Buck Sanders: Too often when UNC travels to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech, the outcome is the same. In 2007, 2005, and 2001 the Tar Heels came up a touchdown or less from a win, as they did this year. Outside from the similarities in the outcomes, what was different, if anything, about this loss? What were the positives and negatives you took away from this game?
Mark Paschal: If you are a competitive person, losing will always tick you off. I wish I had an answer for our blunders in Atlanta the past decade. I’m over moral victories against the Yellow Jackets; we have to start beating them down there. I went 0-2 in Atlanta, so I have failed there as well. I wouldn’t even watch the film from a defensive standpoint, there is nothing to be gained from watching it.
Scott Lenahan: Were there a ton of differences? Not a ton. But what I can tell you is that Georgia Tech added a wrinkle into their offense with the ability to throw the ball. They’ve never been much of a threat with the deep ball or for picking up much yardage in the air and they were able to do that this go around. Although any loss you find it hard to take away positives, I think this will be a game that Renner can learn a lot from. He’s never been placed in a situation where the game rested on his shoulders and he had to make plays and be the so-called “eye of the storm” in a two-minute offense. There were a few times defensively speaking where our secondary made some big mistakes that other teams will try to exploit.
Quincy Monk: I was part of the 2001 team when we fell a little short of coming up with the victory. It’s a tough feeling to get so close, but yet leave the game empty handed. When playing a team like Georgia Tech, you have to play disciplined football for 60 minutes. They have an offense that can frustrate a defense simply because they use several forms of misdirection to confuse the defense. In addition, we left some plays out on the field that I’m sure the team would like to have back. From this game some of the positives that we can take away are that we were able to create some turnovers and create more opportunities in developing our running game as well as our aerial attack. Areas that we can improve are definitely in taking care of the football. We gave Georgia Tech some great opportunities to score by blocking a punt and intercepting a couple of our passes. We need to make sure we take pride in protecting the football, and prevent easy opportunities for the opposing team.
Deems May: Georgia Tech runs their offense well. It seems every year we play them real early, where they are healthy and haven’t shown their total offensive packages. I would like to be able to play them later in the year where they have established tendencies, had injuries, etc. This would give our coaches the benefit of seeing how previous teams that season have defended the scheme, and cherry-pick ideas. It’s a gimmicky system that they run well and make tough to prepare for in a week. The system will never win a BCS game as opponents will have 12 game tapes and a month to prepare for it. Not whining or crying, those are just the facts and I would say it had we won by two touchdowns. I thought our defense played well enough in the second half to win. You have to give their coaches credit, when we adjusted to defend the option, they counter-punched with a nice inside trap game. We did have the ball with over 4 minutes and 2 time outs and a chance to go tie or win the game, we just didn’t execute offensively.
Buck: Georgia Tech’s offense is always difficult to defend, but this year they’ve added a passing dimension we’ve not seen, at least at this level, under Paul Johnson. Last year Josh Nesbitt only attempted 4 passes against UNC, this year, Tevin Washington attempted 14 passes, and they are more than doubling their passing yard average from last season. That said, how concerned are you about the UNC secondary going forward?
Deems: We knew coming in to the season that we couldn’t afford injuries in the secondary as it was where we were thinnest depth-wise. The Jabari Price injury hurt us. Boston is a natural safety and has a chance to be a good one. When Price comes back and Boston is at safety, we’ll know immediately if we will struggle all season or not. Until then, I’ll be optimistic.
Quincy: Georgia Tech definitely added a new dimension in the passing game, but it’s all centered around the running game. They have such a threatening running attack, that even if you’re not disciplined for one play, you can get burned as we saw with Georgia Tech’s receiver being left wide open. When playing defense, everyone on the field needs to have the mindset that ‘I’m going to take care of my responsibility,’ and unfortunately we had a few instances where there was a breakdown in the secondary and we paid for it. For the past few weeks, we have a few plays here and there where the opposing’s offensive receiver was left wide open. What we need to do as a defensive unit is to take pride in not giving up the big play. Hopefully we can learn some valuable lessons from the previous weeks to prevent this ongoing occurrence.
Scott: Well, I’m concerned, but not hopeless. We’ve still got talent, we just need better execution. Having been exposed like we were against Georiga Tech, other teams are going to hone in on that like a shark does when there’s blood in the water. There was something that a coach always told me: every week the other team is going to study the tape and find out who the ‘Whale’ is, the weak spot, and go after it over and over again. Meaning, if you’re the weak spot, well, you’ve got your work cut out for you the next game. Our secondary is going to need to play sound football this Saturday if they don’t want to be the ‘Whale’ the rest of the season.
Mark: I’m not concerned about what Georgia Tech did throwing the ball against us, that offense is so unconventional it doesn’t give the secondary a fair opportunity to be evaluated from a coverage standpoint because they are counted on so much to help stop the run. However, I am concerned about what ECU will try to do this coming week. These guys play basketball on grass and our secondary better cover and they better tackle or else it could be a long day. They will spread the field and look for the best one-on-one matchup and look to exploit it. A lot of questions we have about the secondary will be answered this weekend.
