CHARLOTTE – You think Carolina may someday go out and just play football up to its full capabilities? Not that the Tar Heels are world beaters, clearly they are not, but the performance Thursday night considering the circumstances was totally depressing.
Ten starters back on an offense that runs up and down the field, averaging 7 yards a snap, and scores its only touchdown when two South Carolina defenders run into each other; and two field goals from junior Nick Weiler who has added length to both his kicks and his locks. That’s the good news.
The bad news is this wasn’t exactly the Gamecocks who won 11 games for three straights years not long ago. It’s an average Steve Spurrier team, at best, with a quarterback from Raleigh who can run but can’t pass and a couple of slick backs who only got going after Gene Chizik’s defense ran out of gas in Q4.
‘Twas a beautiful night in Charlotte, as the college football world watched the season kick off two hours before any other “majors” teed it up. The big stage, ESPN, and an opportunity to turn the talk away from basketball recruits and scandals and begin brand repair RIGHT NOW.
The first drive said it all. After a wonderful three and out from the revamped defense, gains of 15, 12 and 9 by three different players, plus a late hit, put the Tar Heels in the red zone less than five freaking minutes into the new season. Bank of America Stadium had a “This is going to be the year” light blue buzz about it. They got to the three-yard line before senior quarterback Marquise Williams, who grew up in this border town, forgot what team he was on. He hit a Gamecock DB right in the hands with his first of three picks.
The Garnet sections were crowing over a fake punt that kept South Carolina from another three and out. “That Spurrier . . .” No, it was more “That Fedora” who coaches Tar Heel special teams and poorly on that play. Luckily, the Gamecocks’ punter got to do it for real after their red-shirt Raleigh sophomore Connor Mitch missed three straight throws. Badly.
Marquise did get it right on the next drive, but only because two defenders collided and Bug Howard made the “look what I found” catch for six. More BIG PLAYS, BAD PLAYS followed as SC tied the score when their All-SEC scat back was all alone in the end zone. How does that happen to a supposedly marked man?
On T.J. Logan’s first series (Larry Fedora seemed to be platooning Logan, Elijah Hood and Romar Morris), he got the Heels back in the red zone, but Williams took the first of his four sacks on third down and Weiler gave his team the lead from 38 after doing it earlier from 47. NOTE TO COACHES: DO NOT cut this Samson’s hair!
It wasn’t pretty but UNC was sitting that way with a 13-10 lead at halftime and the ball to begin the third quarter. Kind of like the Patriots do it with Brady, who will now do it from Week 1 instead of . . . .
It took the Tar Heels three possessions to get close to that two-score advantage, and Hood came in for a 44-yard burst to the edge of the red zone. BIG PLAY. Williams threw his second pick right to the guy in Garnet. BAD PLAY. One of the Chickens taunting saved the Heels on the next drive. BIG PLAY. A Chicken on the loose (actually Shon Carson) ran 48 yards untouched down the sideline to the Gamecocks’ first and last lead. BAD PLAY. It should not have been Game Over, but it was thanks to more BAD PLAYS than BIG PLAYs in the fourth quarter for the Tar Heels, who had one decent drive left in them.
It came with their last two BIG PLAYS, Hood’s 29-yard surge to the SC 23 and Ryan Switzer’s 14-yard catch at the 9. Williams then took what he could not take – his fourth sack of the night, and on fourth-and-goal he threw it to the same Garnet guy in the end zone. BAD, BAD PLAYS.
Although the Heels had a little time to take one more shot, Chizik’s spent defense could not make a stop and it truly was Game Over. Another frustrating watch for those who have been watching for a long time. North Carolina looked better than South Carolina for much of the game and may wind up with more Ws considering their respective schedules. But one team knows how to win and the other hasn’t truly figured it out since Mack Brown left. (Can it be 18 years ago?)
Fedora wasn’t happy afterward when he was probably more like spittin’ mad. “We gotta get a lot better. It’s just not acceptable,” he said.
Worst of all, the quarterback controversy that took him most of last season to shake could be back again. Too many BAD PLAYS will surely raise the question.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-big-plays-bad-plays/
The Tar Heels can make a good season GREAT by beating South Carolina.
