When I was younger, my mom used to call me a cynic. I’m not a cynic; I’m just a Carolina football fan.
There are times when I dream of a perfect season. And I don’t mean a “let’s win every game and hoist that crystal football” season, just one with maybe 10 wins and a BCS appearance. Just once. An ACC title or even a Coastal Division championship without an asterisk. But in the span of a few quarters of football those dreams come crashing down.
These are the times when I think the Heels might simply be in football purgatory: that some decades ago a man named Dean Smith must have met with the devil himself at some dirt crossroads in the backwoods of Chapel Hill and forfeited any shot at pigskin prowess for the establishment of basketball supremacy. Perhaps we’re doomed to an eternity of 12:30 kickoffs, poor home attendance, and 8-4 seasons (with a potential 9th W or 5th L if no postseason ban).
Leave it to yet another loss to Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets to send you over the deep end, am I right?
Carolina appears to exhibit a severe allergic reaction to the Jackets, having dropped 8 of its last 9 meetings with the Ramblin’ Wreck. Some of these losses were suffered by Tar Heel teams that were simply overmatched or underprepared (I would point to the Heels’ defensive ineptitude last year as a prime example), but regardless of team preparedness each and every ball just seems to roll Georgia Tech’s way year after year.
Vic Koenning’s defense actually seemed to have capitalized on their extra week of preparation for GT, opening the game with two straight stops and containing QB Vad Lee for most of the first half. The wheels only really began to come off for the Tar Heels when the offense sputtered in the second half and allowed the Jackets to dominate time of possession (Lee and his cut-blocking companions controlled the ball for roughly 27 of the game’s last 35 minutes). Left on the field for as long as they were, the exhausted defense played as well as could be expected.
What’s really so deflating about Saturday’s loss is the fact that Fedora’s squad put themselves in a great position to win and still managed to implode.
Much of this was the fault of the offense for failing to move the chains, but even beyond that the Heels just couldn’t catch a break. Georgia Tech fumbled the ball on four different occasions (including once while crossing the goal line for a score) but only lost one of those early in the first quarter. Freshman Ryan Switzer broke onto the scene with an 82-yard touchdown reception, only to have it nullified by a holding call back at the line of scrimmage. Even the refs’ spotting of the ball seemed to constantly be in favor of GT.
But when you fall off the horse you have to get back up. Though the Heels’ efforts came to a grinding and excruciatingly frustrating halt on Saturday, the season is far from over. I’m sure my premonitions of the sky crashing down over Chapel Hill will subside as soon as the stage is set at Kenan Stadium once again.
Arguably having put their two toughest games behind them, the Heels still have the potential to win out and end the year at 10-2. (See mom? I’m not a cynic!) Though road tests still loom at Virginia Tech, N.C. State, and Pittsburg and a home matchup against Miami should prove to be no cakewalk, these are all, in my humble opinion, winnable games.
The biggest key for Carolina will be to put together a full two halves of efficient execution. Their success hinges on the ability of the “Fed Spread” to find a rhythm, which has only happened in spurts so far. I’m just an optimist waiting to hear that “click”.