Buck: North Carolina has given up some yards in the passing game this year and next week the Tar Heels face a pass-happy attack next week in Greenville. It’s a much different offense in many ways than what UNC has faced this year, how will UNC try to defend ECU this Saturday?
Quincy: First thing the defense needs to do is to make ECU one-dimensional. What we need to do on defense is to make sure we stop all aspects of the running game. When you force a team to rely on one aspect of their offense, you can really start putting pressure on their team. I think we’ll see a more intense pass rush this week from our front four, and this will help with creating turnovers by the quarterback.
Deems: I haven’t seen ECU play, so I can’t really comment on how I think we will defend their offense. I do know they played South Carolina and VPI well and they have a nice home-field advantage. I hope we don’t have to venture too far from what we did last year on defense, which was overwhelm them physically. I do know we need more pressure up front and when Art Kaufman dials up a blitz, we need to get there and not get blocked.
Mark: The only way you can defend a team that throws the ball around like ECU is to create pressure on the quarterback and get receivers off the timing routes. Carolina will have to pressure the quarterback with the front four plus one each snap – I think it would be great to sub out a DT and bring in an extra linebacker to bring pressure (3 DL + 2 LB) each snap. As far as rerouting receivers, this is crucial to the success of our defense. Our defensive backs and linebackers will have to jam, shove and hit receivers when they are running their routes – that will get them off the timing routes with the QB. If they complete a pass, we have to tackle; no big plays!
Scott: With our secondary having trouble, I think that we won’t be dialing up a ton of blitzes. Possibly play a more conservative style of defense and don’t put our corners on an island with their wide receivers. Give them some support. We’ve got a great defensive line and linebackers and we need to play to our strengths. Our defense is talented enough to get to the quarterback and pick up sacks without having to blitze.
Buck: Bryn Renner, for the most part, and Gio Bernard have been pleasant surprises so far this year, and Dwight Jones has picked up where he left off last season. That said, do the Tar Heels need one or more new weapons to emerge on the offense, and if so, who are the candidates you think might be able to take a step forward the rest of this season?
Scott: Neo Gio has been extremely impressive. As Coach Withers said, it’s hard not to give him the ball with the way he’s toting the rock. I’d really like to see Nelson Hurst get involved more this season. Since Coach Shoop has been here, we’ve always been able to get the tight end good touches and we’ve utilized that position to our advantage. Renner will continue to grow as the season progresses, but as I said before, I think this past game against Georgia Tech will be a great game for him to learn from.
Quincy: I think Renner, Bernard and Jones have made strides and are continuing to get better on the football field. I would like to see Ryan Houston, Jhay Boyd and Erik Highsmith continue to get better and make plays for our offense, because we are going need all our offensive weapons as we get deep into ACC play.
Deems: Renner has been Jekyll and Hyde this season so far. When he has been on, he has been dynamite. When he has missed, the throws have been head scratchers. We need him to eliminate the mistakes. Conversely, the touchdown throw to Ebron last week would’ve hit a thimble, so the upside is extremely exciting. I think our candidates to step up are Eric Ebron, T.J. Thorpe, Sean Tapley, and Reggie Wilkins. You would hope that Highsmith and Boyd would take the load as they are more experienced, but Everett/Shoop/Charlie aren’t waiting around, they know they’ve got to get guys that will produce now. We have to get A.J. Blue more touches.
Mark: I would love for another player to step up and be a weapon on offense, but right now I don’t know who that guy is. I would increase the touches Gio and Dwight get and hope they continue to be as productive as they have been this year.
Buck: So far this season, what about North Carolina’s football team has surprised you?
Quincy: I am pleasantly surprised with the way our football team competes for 60 minutes. We have been in several situations where the momentum of the game hasn’t always been in our favor, but our team continues to fight until the very end. With the success of Renner and Gio, we have an opportunity to do some great things on the football field.
Scott: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the way this team has embraced Coach Withers and continues to play hard. I’ve been impressed with the job Coach Withers has been doing as the leader of this football team and the class in which he’s been doing it. As mentioned before, Gio Bernard had been very surprising and exciting to watch this season. I knew that we were going to have a good offense line this year, I just didn’t expect this little ball of energy to come out swinging and run for over 150 yards in only his third game of being the primary back. We’ve only seen the beginning of what this special young man is capable of.
Mark: 1) Gio is a baller. 2) Bryn has played very well for a guy going into the season with zero experience. 3) Lack of production from the superstars on defense.
Deems: Nothing surprises me any longer when it comes to Carolina Football. Everett had 9 days to prepare to become head coach, Art had 9 days to have to worry about a whole defense and not just getting his linebackers ready. That doesn’t happen anywhere in the country but Chapel Hill. Everyone surely wishes we were 4-0, but given the aforementioned, normally crippling (borderline comical) scenario, 3-1 ain’t bad. This is a resilient group of coaches and players, and when I left Atlanta Saturday I was proud of how they fought back in the second half, but I certainly wasn’t surprised. I know I’ll leave Greenville feeling the same way Saturday night; Everett and this team make us fans proud, not surprised.
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.
Quincy Monk recorded 247 tackles at linebacker during his Tar Heel career from 1998-2001. He was drafted into the NFL and spent three seasons in the professional ranks.
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.