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UNC Football Film Review: Win vs Pitt

For the second year in a row, Carolina showed resolve in a game they historically lose.

Pittsburgh v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Carolina erased a 13 point fourth quarter deficit for one of the greatest wins in recent memory at Kenan Stadium. Here are some of the positive and negative plays that impacted the Tar Heel victory:

Positives

(0:07) When Carolina had the ball, it was the Ryan Switzer show. This screen throw showed why the accurate Mitch Trubisky is a major asset in an offense where this throw is of utmost importance. It also shows why every day I weep about Switzer one day catching these types of passes and making these kinds of plays as a New England Patriot.

(0:29) I’m doing this every week.

(2:13) The Carolina defense may have been at a disadvantage all first half, but man did they make a big-time play here. Quadree Henderson burned the Heels with his speed on the jet sweep. Just as it looks like Henderson is headed for another massive gain, cornerback M.J. Stewart sticks his hand out, stripping Henderson of the ball.

(3:25) God, I hope Bill Belichick doesn’t see this tape.

(5:21) I think they call this foreshadowing

(5:42) Say what you will about the Carolina defense—and I have a ton of things to say—when it matters, they find a way to get off the field. Pitt was relatively conservative on this play, with Nathan Peterman opting to go to James Conner in the flats as opposed to throwing the ball downfield.

Either way, Des Lawrence made a tremendous play snuffing it out, with help from Mikey Bart and Thomas Brown. Lawrence was shaken up on the play, which I’m sure was attributed from the physical exhaustion suffered from this game. Laying his body on the line for his team, hoping to give his offense one more crack at it shows the type of leadership and determination he has brought to this program the past four years.

(5:57) I don’t know how you fit the ball into that spot, but boy did my heart almost stop.

(6:05) I was at the Carolina Panthers-Jacksonville Jaguars game on September 7, 2003 when Rodney Peete was pulled in the second half in favor of Jake Delhomme. Delhomme led the Panthers back from a 17-0 deficit to 23-17 late in the fourth quarter. There, Delhomme orchestrated one of the many game-winning drives for the ‘Cardiac Cats’ that season.

With 16 seconds left, the ‘Defender of the Fresh Biscuit’ found Ricky Proehl in the corner of the end zone for the tying score. John Kasay made the ensuing extra-point and the Panthers started off their NFC Championship season 1-0.

Austin Proehl may not have scored the winning touchdown on Saturday but I couldn’t help but think of how much he resembled his dad reaching out for this pivotal fourth down conversion. Also, that is one of the tougher throws to make to the sideline and Trubisky threw it with ease.

(6:21) Back to physical exhaustion and leaving it all on the field. Switzer made his 16th reception of the day on yet another fourth down on the final drive. You see plenty of players have monster games in this era of college football, but rarely do you see one that has spent every ounce that he has on the field that day. The 16 catches and 205 yards don’t do Switzer justice for what he did for his team on Saturday.

I don’t know what the rest of the season or future holds for Switzer, but I will always know one things: He gave everything he had for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill every time he stepped on the field. For that, I am extremely thankful for his heart and effort.

(6:44) If you get a chance, go back and watch the end of the LSU-Auburn game from Saturday night. With 24 seconds left, LSU faced a 3rd & 16 from their 20-yard-line with no timeouts. On the play, the Tigers threw the ball to the right side to a receiver who fought his way to the 10 yard-line failing to get out-of-bounds with 16 seconds on the clock.

With the clock running, LSU quickly got to the line and snapped the ball with six seconds throwing the ball for an incompletion, but their was a penalty on the play. Because it was a pre-snap penalty a 10-second run-off was not assessed and LSU had one second to snap the ball and run one final play, on the officials whistle.

The Tigers snapped it, rolled out and completed what they thought was the game-winning touchdown. The only issue was they didn’t get the snap off in time.

With 13 seconds left on Saturday, Elijah Hood fights his way out from beneath a pile after being tackled short of the goal-line. The Tar Heels quickly rush back to the line of scrimmage and call Fade 235, snapping the ball with five seconds left. Trubisky throws the ball over to Bug Howard for the tying score. Howard makes a remarkable one-handed catch with a Pitt defender draped all over him.

What we were able to do in that situation was what LSU was not. No, it’s not just the fact that they got the snap off in time. It’s that they were able to get set quickly without being penalized, when so many teams do in that situation.

LSU’s inability ended up costing their coach his job, among other things, while Carolina’s success has them 1-0 in the ACC and adds to yet another great moment at Kenan Stadium.

Negatives

Man, I don’t want to say anything negative after the thrill of Saturday’s win. Either way, I really need my YouTube college football video hackers to start posting the full Carolina games again.

The overwhelming issue coming out of this game is the disparity in time of possession. Pitt won the T.O.P. battle 41:09 to 18:51. Most glaringly, they won the first quarter T.O.P. 14:27 to 0:33. Never in my life watching football have I ever seen that type of dominance in T.O.P. from a team in the opening quarter. What is even more appalling is the fact that Pitt only came away with 5 points in the quarter —credit goes to the Carolina defense.

The larger issue is that UNC can ill-afford to have their defense on the field that long, even if they don’t give up a touchdown. In the second half, the T.O.P. disparity clearly caught up to the Tar Heel defense, where Pitt scored on it’s first two drives of the half, rushing the ball on 14 of the 16 plays.

Pittsburgh knew that they had exhausted most of the Carolina defensive energy in the first half and were determined to use that to their advantage by dominating the trenches through the run game in the second half. Fortunately, Carolina was able to stop Pitt on 3 of their last 4 drives, allowing the offense to win the game. Fedora may try to play down how much T.O.P means for his football team, but he should be relieved to get a win under the circumstances he faced Saturday.

Two other quick things, the play of the offensive line has to improve. Pitt HC Pat Narduzzi has brought over his hard-nosed defensive principles from his time as DC at Michigan State and applied them to the Panther defense. One of those principles is relentlessly getting after the quarterback. The Tar Heel offensive line struggled all afternoon, keeping Trubisky upright in the pocket. So much so that Carolina had to go into max-protect for the final drive, bringing in Hood as a secondary blocker.

Speaking of Hood, he only had 11 carries for 25, while T.J. Logan had 2 for 6. Overall, UNC rushed for 18 yards. This is largely attributed to the T.O.P. It’s extremely difficult to set up the run game when you barely have the ball, it’s particularly difficult when you’re trailing in a game. Again, UNC won’t win many games with the T.O.P. looking like it did Saturday. They will also not win many games with only 18 rushing yards.

I’m extremely proud of this team and the resolve that they showed. We learned more about them on Saturday than the previous three weeks combined. Next up, the Heels travel to Tallahassee where they should have success throwing the ball, while likely having issues in the run. Here’s to hoping for a Carolina victory and an overall positive film review.