Last night was a thriller at Kenan Stadium, as #10 Miami defeated North Carolina by the final score of 27 to 23, in a game that the Heels held the lead for over 50 minutes, and almost pulled off the miracle with no time left on the clock. But those sixty minutes were more than just a game for the UNC Football team in 2013, it was a way to show what has gone wrong for the team this season.
While the defensive unit did a good job overall, it once again gave up a couple of major plays early on, and in the second part of the game made some errors on coverage and could not stop the ground game of Miami’s back up running back.
On offense Carolina was ok for the most part, using short passes to make up for the lack of a running game, and when running trying to stay away from the big men in the middle the `Canes have, while tight end Eric Ebron was a monster in the first half. In all the future NFL star racked up 199 receiving yds to go with a TD on a 71 yd pass (which you can watch below).
But the main problem last night, as it has been for most of the year, was penalties. But not just penalties, dumb ones, like twelve men on the field, which Carolina had twice, and costly ones, like a chop block that put UNC on Miami’s 25 yard line instead of inside the opponent’s five yard line. But the one that might just have changed the course of the game, again, a dumb/mental one, was the delay of game on 3rd and 1 with the Heels at mid field and about six minutes left to go in the game.
Even the announcers commented on the fact that both the coaches and/or a third year starter like Bryn Renner should have called a time out instead of taking the five yard loss.
The reality is simple, if North Carolina had played like this against Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Virginia Tech they would have three more wins than they do have now. But they did not. And in this one, all they had was just a little less than what they needed to win.
The Tar Heels played their best game against the best team they have faced all year and they came up a bit short. In other games it was the offense that might have faltered some, in others the D that let up plays it should not have. In this one, it was the coaching staff that might not have been up to par as in other games.
Starting with the above mentioned missed time out, to the two QB system that to me made little sense. If you are going to give a drive to the back up, give him the full drive, inserting him a play, then back to Renner, then back to Williams was not a good idea. As a matter of fact the third and one where the delay of game was called I have harped on all post was also due to the fact that the QBs were being shuffled back and forth.
And while the two quarterback system might have worked in some plays, the fact was that the Hurricanes were, no pun intended, on their heels. The defensive line was gassed, the players were putting their hands on their sides and were tired overall. The changing of the guard all the time was giving the opponent’s defensive unit a bit more time to get some breath, not what you wanted when you are trying to win one from a Top 10 program.
Another thing that the UNC staff was not able to do is find a way to get the ball to their best player, both for the season and of this game, Erik Ebron in the second half. The tight end, who was destroying the Miami back seven in the first half, only got one catch in the first 27 minutes of the second half. I am sure that the visiting squad made dramatic changes on how to cover him, but somehow I have to say, more could have been done to seek him out. To be fair to the coaching staff, one of the interceptions thrown by Renner was when he overlooked a wide open Ebron, which would have given the Heels a first down, and threw to a wide out that was double covered.
In the end this game was a capsule of what the UNC Football campaign has been in 2013. A game that the Tar Heels could have won, heck, that they should have won, having a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter. But once again, due to a misplay here, bad timing on a penalty there, not being able to stop the opponent on a drive and not being able to make the play when it counts, a win became a loss. Stop me if we have not seen this before.
Now, with the fifth loss in the books, the second half of the season coming up, the real question becomes… can the Heels find momentum from having played their best game of the season, or will this last second lost haunt them for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.