Of course it’s a 12-game schedule and of course it’s too early to say one game can make or break Carolina’s 2015 team. But the opener against South Carolina Thursday night in Charlotte can certainly springboard the Tar Heels to a great year. A loss would leave them having to make up for lost ground with three soft opponents to follow in order to win those eight, nine or 10 games that define good and great seasons. Simply, this is one they can’t get back if they lose.
And this is a winnable game, not like Larry Fedora’s debut as UNC’s coach at South Carolina four years ago. These are not the Gamecocks that won 11 games for three straight seasons; they are the Gamecocks that had to win a bowl game to finish 7-6 in 2014; the Tar Heels lost their bowl game and wound up 6-7.
We will find out how much of a difference coaching makes on defense. The hiring of Gene Chizik got mixed reviews because he had sterling recommendations from almost everyone but, after all, he did leave Auburn with lots of rumors flying. And Auburn is synonymous with the kind of football program Carolina no longer wants to be. Chizik may have changed the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, but he has mostly the same players who ranked near the bottom of college football in several defensive categories.
Even if Steve Spurrier’s team puts up, say, 28 points, Fedora’s offense has the experience and talent to outscore that. Ten starters return and the backfield is loaded from Marquise to T.J. to Elijah and on the flanks with Switzer, Quinshad and big Bug. Carolina has to run the ball and control the clock, but take the quick strike when it’s there, and do not settle for field goals in the red zone. Anxious to see freshman Corbin Daly punt the ball and whether he can leave Spurrier’s offense with long fields to navigate.
In 25 years of coaching, Spurrier has a 226-85 record, averaging better than 9 wins per season. But this South Carolina team is lacking for star power beyond junior scat back Pharaoh Cooper, a North Carolinian who went south of the border. The Gamecocks’ starting quarterback is red-shirt freshman Connor Mitch, who played at Wakefield in Raleigh, and how the Tar Heel defense gets after him and contains Cooper will be too big keys to the game . . .and taking that first step toward a GREAT season.http://chapelboro.com/featured/chanskys-notebook-from-good-to-great/
More than 8,500 fewer people in North Carolina were employed in June compared to May, although the state’s jobless rate remained flat, according to the state Department of Commerce.
North Carolina’s 6.4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June is now 0.3 percent higher than the national average and ranks the state tied for 32nd with Alaska. Bordering states South Carolina and Virginia are tied at 17th with 5.3 percent, Tennessee at 36th with 6.6 percent, and Georgia at 44th with 7.4 percent.
Unemployment claims in North Carolina fell by more than 2,100 people from May to June. Over the year, the number fell by more than 89,000 people, dropping the jobless rate from 8.3 percent in June 2013 to 6.4 percent this year.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate saw a small increase in May from its lowest point of 6.2 percent in April. That marked a low of more than five years, dating back to the start of the Great Recession.
County-by-county unemployment rates in North Carolina are scheduled to release July 30. To see the full breakdown of the state’s unemployment rate, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/june-fewer-employed-jobless-rate-flat/
COLUMBIA, SC – In a raucous environment in Williams-Brice Stadium, the Tar Heels fell short against their rival to the south. South Carolina earned a 27-10 victory.
The Gamecocks didn’t wait long to get on the board.
***Listen to the Call by Jones Angell***
The first fifteen minutes of play doomed North Carolina. Playing from behind on the road is not a formula for success for anyone, let alone for a clear underdog. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t Heisman hopeful Jadeveon Clowney that foiled the Tar Heels.
It was UNC’s inability to cash in with scores at the end of their offensive drives coupled with giving up big plays on defense that did Head Coach Larry Fedora’s squad in.
The first quarter was largely a nightmare scenario for the Tar Heels as they looked nervous and shaky in all facets of their game. An early touchdown strike put the Tar Heels in a 7-0 hole right from the beginning.
Quarterback Bryn Renner struggled to find his form as he was often forced to scramble wide by Clowney and company on the South Carolina defense. Coach Fedora’s up-tempo offense was only able to pick up one first down in the first period.
Meanwhile, South Carolina continued to pick apart the UNC defense both on the ground and through the air, amassing 82 rushing yards and 121 more in the passing game.
