As a Tar Heel fan, Saturday’s game vs. Georgia was one filled with many highs and lows. Just as quickly as UNC got up 24-14 and fans were chanting “ACC, ACC, ACC,” did the game quickly turn back in Georgia’s favor and the red-filled Georgia Dome erupted in chants of “SEC, SEC, SEC.”
Let’s take a look back at some of the highs and lows from Saturday’s game.
Here are some highlights from the game, thanks to UNC Athletics.
- T.J. Logan
As talked about in yesterday’s article, T.J. Logan was the player of the game for the Tar Heels. His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the 2nd half, his rushing touchdown later in the 3rd quarter, and his leading 80 rushing yards (13.3 yards per carry) for the Heels were a big part of keeping UNC even in the game with Georgia.
Logan was sort of the forgotten man throughout the summer, but he showed in the first game that the Tar Heels will need him to play a big role both on special teams and in the backfield if they are to be successful.
- Tom Sheldon
It is usually not a good sign when the punter is one of the high points for the game. If Tom Sheldon can give the Tar Heels this consistency throughout the season, the Tar Heels will have two weapons in the kicking game.
On Saturday, Sheldon averaged 42 yards per punt and landed three inside the 20 yard line. Sheldon also seemed to put a good amount of hang time on his punts, which helped the punt team in their downfield coverage.
In years past, it seemed like our punters would kick more of a line drive punt, so this was a welcomed change.
- No Turnovers
The Tar Heels didn’t turn the ball over and won the turnover battle 1-0. It was good to see that Mitch Trubisky didn’t turn the ball over in his first game as a starting quarterback (even though he was awfully close to turning it over in that 1st quarter when the ball fell out of his hand).
As Coach Fedora said after the game, “The first thing we had asked him to do was to take care of the football, and I don't ever remember him throwing the ball into any coverage or anything like that, so I thought he did a nice job of that.”
If Carolina can protect the ball and limit turnovers throughout the season, that will help them end up in the winning column more often than not.
- Start of the 3rd Quarter
The 3rd quarter could not have started any better than it did on Saturday, with Logan returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and putting UNC up 17-14.
After Georgia drove down and missed a field goal, the Tar Heels would have a quick scoring drive that ended up with Logan running around the edge for a 21-yard touchdown run. This was a vintage scoring drive for UNC that fans were accustomed to seeing last year, but it was the first (and only) time all game that the Heels had some sort of rhythm and flow to a drive.
A couple of runs by Elijah Hood and Trubisky, and a 23-yard pass (the longest pass play of the game) to Ryan Switzer, helped set up the touchdown run from Logan.
- End of the 3rd Quarter
After Logan’s touchdown run put UNC up 24-14, it was seemingly all downhill for the Heels from that point forward.
Georgia’s freshman sensation, Jacob Eason, would lead the Bulldogs on an 11-play, 75-yard drive (aided by two pass interference penalties that extended the drive) for a touchdown to cut UNC’s lead to only three.
On the kickoff, the Heels would be pinned in around the 12-yard line, after Khris Francis tried catching the ball along the sideline, only to have it go out-of-bounds. UNC appeared to have a first down on a catch by Austin Proehl and the momentum to possibly start another long scoring drive, only to have it called back because of a (questionable) ineligible lineman downfield penalty.
A few choice words and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Coach Fedora and the Tar Heels were backed up along the goal line. The next play was a safety, it was suddenly a one-point game, and the Bulldogs had the momentum (and the crowd) heading into the 4th quarter.
- Play Calling
It is always easy to be the armchair quarterback and question the coaching decisions the day after, so let’s do it.
At the end of the first half, UNC had 1st and Goal on the five yard line (30 seconds left and one timeout) and they chose to throw the ball three times. I am sure I was not the only one screaming at the TV to hand the ball off to Hood (averaged 7.2 yards per carry) at least once.
Here was Fedora’s response on the decision to throw it three times at the five yard line, “Yeah, we thought we had what we wanted to throw the ball in. They outnumbered us in the box. They were going cover zero. All those were run checks with passes tagged to them, and because it was cover zero and they were bringing blitzes, that was the plan.”
The next questionable play call that stands out was the decision to throw a screen pass when the team was backed up to the goal line and the Bulldogs’ fans were going nuts. Again, I was screaming at the TV to just run the ball and then punt it away.
Finally, as is the theme with the “play calling” segment, just the lack of running plays called for Hood and Logan throughout the game. Going into the game, UNC would seem to have an advantage against Georgia’s run defense, as there were question marks about their front seven. Sixteen carries between Hood and Logan was simply not enough, especially when each back was averaging 7.2 and 13.3 yards per carry.
Eerily similar to the year before (against South Carolina), Heels fans are left wondering “if only we had run the ball more.”
- Lack of the Big Play on Offense
This certainly wasn’t for lack of trying, as Carolina tried hitting on the deep ball a number of times, but just couldn’t seem to connect.
There are so many weapons returning from the previous year, there is no reason to panic about the offense at this time. I know that it is not Alabama, but UNC did go up against a Kirby Smart defense, and outside of FSU, this will probably be the best defense the Tar Heels face all season.
I would like to think that the Heels’ offense will put up more than 17 points more often than not.
We can certainly all sit here and question a number of the penalties that were called in the game, but that does us no good because it is not going to change anything (even if the NCAA issued one of those apology letters saying the officials messed up on a particular play).
What we can do is question as to why such an experienced team has 13 total penalties for over 100 yards. This was one of the major reasons as to why the game was lost, as drives were either extended or killed by our penalties.
This will certainly be something that Carolina needs to address and get cleaned up going forward. Again, this may just be first game (and playing on national TV) jitters, but you would expect more from such an experienced team.