The Clemson win was huge, just what the doctor ordered. Defensively, UNC stepped up big against the Tigers’ running backs, Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper. What did UNC do to shut down their running game?
Scott: My hats off to the defense, I thought that the addition of Deunta Williams to the secondary certainly added a spark of energy and confidence that you could feel the defense feeding off of. However, I think with our offense getting out to such a fast start had Clemson playing catch up most the game, never giving them a chance to really get in a groove running the ball. Their go-to guy Ellington only got the ball 11 times, but averaged five yards a carry, which isn’t too bad. Don’t get me wrong, our defense was swarming to the ball and playing great football, but I certainly think that putting points up early hampered their playcalling ability.
Mark: I said going into the game that stopping the run would have to be Carolina's number one concern from a defensive standpoint. Having Williams and Da’Norris Searcy both back allowed the linebackers and defensive line to take chances at the line of scrimmage and they made big plays all day. Zach Brown played outstanding. Our defensive line played really well - keeping their offensive line off of our linebackers was huge. I was really proud of the effort defensively; it was a great showing by those guys.
Deems: Four years ago Saturday I walked out of Clemson’s stadium utterly disgusted. We had just been beaten by 45 points and they called the dogs off early in the third quarter. We were out-talented, out-coached, out-hit, and our kids quit. Fast forward to Saturday post game. As I embraced our embattled coach at mid-field (pictured at right); I distinctly remember the contrast in the feelings I had then and four years ago. I think most of our fans felt the same way. We simply have recruited much better talent and very significantly coached them up as well. The defensive players we had on the field Saturday out-hit Clemson, period.
Butch Davis, Deems May (ESPN)
As much as I want to give all the credit to our players, I must say the failure of Clemson's offensive coordinator to identify our weaknesses played a big part in our success. Napier chose to stay in the no-huddle spread offense and let Kyle Parker continue to throw the ball. He mistakenly thought he could exploit our young corners. He was wrong.
He also failed to recognize our leader tackler -- Quan Sturdivant -- was in street clothes and his replacement Zach Brown was the fastest guy on the team and covered so much ground in the quick passing game as if he didn't watch the tape of the ECU game. He also didn’t notice that in the second half Jordan Nix was out and we were down to four defensive linemen.
An experienced coordinator would've gone to two tight ends and pounded the ACC's leading rusher at us constantly. The reason I'm saying this is not to take away from our performance, but I want our fans to see the contrast. There are great recruiters out there and there are great game day coaches out there. There are very few that do both. Not only can our coaches recruit talent, but they can coach them, too. We have that in our coaching staff; we must keep this in tact. I will not -- and hope that all the readers don't want to -- go back to that feeling of four years ago.
In the past three weeks, T.J. Yates hasn’t had “great” games, but he’s played well enough for North Carolina to win. How do you assess his play to date, especially recently?
Mark: Say what you all want about T.J. - the kid is a winner and a leader. He would rather throw for 150 yards and win than throw for 410 and lose. This is a team game. He is doing everything in his power, each week, to go out and win the football game - just like every guy that has put on a Tar Heel uniform this year. He hasn't made mistakes, he's been a leader, he's made good throws, he's managed each game extremely well, he's won three straight - so I would say the guy is playing pretty darn good.
Deems: T.J. hasn't been nearly as accurate the last two weeks, especially on the long passes. He would be the first to tell you that. He also got away with throwing a very bad pick in the second half that was negated by a Clemson penalty. However, he stepped up, with the help of an incredible catch by Johnny White on fourth down, and another great job of getting rid of the ball to Johnny White on a third down to seal the win. Let's not forget 4-for-4 on fourth downs by our offense.
T.J. set the bar very high after the first three games, especially with his accuracy and decision making. The bottom line is we found a way to win and he has thrown only one pick. With all that he has been through over the last four years, I expect him to bounce back and get back to the T.J. of the first three games. With our depleted depth on defense, we sure are going to need him.
Scott: I can’t say enough about T.J.; obviously I’ve known him for quite some time and couldn’t be more proud of the way he’s played. The quarterback position comes with a lot of pressure and he has always been able to stay cool, calm and collected and be the leader in the huddle. With the different playcalling that Coach Shoop likes -- a lot of different motions and play-action -- I think T.J. is a great fit for this offense and intelligent enough to understand the schemes that are created. He’s proved everyone wrong this year with his play and I’m glad that we have him as our quarterback.
North Carolina hasn’t won in Charlottesville since 1981. You knew this was going to come up, only with a different twist – if UNC wins on the road at Charlottesville, how do you think that will affect Butch Davis’s support among influential boosters? In the grand scheme of things, do you think the opinion of big contributors really makes a difference to the decision-makers?
Scott: Certainly winning games is a huge factor in influencing decision makers and boosters. A win this weekend in Charlottesville would no doubt add to the confidence that our program is headed in the right direction. With everything that has happened this year as far as the different players and other issues that have taken place, I think that this football team has done a great job at pulling itself up by the bootstraps and gone out and won games. Having said that, the team and the way it had responded is in direct correlation of the leadership it is under, which I think speaks volumes about how great this program can and will be.
Mark: Winning on the road in Charlottesville would help, I guess. The big dogs brought Butch here. They are the ones who are giving a lot of money to see the university they love succeed. And they can be the people who demand a change. It really is a crazy political firestorm. But for what its worth, I support Butch Davis, I believe in Butch and I think he is the man to lead us out of this.
1981 is a long time ago. We are due, right?
Deems: Big and small contributors fund our athletic programs. Our Rams Club is as good as any fund-raising organization in college athletics as evidenced by our facilities and endowment. However, contrary to popular belief around the country, we do not have an unlimited budget.
We, like every other athletic department in the country, are feeling the effects of extreme budget cuts and the painful economy. We need to look no further than Cal-Berkeley, an institution we are often favorably compared to. They just cut five sports including baseball -- their baseball program was older than the New York Yankees -- and men’s and women’s gymnastics.
I told my wife, who was a gymnast here at UNC and enjoyed a scholarship, this and she couldn't believe it -- we all tend to take these things for granted. But it is real. All of our Olympic sports former and current players and coaches better hope we find a way to keep Coach Davis and that the Blue Zone thrives. The monies generated from a successful, profitable football program will help us keep our 28 sports and not go to the 16 or so sports that most SEC teams have. Those that are not in support of Coach Davis should have to be the ones that deliver the news to the teams and the coaches whose programs are discontinued if the Blue Zone and academic center become a debt-ridden building.
Some out there are worried about our image throughout this trying ordeal and that is understandable. But we all know that when it comes to Carolina it’s very cut and dry. You are either with us or an ABCer. Our wonderful institution wasn't built on image. It has been built on substance. Images can be repaired, substance can't. You either have it or you don't. We have identified major areas that need fixing.
Four years ago agents didn't know we had a football team. We have underestimated their corrupt tentacles and their ability to seduce with the power of money. Anyone that doesn't believe that we have learned a lesson and will emerge stronger is wrong. Our athletic director has been solid as a rock throughout all of this and as a former player I appreciate it. Our chancellor has stood by our coach and walks with him to every game and I also appreciate that. Nothing needs to be said about how our coach has handled this; his players are speaking for him. Let's continue to support all three, or we could easily go back to that feeling we had four years ago after that Clemson game.
Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.
Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point.