Ultimately, it was a 17-0 lead for the Gamecocks at the close of the first quarter.
Thankfully for the Tar Heels the second quarter went a little differently. In a promising development, UNC’s defense, led by seniors Kareem Martin and Tre Boston, began to come up with some answers for Coach Steve Spurrier’s offensive attack.
Slowing down the Gamecocks, the Tar Heels were able to put together a nice scoring drive of their own. But the touchdown grab by Quinshad Davis would have never come to fruition if not for a gutsy fourth down gamble by Coach Fedora when he could have settled for a field goal.
***Listen to the Touchdown Call by Jones Angell***
Down 17-7, Carolina continued to fight ably against a multi-faceted offense from South Carolina. Although they gave up one more score, in the form of a three point boot by Elliott Fry, UNC came up big on a few defensive series that kept them in the contest trailing by only 13 points heading into the locker room.
The start of the final half in Williams-Brice Stadium brought with it a renewed sense of urgency for the Tar Heel offense. Getting the ball first, UNC drove the ball right down the field with two crucial fourth down conversions, including a long pass delivered to Davis from Renner. An impressive burst of speed for Romar Morris picked up another first down for the Tar Heels.
Ultimately, the drive stalled out inside the five yard line, but new starting kicker Thomas Moore converted on the 20-yard field goal to reduce the deficit to 10-20 with 7:51 left in the third period.
But South Carolina wouldn’t wait long to respond. All the momentum gained from the Tar Heel scoring drive was canceled out on the very next play as South Carolina’s Mike Davis ran for a 75 yard touchdown to notch the margin back up to 17 points.
How would Carolina respond this time? By marching right down the field yet again. The South Carolina defense was starting to look gassed at this point, seemingly caving in to the freakishly fast Tar Heel no-huddle offense. But UNC failed to cash in with any points after being forced to punt.
South Carolina didn’t waste any time moving the football again as they began to gash through the UNC defensive line with a vigorous rushing attack. UNC provided little to no resistance until a big sack by Norkeithus Otis ended the third quarter with the Gamecocks up 27-10.
Running back Romar Morris began to stand out. He tallied up 63 yards off the ground by the close of the third quarter.
The Tar Heel defense stiffened to start the final quarter and forced a punt. There was still hope, but the offense needed to produce points in a hurry.
And a third and 19 is not the down and distance you want to be in to get that job done. Not surprisingly, UNC couldn’t pick up that first down. South Carolina’s ball once again.
Playing like a team ahead 17 points, USC kept the clock running. But in a bizarre twist, lightning struck within eight miles of the stadium, forcing the game to be suspended at 8:46 p.m. with a little over 8 minutes remaining in the contest.
After a lengthy one hour and forty-five minute delay, the pair of teams were at it again. The majority of the fans had already headed home, so the game was being played before a sparse crowd. But the show went on and the Tar Heels forced a three and out for the Gamecocks.
But the next series for Renner and the Tar Heel offense resulted in negative yards, and punter Tommy Hibbard was back on the field for yet another Tar Heel punt.
At least the UNC band remained positive in the waning seconds, blaring away spirited renditions of classic fight songs, but the clock continued to wind down and the game’s result became all too certain.
And although the Tar Heels picked up some more yardage to add to the final statistics sheets in the waning moments, it was fitting that yet again, the Tar Heels were kept out of the end zone when it mattered- a disturbing trend.
This round of the Border Battle went the way of the SEC and the University of South Carolina, hands down.
We had the chance to catch up with all the key players at UNC in this “statement game” for the Tar Heels- Coach Fedora, Chancellor Folt, and AD Bubba Cunningham are all on hand! Go Heels!
***Listen to the pregame sideline interviews***
*Carol FoltBubba and Cunningaham*http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/pregame-chancellor-folt-ad-bubba-cunningham-and-coach-fedora/
Photo courtesy of Guardian Express
COLUMBIA – South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier may have been trying to send a message to his star defender, Jadeveon Clowney, when telling the media Monday that he could sit out the North Carolina game if he doesn’t return to practice soon.
