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Tar Heel Hangover: UNC’s week four loss to Duke

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Is the season lost?

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened in week four.

Another fourth quarter lead; another loss. Through three quarters, this was the team’s strongest all-around effort. A handful of key defensive misses and one poor offensive decision resulted in an 0-3 home start to the year.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach...

Post game, a number of writers for this blog engaged in a vigorous debate about the job that Larry Fedora is doing this year. The question in defense of the coaching staff is an excellent one; what could have been done differently? The team is plagued by injuries with what seems like an entire lineup on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Take away all of the offensive production that was drafted into the NFL and perhaps expectations were just too high this year.

The bottom line is that UNC has been outscored in the fourth quarter 54-20. That is a very telling statistic and frankly the story of the year. The easy and almost habit-forming excuse is that the defense is letting the team down. For three quarters, in every game, the defense has played very well and has limited the opposition. Equally true is that for three quarters of every game the offense has put scores on the board.

All of that changes in the fourth quarter. Not only does the defense allow yards and points at a disturbing rate, but the offense is simply not producing.

What does this have to do with the coaching staff? What that line through four games indicates is that the staff is not making adjustments as well as its opposition. Injuries affect the team throughout a game, not just in the fourth quarter. Sure, the game may have been different if not for a crazy basketball overhead pass from a quarterback under pressure, but that play doesn’t explain why the offense couldn’t score for the final 20 minutes of the game.

The opposition is simply out-adjusting the Heels. Duke played the entire first half to take advantage of Tar Heel defender overplays on the back side and it did not work. The Heels stayed home and kept the Blue Devils in check. By the fourth quarter, Duke took advantage of the middle of the secondary that has been vulnerable all year.

Carolina, on the other hand, continued the short throws that had been successful all game. When pressure was increased, though, those throws were off-balance, off-target, and ineffective.

Lying In Bed, I Wish I Could Change...

Of course I wish Chazz Surratt would have just eaten the sack in the fourth quarter instead of trying to play hero.

The catalyst, however, was the previous Duke drive. Down 17-13 in the fourth quarter, Duke faced a fourth and 5 at the UNC 24 yard line. Make this stop, and the Heels maintain momentum with a chance to slowly eat the clock. Instead, a 12-yard gain kept the drive alive. Three plays later, the Blue Devils touchdown put the pressure on the Tar Heels to produce on offense. Pressure breeds error.

Looking Forward: Georgia Tech

Where are the wins going to come from for bowl eligibility? Is this simply a rebuilding year? Can the medical staff be the MVP? For a team that has problems with holding defensive assignments, the misdirection of the Rambling Wreck will be difficult to contain.

Final Thoughts

The Heels have a lot of heart. They are going to need it.