Well....that was quite the butt-kicking.
To be honest, it’s hard to remember the last time a football game lasted for what felt like an eternity. I don’t actually know what lasted longer, the game itself, or the amount of time UNC’s offense was on the field in the second half because they couldn’t stop turning the ball over for touchdowns. It was what you would expect a really good team to do to a not-so-good football team, but the really frustrating part is that UNC shouldn’t be THIS bad. Truly, they shouldn’t be. The receivers? They are a solid, if not very good group. The running backs? Michael Carter had a helluva comeback game. The defense? Despite disappearing at times this year, they show promise at times, and if Mitch Trubisky’s team had it we’d probably still be talking about how they beat Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
The problems with this year’s team are exactly what we’re going to discuss in the three things that we’ve learned this week. Now I will be the first to say it: some of these things aren’t necessarily brand new information. However, it’s the addition to existing problems that makes me wonder if my health insurance will pay for a lobotomy so I can continue life never knowing what football is. So, here is what we learned from the Heels’ loss to the Hurricanes.
We Still Don’t Have a Quarterback
Following Nathan Elliott’s fumble-six in the first half, Larry Fedora decided to pull the plug and play Chazz Surratt. Fresh off of serving his suspension, Surratt had the opportunity to provide a spark off of the bench. The good news? He did that when he managed to help march the ball down the field and then take the ball into the end zone himself. The bad news? He looked just as bad as Elliott throwing the ball, if not somehow worse.
Let’s pause for a second and give credit where credit is do: Miami is a very good football team, with what I’d say is a very dangerous defense. UNC learned this the hard way, as we saw the Turnover Chain passed around more than a basketball in a Dean Smith Four Corners offense pre-shot clock era. They were fast, they were physical, and they always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. They obviously weren’t themselves against LSU, and I’d expect them to get back to form as long as N’Kosi Perry can develop quickly.
Now, in regards to UNC’s problem, there seems to be no quarterback solution in site. Basketball fans may remember Roy Williams saying that Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman, and Sterling Manley put together would make one really good player. That, more or less, is the issue with the Elliott/Surratt situation. Absent from that created player, however, would be the biggest problem: they aren’t making good decisions. Surratt and Elliott insist on throwing into traffic instead of taking a sack, throwing into double-coverage, triple-coverage, and in some instances made the wrong reads in option plays. As a quarterback, making the wrong decisions can be catastrophic. That’s what we witnessed, and that’s where they’re at.
The solution? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The more time that we spend witnessing these struggles, the harder it is to think that there’s a winning situation. You could play a Cade Fortin or a Jace Ruder, but then how much could you possibly ask of a freshman quarterback? It’s understandable that in top-tier football programs the answer is a lot, but in UNC’s case, I don’t think it’s realistic. We very likely are in for a world of hurt moving forward, as the schedule doesn’t get a whole lot easier. Someone please get Mitch Trubisky on the phone, it’s urgent.
The Defense Isn’t Much Better
Let’s start with the positives: UNC’s defense finally made another team, another really good team in fact, cough up the ball. Maybe more astonishing than anything is the fact that they managed to record an interception and we’re still in the early parts of the season. Finally, if you take away the three turnovers UNC’s offense had that resulted in touchdowns, we are looking at a 16-point differential for the game. While it’s impossible to know whether or not this would be 100% accurate, what we do know is that the defense should not take the majority of the blame for how badly this game went.
On the flipside, despite Miami’s offense only being on the field 26 minutes to UNC’s 33, the Heels managed to allow 354 yards, with 229 of those yards coming from run plays. While this doesn’t sound too bad, especially compared to the ECU game, the way in which it happened left a lot to be desired. Tackling was bad, players were not in the right spots, and once again they just didn’t seem incredibly interested when it’s all said and done. Could this be unfair judgment? Given the situation they were put in, absolutely. However, it goes back to the fact that Miami’s defense scored 21 points. No defense should be asked to do that, but trying to do so goes a long way. Let’s hope they are more interested in upsetting Virginia Tech.
Larry Fedora is on Borrowed Time
Let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t going to be a fire and brimstone “Larry Fedora must be fired right this second” speech, so if you’re that level of frustrated, you may not want to read this. If you’re an optimist, honestly, you still may not want to read this. If you understand the position the program is in right now, then you will understand the following statement.
I don’t dislike Larry Fedora. I think that he is a fine individual, and I don’t wish any ill-will against him whatsoever. However, the program is at a crossroads, and it’s becoming more and more apparent by the second that nothing this year is getting any better. The QBs are underperforming, running backs are still mysteriously being benched after having excellent games, the defense is inconsistent, and all and all, there’s just not a lot of positives to be found.
In saying that, we have to consider that Larry Fedora just isn’t the man for the job anymore. Will he be fired during the season? I highly doubt it. This is due to monetary reasons, of course, but also I just don’t think there’s a great chance that Bubba Cunningham would do such a thing. In his eyes, I’m sure he believes that Fedora deserves a chance to try and salvage the season, which isn’t a terrible thought. Though the question is: what game on the remaining schedule looks winnable at this point? To me, the answer is the second to last game on the schedule. That just isn’t acceptable.
There comes a point and time where the University of North Carolina has to ask themselves just how badly are they trying to have a competitive football program that can match the levels of not just basketball, but their other athletic programs. Anybody that knows Carolina athletics knows that it is not just a “basketball school”, but that a lot of the other athletic programs have been doing extremely well in the past few years. Football is falling behind just about every other sport, and as a revenue sport, that’s bad. That’s really bad.
In short, Larry Fedora is quickly running out of time. It’s hard to imagine a world where such a lack of progress will be accepted much longer. The NCAA investigation is over, suspensions are over (except for Tomon Fox), and thus, the well of excuses that the team can draw from have run dry. Coming off of the bye, Fedora needs to get his guys to make a statement to end all statements to get things back on track. If not, then the fat lady may have to start warming up her vocal chords.