According to NBC Sports, Clowney has been in and out of practice due to a shoulder injury, and previously a knee injury.
After Monday’s practice, Spurrier told the media, “if (Clowney’s shoulder) doesn’t come around real soon, we may play without him the first game.” He went on to mention that a number of players “act like they are really hurt” and that he’ll “handle those guys.”
With less than three weeks to kickoff, Tar Heel fans will likely be keeping an eye on No. 7 and the amount of time he’s able to practice.http://chapelboro.com/sports/collegiate/south-carolinas-clowney-may-sit-out-season-opener/
With the 2012 season in the books and the Heels finishing out 8-4 and Coastal Division champs, I would say that there is a lot to be proud of in Chapel Hill and at the Kenan Stadium Football Center!! Here are just some quick observations/reasons about why I and so many others are “all in” with Fedora and this staff and are thrilled with what the future holds.
1. No excuses!! Coach Fedora came into an absolute mess with NCAA sanctions and with it, the opportunity for upper classmen to hit the road and transfer. Additionally, there was a wavering fan base that was upset with any number of matters – some fans were upset with the way Butch Davis was treated and how he was shown the door; the Ivory Tower academia group was upset with the “over emphasis” that is put on college athletics and have strayed away from academics; some fans just wanted to move on and forget the entire nightmare of the past two years. And then, in rides Coach Fedora and the first thing he does is install an up-tempo spread style offense that requires pro style players and a 4-2-5 defense even though he inherited basic 4-3 personnel. Again, there were no excuses, but more of a challenge to the fan base to bond together to support these players on those magical seven Saturdays every Fall in Kenan Stadium. The rallying cry was be loud in the Tar Pit, be obnoxious and come early/stay late! From all accounts I’m seeing and hearing in the community, Coach Fedora as well as Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham have made huge strides with all fan groups and that’s what leaders do.
2. He’s not a politician and does not deflect blame. The common thread in college football and the NFL is that when a new coach comes in and there are bumps in the road the immediate response or tilt of the coach is that “these are not my players” or “once we get my kind of kids/players in here, the results and style of play will elevate.” Coach Fedora came in with the immediate attitude of winning NOW and winning every game. Again, against all odds of the no postseason carrot and the opportunity to technically be the conference champion, Fedora found a way for the players to buy in. To me that is truly deserving of ACC Coach of the Year status even ousting the miraculous doings of what David Cutcliffe orchestrated over in Wallace Wade this year.
***I cannot continue without stating many thanks to Coach Davis and John Shoop, who did a fantastic job of leaving the shelves pretty well stocked in the transition year….Thank you coach!
3. Momentum. These assistant coaches and Fedora have so many great selling tools going into this recruiting cycle and offseason. An 8-4 record and being Coastal Division champs (technically), the gaudy and X-BOX type numbers you can help generate in this offense which is recognized on a national level (RUN GIO RUN), a team that produced 10 All-ACC players this past season and lastly, against all odds, the Heels could well be Coastal division pre-season favorites with the way the division is trending and shaking out. These are all points that will be made in living rooms across the country as Coach Fedora brings in top level talent to run his Nascar-style offense and attacking defense.
4. Culture change. Southern Miss, do you guys wish you tried a little harder to keep him as your head man? For those of you who do not know, Southern Miss was 12-2 in 2011 and were Conference USA Champions under Coach Fedora. A year later, not so much. The Golden Eagles went 0-12 after Coach Fedora settled down in Chapel Hill. My memory of college football may be limited to the last 30 years but I can’t remember (and didn’t find online), a team that swooned so fast. This might be a first in college football. Is this all representative of only the head coach? No. But he is a pretty big piece of the puzzle and I guarantee if you ask those returning players at Southern Miss, they would be dying to have had Coach Fedora back. At UNC, a big culture change was the uniforms, swag, colors, threads, gear or whatever you want to refer to it as, but that not only rejuvenated the players but it fired up the fans including this one especially when we saw the fighting Fedoras come out of the tunnel rocking the Chrome Foot helmets against the Wolfpack. If you don’t think that had a huge impact on that game just take a look at this all-access video and see the reaction from the players. If you think that the uniform combinations have been awesome this year just wait until next year. Word from a source is that new combinations of colors were ordered recently with Nike and it will put us on track to be the “Oregon” of the Southeast. I can’t wait to see them – and more importantly neither can the players and the recruits whom we’re pursuing who will be wearing the new threads.
