While it is yet to be determined if the Tar Heel defense has actually regressed to this point, there was little evidence Saturday night that it has improved either.
Florida State moved the ball virtually at will, ringing up a whopping 553 yards of total offense.
“We can definitely learn off this game,” defensive tackle Jonas Seawright said. “We’re going to bounce back, because we’ve got people who want to win.”
UNC fans may have to exercise a great deal of patience when the opponents have the ball this year, while the on-the-field results of a stellar 2003 recruiting class will take time to come to fruition.
“We’ve got to get our younger players playing,” UNC head coach John Bunting said. “We’ve got some younger players who can run, but they also need to know what to do, and sometimes that’s the problem.
“One of my biggest disappointments was seeing us not be able to match up with their speed on the perimeter. Their perimeter speed is fantastic and we just weren’t able to make big tackles on the perimeter.”
Demonstrative of Bunting’s assessment, the Seminoles’ screen passes seemed to yield five yards before the Carolina linebackers and defensive backs could get to the FSU receivers.
“There were just some things that we didn’t get done tonight and that hurt us,” UNC defensive end Jocques Dumas said. “We’ve just got to plug the holes. We’ve got to have all 11 guys where they’re supposed to be.”
The Seminoles’ Chris Rix had his way most of the night, passing for 232 yards and a touchdown to go with his two rushing scores.
“Chris Rix did an excellent job tonight with his reads,” said FSU’s Craphonso Thorpe, who led all receivers with seven catches for 83 yards. “He was patient and he let the play unfold. He was a lot better than a couple of years ago – a lot better. He didn’t try to force anything.”
Following the first of Rix’s two one-yard rushing touchdowns, the brash junior quarterback stomped his feet and shouted at the UNC defense perhaps in relief after living with his poor performance two years ago.
“You can gauge how well your quarterback plays anytime you only have to punt the ball twice,” FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. “That means you might not be scoring all the time, but you’re keeping the football.”
Bowden said his team didn’t run the score up as a means of payback for the 41-9 thrashing the Seminoles received the last time they visited Chapel Hill.
“We might have mentioned it and our players can read the papers,” he said. “But I don’t think we had to talk about it.”
So it’s back to work this week in practice, as the Tar Heels get ready for visiting Syracuse next week. Bunting said he will evaluate the game film on Sunday and he and his coaches will make the necessary adjustments.
“The tape doesn’t lie,” Bunting said. “I wanted everyone to make a total effort tonight and that will be evaluated. I do believe that we will play better and we will learn a little something from this.
“We have to find ways to make the plays.”