in future weeks to get pressure on the quarterback. The Heels did get a little tired in the fourth which allowed for the final few game sealing runs, but for the most part the Heels kept South Carolina in check.
Get on the board early: C-
Carolina scored early and took a touchdown lead in the first half, but they really could have put the game away if not for Marquise Williams' first two interceptions. Williams was terrible in this game and I would say that he has lost this game for the Heels--except Fedora decided to not run the ball with a red hot Elijah Hood from the three when he had two downs to try to get in. The Heels offense in this game was pretty vanilla, other than a few Ryan Switzer jet sweeps and one or two bubble screens there were not any Fedora-y calls or and tricks. The offense really needs to catch up to the defense (that is a weird statement to write) if the Heels are to get to the 8 wins that a lot of people expect of them (and that Bubba Cunningham probably wants Fedora to give him)
Show development: B-
The offensive line played really well in this game. Elijah Hood delivered on the promise of being a top running back in his recruiting class (not that Fedora noticed). Coach Gene Chizik might be magical since he took almost all the players from last year's defense and only gave up 17 to an SEC team that averaged more than 30 points last year. They did this while facing 10 meaningful drives (this excludes the final drive when South Carolina just killed clock) submitting a better performance on defense in this game than in all its games last year except the Duke game.
The biggest defensive mistake of the game was Des Lawrences' dropped interception but the Heels played a really good game compared to last year and the work of the coaches in the offseason really showed. As impressive as the defense was, the player who showed the most improvement in this game compared to last year was Nick Weiler who made two real field goals, a sight unseen last year. But the Heels, or at least Marquise Williams, really regressed on offense in this game. The bland play calls also showed regression from the coaches if you can call it that. One bad game from Williams does not elicit calls for the Mitch Trubisky show, but if the Heels start ACC play with a losing record then maybe Mitch should get a shot, cause he can't be that much worse this Marquise performance.
I am not pleased with the direction that Carolina football has gone under the Larry Fedora regime. I disagree with him on multiple levels but the recent last straw was not running the ball with Hood at the three. Fedora has consistently shown an inability to react in game or to adapt to the circumstances of the team. Last season it was the quarterback platoon that only stopped when Mitch Trubisky messed up in whichever game he was in. He has also thus far shown an inability to really improve Carolina's recruiting abilities. Carolina's average class strength has decreased over his tenure and while some of that has to do with the NCAA cloud, he's bringing in classes worse than interim coach Everett Withers did for his only year. These are his players now, these are the players he brought in and they're playing worse the longer Fedora is here.I don't really have qualms with the players, they've shown that they can produce against ACC and real FBS competition, the offensive system is not even really the problem--it's how its used.
The strategies he employs often do not make any sense, it seems like he's deciding what he's going to run before kickoff and he won't deviate from that plan. That those plans aren't even that good to begin with is even more frustrating. I get that it's only one game but this is a continuation of a depressing trend. Fedora has a losing record against Duke, ECU, Wake Forest and South Carolina. His best season was by far his first (without players he recruited), and that was also the only year he had a winning percentage above .500 in the ACC. I don't think he's a bad person or abusive of the players or that he has any personal traits that should be held against him. I just don't think at this point that he has shown the aptitude to be a football coach who is paid millions of tax payers' dollars and some of my tuition money. All that said, he can still turn it around by just getting to an 8 win season and winning a bowl game. I've got two more years on this campus, can we be just that good for one please?
68 days until basketball season.