What does 2013 hold for the Heels? I know that we will start out of the gate with a daunting task in Columbia, South Carolina against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Ole’ Ball Coach, who will have in his back pocket the preseason lock national player of the year in Jadeveon Clowney. With that being said folks, the future is extremely bright on the Hill. We have our leader in place, our fan base is unifying again and the black cloud is leaving beautiful Chapel Hill!!
Smart. Fast. Physical. 2013 Here we come!!
It’s finally here ladies and gentlemen…. the last game of the 2012 University of North Carolina football season. Wow, this season has absolutely flown by and, for me; this is when depression sets in. After Saturday, the countdown begins to the opening kickoff of the 2013 season (August 31, 2013) in Columbia, South Carolina. That’s right – 279 days till the flagship school of South Carolina and the Ole’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks take on the flagship school of North Carolina. And if you’re like me, you will be counting down every one of those 279 days through national signing day, spring practice, summer workouts, ACC media day and the pigskin luncheon.
With that being said though, this has been a long and winding road for this group of seniors who have lived through 2 ½ years of an emotional roller coaster of change. Not many college football players can say they lived (and endured) through two head coaches, an academic fraud scandal, NCAA sanctions, scrutiny from peers, University faculty and officials, and constant negativity from local fan bases and major local media outlets in particular the Raleigh News & Observer. Within all of this adversity, a group of young men were truly developing before our very eyes not only on the field, but in the community as well (see last week’s column about Jonathan Cooper and Gentle Giants http://chapelboro.com/Gentle-Giants/14110127?pid=278297 ). These seniors have become valuable members of the University community and, despite the controversy that has surrounded their tenure here, will be remembered with fondness and distinction in Chapel Hill.
With the new hiring of Coach Fedora this past December and the reality that the 2012 Tar Heels would not be eligible for post season play, our football program was at a crossroads. All players had the right to transfer to a different University without sitting out a year and a special group of Tar Heel seniors led by Kevin Reddick decided to make a stand and finish what they had started. When Coach Fedora laid out the options to his Seniors during a meeting, Reddick was one of the first to address the possibility of leaving. “After we told the seniors, ‘Hey, you guys can leave if you want. You can do whatever you want,’ “Coach Fedora said.” Kevin was the first one to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going anywhere. We’re going to have a great season here next year.’ ” This shows the kind of character that is instilled in these young men not only by this University but also by the role models who have molded these athletes from prospects to lettermen. The parents, guardians, mentors, pop warner coaches, teachers and counselors all deserve credit for helping to make a forgettable situation a positive and something that the entire program can – and will – build on.
The reason why I bring this up is because Saturday will be the last time that the majority of these seniors will ever play the game of football and ever be a part of a family atmosphere and brotherhood like the one at UNC. I was fortunate enough to get to experience two Senior days (due to a medical hardship) so I know exactly what these guys are going through this week. The week will fly by and the players will experience a sense of loss as they experience everyday moments for the last time – the last Monday practice, the last game plan meeting, the last Tuesday lift session, the last time out with the guys for the weekly dinners. And as they walk through the tunnel and hear the final roar of the crowd and run through the smoke, they will remember back to the day four or five years ago when they first walked through the tunnel with the magic of college football and Kenan stadium awaiting, and they’ll feel as if it passed in the blink of an eye.
As hard as it is for the players to know that the end is near, sometimes the parents or guardians take it that much harder. They have supported and fostered the growth of this player from the days when he couldn’t tie his own cleats to now seeing him play for the last time. Maybe this player achieved his goals and lived up to his potential and maybe he didn’t. Either way, the end is here and it’s a sobering time for all involved. What I hope comes out of this last Saturday and what I think we’ll see is two things:
Please make sure to tune in one hour after the final whistle to 97.9FM to listen to more post game coverage with Paul Connell and myself on “ON THE HEELS.”
