Two games into the season, and before the North Carolina Tar Heels have played a home game, the season is effectively over.
Oh sure, there are ten games left, and as players come back from suspension winnable games are still out there. Still, after East Carolina finished off their 41-19 win over the Tar Heels Saturday, there isn’t any hope left that this Carolina team will be able to win six of them to go to a bowl. That’s a tough place to be in. Unfortunately, it’s one Carolina Football fans know all too well.
All of this is going to pale in comparison to the real danger that is potentially facing the state later in the week. North Carolina has seen bad hurricanes before, so there’s no need to tell most of you what we could be facing with Florence. As we get later into the week we’ll know just how serious this threat is, but in the meantime, let’s step back a couple of days and look at those whose stock went up and whose went down.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams looked a ton better in the game against ECU than against Cal. The junior had four catches for 84 yards, and one play that involved him absolutely trucking defenders. After a week where ARW seemed to have trouble being the number one receiver, he showed off a lot more of what was expected from him. He can’t help that the person delivering the ball to him just isn’t a D1-level quarterback.
Antonio Williams also showed why he earned the nod as the starting running back. In one half, he had six carries for 96 yards including a 48 yard gash that set the tone for the Carolina running game. That’s right: Almost 100 yards in a single half. With the struggles at quarterback, it’s clear that Williams should continue to see a high percentage of carries. I say should, but this is Larry Fedora we’re talking about here. Spoiler alert: you’re going to see Williams again in this article.
Freeman Jones right now might be the team MVP, as he was 4/4 kicking field goals, including a 49-yarder that was never in doubt and might have been good from 55. The senior from Bunn, North Carolina (Franklin County represent!) probably won’t get any attention for the Lou Groza Award, but knowing that it has a dependable kicker will allow the team to get points out of drives. Considering the team’s struggles on offense, that’s a massive weapon.
Larry Fedora may have seen the beginning of the end of his Carolina coaching career Saturday. The rumbles of a hot seat were already there following the loss to Cal, and the rumbles are now full-blown roars. The continued lack of discipline, inexplicable losses, questionable play calling, abandoning the run game, the stubbornness against changing things up when things just aren’t going well, you get the idea. It’s been a common trait of the coach even when he had the talent to cover up some of the mistakes. I could go on, but there will be plenty said about the coach going forward because this season is looking like another long one.
Nathan Elliott cemented that he just isn’t going to be up to snuff as a D1 starting quarterback. He at least didn’t throw any interceptions, but he again had trouble pushing the ball down the field and as the game wore on, his accuracy got worse. By the end of the game, Fedora finally threw in the towel and put Cade Fortin in for a couple of series, and with Chazz Surratt still sitting two more games there has to be a thought that Fortin will get more reps.
Antonio Williams and Tyler Powell had game-changing penalties that were key to ECU being able to gain and sustain momentum. Williams’ was more of a case of bad luck than anything. On a big gain for ARW, Colby Gore for ECU was looking to make a play when he was tripped up by his own man, and Williams, trying to block, launched at Gore with his helmet. It caused Williams to be ejected from the game, which was the right call per the rules, and it sent Gore to the hospital. The hit wasn’t malicious, but the loss of Williams was felt in the second half as ECU was able to bottle up Jordon Brown, and without the change of pace Williams could provide it contributed to the offense bogging down. Powell’s flag was inexcusable no matter what your class designation is, but for a fifth year senior it’s especially atrocious. On a 3rd and 22, Powell hit ECU’s Reid Herring clearly out of bounds. The personal foul penalty kept the defense out on the field and ECU would catch it in a few plays later. It gave ECU hope, and the one-two punch of these penalties in the second quarter completely flipped the table on the game.
Cade Fortin threw the best passes seen from a Carolina quarterback this season, and will likely see more of the field while still preserving his redshirt when Surratt returns...Hunter Lent kicked again more than should have been expected, but had a great average with a long of 60...Myles Wolfolk led a defense missing a fair share of personnel due to suspension and injury and had 11 tackles...Jordon Brown was given a great chance with the absence of Williams, but didn’t take advantage of it and is in danger of losing reps when Michael Carter comes back...K.J. Sails led the secondary with two pass breakups, but the group clearly struggled facing a more air-oriented attack.
Be safe this week, folks, because it looks like football is about to be a secondary concern.