UNC came up short again on the big stage in their season opener against Georgia, failing to beat a Power 5 conference team in their opener for the ninth straight time. The run defense couldn’t stop Nick Chubb, Mitch Trubisky couldn’t connect down the field with any of his relievers, and Elijah Hood was deprived of carries once again.
In a lot of ways, this Carolina loss was like many we’ve seen before. For that reason, it is especially frustrating to be talking about the same issues as though nothing was learned from the embarrassing results last year against South Carolina or Baylor.
Regardless of how many times we’ve heard it before, here are three things we learned from the Tar Heels’ loss in Atlanta.
GIVE THE BALL TO HOOD
Larry Fedora, I need you to meet Elijah Hood. He’s pretty good and he wears Carolina blue. Hood is on the field for most offensive series, in a position for you to draw up a play that involves him touching the football.
I know there are other options, Coach. You know it too. However, you seem to be missing this really important one.
Elijah Hood (and T.J. Logan, to elaborate on the point) was simply not given the ball enough in UNC’s loss to Georgia. Both were effective when they were presented with a chance to run the ball, even though that dumb safety is a story for a different day. When UNC is at the goal line, there is little excuse for Hood not to get at least one or two shots at the end zone.
This is not a new problem, and the fact that we’re still having this conversation is quite frustrating. Fedora said in his postgame comments that he would have liked to have run the ball a bit more, and most fans of the team would have liked that too. Now it’s time for that to actually happen.
New quarterbacks come with growing pains
Mitch Trubisky isn’t a freshman that fans are seeing for the first time, but to expect him to get out there in his first game and make everyone forget that Marquise Williams ever left was probably a bit too optimistic. Trubisky had some good moments against Georgia, including running one in for a score. Some of his passes were a bit wobbly in the air and he failed to connect with receivers down the field. However, those are problems that should be able to be corrected.
It’s definitely true that, on more than one occasion, Trubisky’s receivers didn’t exactly help him out. Being on the same page nearly at all times is likely a chemistry thing that will come with repetition. Trubisky is certainly not doomed to be an ineffective quarterback by any means.
It’s normal to cringe a few times during a quarterback’s first game, even if that quarterback is just assuming the starting spot instead of playing for the very first time. There is little doubt that situations will occur where fans will think to themselves “If only Marquise was still on the team...” and that’s okay.
There is every reason in the world to believe that Trubisky will be just fine. It’s also okay to admit that his debut could have gone better. Hopefully his encore performance against Illinois goes better.
Fears about the run defense weren’t necessarily misplaced
Nick Chubb is a fantastic running back and there is no denying it. However, watching him run wild on the Carolina defense was a little painful. It touched the sore spots created by watching UNC’s run defense get torched to the max at the end of last season.
Naturally, everyone was pretty sick of talking about the run defense coming into the year. The past is the past and the team surely did everything they could to patch those holes in camp. Surely the coaches had the defense watch the Baylor film until they had it memorized. Unfortunately, the same defensive nightmare played out again against Georgia.
Hopefully it was a case of Chubb just being too good and those fears about the defense are still a bit overblown. It’s not going to be easy to forget them after Chubb’s performance on Saturday, but allowing at least one other game before truly hitting the panic button seems reasonable.
Carolina is probably only going to go as far as their offense can take them this year, and relying on them to have a concrete wall for a defense was never realistic. The run defense may still be improved over what we saw at the end of last season and Chubb will prove to be the exception to the rule. Seeing another running back, especially one of lesser quality, run all over the defense could get mighty uncomfortable, though.
What three things did you learn from Carolina’s loss to Georgia? Let us know in the comments below.