The North Carolina Tar Heels are reeling after a 41-19 rout to East Carolina on Saturday. With UCF looming, there are many more questions than answers for Larry Fedora and UNC. Nevertheless, here are three things we learned from the loss to ECU.
Elliott is Now the Stop-Gap
Tar Heel fans were optimistic that Nathan Elliott could take another step forward this season after leading the team to a positive end last year and lead the offense.
Through two games, that has not been the case.
It was evident that the game plan on Satuday was to ease Elliott into the offensive action. The first four plays for UNC were runs and the first half dozen completions were screens or tosses in the flats.
Elliott had no interceptions versus ECU, but he had no touchdown passes, either.He finished with 219 yards on 22-38 passing. Although much improved from the first game, these numbers are not competitive. The lack of velocity on his throws causes issues on routes and tosses into tight coverage, which have been more necessary than expected with a receiving corps struggling to separate. It’s recursive, though, because DBs don’t respect Elliott’s arm enough to give receivers space at the line.
Will Elliott start Saturday versus UCF? Probably. Cade Fortin came in for one series against ECU and one assumes he will get some playing time whether or not things get out of hand Saturday, but if Fedora didn’t pull Elliott after Cal, he likely won’t after his performance in Greenville, either. Things may change once Chazz Surratt comes back from suspension; Fedora probably doesn’t want to burn Fortin’s redshirt in a lost season. But make no mistake, Elliott starting does not mean he should be doing so.
The Defense Took a Step Back
The defense was a bright spot against Cal, but East Carolina racked up 510 yards of total offense on Saturday.
The secondary was particularly weak. Throughout the game, ECU was able to move the chains with relative ease through the air.
The front four did a good job in the first half containing the run, but after a 48-yard touchdown run on third down by ECU in the third quarter, the run defense struggled.
The most concerning part was the third down defense. ECU was 11-19 on third down and never struggled regardless of distance, often finding open targets in the passing game to move the sticks.
On their scoring drive in the beginning of the second quarter, ECU kept their drive alive by moving the chains on five third downs, including a Tyler Powell personal foul on third and 22.
Needless to say, the defense must step up this weekend or it will be another long week.
The Mob has Organized
Time is a flat circle for UNC football and the same mistakes and struggles continue to plague the program.
This was a bad loss filled with coaching mistakes and undisciplined play.
Fans are restless and schedule is not going to get any easier. It is hard to look at the schedule and find a win at this point.
Will changes happen soon? It is doubtful in the near term, but unless there is a dramatic change in performance, it is shaping up to be an interesting winter at the Kenan Football Center.