Smart. Fast. Physical. Happy Thanksgiving!!!http://chapelboro.com/the-players-perspective/the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel/
Tar Heel Tailgate Time – UNC Homecoming 2010 with folks Gary & Pat Lopp
Check out the football platters and bowls. Half the fun for me is the presentation!
Anyone who knows me well knows KT travels with some of her tailgate essentials at all times. I just have to add the food & beverage, and I can instantly throw together an impromptu tailgate from the back of my SUV. Just ask fellow Local Buzz Columnists Jan Bolick, Art Chansky or Ron Stutts. All have witnessed and shared my traveling tailgate in multiple seasons (before Bruce Springsteen at Kenan Stadium in the spring and during the summer Sweet Carolina Beach Music Series at University Mall). One of my all-time greatest tailgate challenges was for a group of 30+ before the U2 concert at RBC three Octobers ago. Big concert, birthday and Carolina home game all in one day!
(See U2 concert tailgate photo below with Beth Dixon, The Fashion Plate and Tanya Leary.)
It is too bad that sports reporters and historians at Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters are not reading “ACC Basketball.” This UNC Press book by Sam Walker was published last year and chronicles the game during the conference’s first 20 years.
On the other hand, maybe it is a good thing for my old basketball coach, Lefty Driesell.
How do I know sports reporters and ACC staffers are not reading the new book? It came out in the controversy that developed about UNC Coach Roy Williams taking most of his players off the court 14 seconds before the game ended in Carolina’s recent loss to Florida State.
Williams thought the game was ending early. One story line in the following days was about other times that ACC basketball games ended early.
After checking with an ACC staffer, the Raleigh News & Observer reported, “As best as anyone can tell, UNC’s loss at Florida State would have been just the second ACC game to end before time expired. The first time it happened – and apparently the only time – came in Maryland’s 60-55 home victory against N.C. State on Jan. 7, 1967.”
If the ACC and N&O had read “ACC Basketball,” they would have found, on page 2, Sam Walker’s description of another early game ending when Maryland played South Carolina in Columbia. “On December 16, 1970, South Carolina was cruising to an easy victory when, with 4:52 remaining in the game, two players got into a shoving and elbow-throwing skirmish. Both benches rushed to the aid of their teammates, and a slugfest broke out. As Driesell tried to separate players and stop the melee, he was struck twice by South Carolina forward John Ribock. The fracas continued for about four minutes before police managed to halt the fighting and the referees decided to end the game.”
That story of another early ending is not the “good thing” for Coach Driesell.
When I read and enjoyed “ACC Basketball” I asked UNC Press to send him a copy, thinking he would enjoy some of the stories about him.
I was wrong. Driesell called me the day after he got the book. “I’m going to sue them,” he said. He pointed to a paragraph in the book about the recruitment of basketball star Charlie Scott in 1966. Scott was headed to Davidson, where Driesell was coaching, until Coach Dean Smith persuaded him to go to Carolina. It said that when Smith and Driesell met afterwards, “Smith offered his hand to Driesell and said something along the lines of ‘no hard feelings.’ A fuming Driesell indicated that there were indeed some hard feelings by spitting on Smith’s outstretched palm.”
Driesell was livid. “I would never spit on anybody’s hand. That is terrible.”
He was worried about his friends’ reactions and especially about what “Dean’s family would think.”
Thanks to ECU athletic director, and Driesell’s assistant coach at the time, Terry Holland, the book’s version was corrected. Holland told Walker and UNC Press that “I was standing right beside Coach Driesell and can guarantee that there was no ‘spitting’ involved.”
As a result, the new printing of “ACC Basketball” revises its report to say simply, “Driesell looked down at Smith’s hand and shook his head to indicate that he was not ready to concede defeat.”
So the good thing for Driesell about reporters not reading “ACC Basketball” yet, is that when they do, he can hope they will read the revised version and not see a word about spitting.
“But what about people who read the earlier version?” Driesell asked me.
“All I can do,” I told him, “is write a column that says you didn’t spit in anybody’s hand, and my readers will know the truth.”http://chapelboro.com/columns/one-on-one/my-coach-did-not-spit-on-anybodys-hand/