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UNC vs. Florida State: Three Things Learned

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I don’t have the cholesterol to keep doing this.

NCAA Football: Florida State at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Guys, I’m getting really tired of doing this.

More specifically, what I’m really tired of doing is having to say the same things over and over again about this team. UNC came out once again to face a team they should’ve easily handled, and instead lost the game 25-35. This game had a little bit of everything, but amazingly the biggest problems had nothing to do with the offensive line (I said “biggest”...don’t come for me). So, I guess there’s at least that.

Rather than discuss three things that we’ve learned about this game, let’s discuss three of the biggest frustration points not only from this game, but from this season in general.

The elephant in the room

I think it’s fair to say that to this point of Mack Brown 2.0, we’ve been rather forgiving of the coaching...to a point. Sure, we’ve had our criticisms of Phil Longo. Yes, there are a lot of questions out there about what Jay Bateman is doing with this defense. However, There’s a bigger question that I feel like we need to tackle: why isn’t this team playing anywhere near its potential?

It’s no secret that in football, and really any sport in general, there is a fine line between scheme issues and “Is this coaching staff even getting through to these guys?” Let’s ask ourselves a few questions here: Why is Sam Howell still making some of the weird mistakes he made his freshman year? Why are some of the upperclassman drastically worse than the young guys, talent levels aside? Because let’s face it: talent is only so much of an excuse when the Nathan Elliott version of the Tar Heels was losing multiple games by single digits. Finally, why is this coaching staff hellbent on staying married to what they are doing with this roster? Sure, they’ve made some changes as the season has went on with personnel, but scheme-wise I feel like we’re watching the same movie over and over again.

I am not saying that Mack Brown should be fired, nor am I trying to lightly suggest that it needs to be considered soon. To be perfectly honest, I’m way too perplexed to jump down that rabbit hole. However, what I am saying is that we are past asking questions about the quality of this roster. This roster should’ve beaten Virginia Tech. This roster should’ve taken Georgia Tech behind the wood shed. Finally, this team should’ve at least covered the spread against Florida State. Gone are the days of “Well Larry Fedora’s guys are still here.” We need to start asking why this coaching staff can’t figure out how to win with what they have, because even after losing players to the NFL last season, this roster should not be losing the games they have lost.

The lack of discipline/maturity

UNC recorded 12 penalties against Florida State yesterday afternoon, which cost them 110 yards of production. However, what was even worse about the penalties wasn’t the sheer number of them, it was the timing of them as well. There was a constant cycle of the Heels getting to key moments of the game where they could finally turn things around, and then someone would commit a really basic, brutal penalty. It was so bad that they even got called for a penalty that I may never stop being mad about.

Getting called for trying to verbally confuse an offensive lineman is painfully silly. However, it highlighted the lack of poise that this team had, and I hope it’s something Mack Brown addresses ad nauseam before next weekend. To be fair: this was the first time that the Heels cracked double digits in penalties, but it’s clear that this team is getting really frustrated, and now that frustration is showing up in the form of penalties. Repeating this against Miami next week is the last thing this team can afford to do.

The Josh Downs Show

I’ll keep this part short and sweet: Sam Howell needs help from someone not named Josh Downs. As I mentioned earlier, this team is more talented than the results have shown, and when I look at the current wide receivers on the roster, there’s no reason that Downs should be the only guy producing. Khafre Brown, Antoine Green, and Emery Simmons have been pretty ineffective this season, and in yesterday’s game they were basically non-existent. Between the three, they had two catches total, with Brown not recording a single one. As far as tight ends go, Garrett Walston has been pretty hard to watch, but occasionally Kamari Morales has been able to do something positive.

We’ve talked a lot about the offensive line being mysteriously bad this season, but truly I do not understand what is going on with the wide receivers. There’s no possible way that this offense can be effective if Howell only has Downs to rely on. Someone has to step up, or we’re going to see Howell get himself killed trying to make up for this group’s lack of production.