UNC-Clemson: The Good & Bad

The North Carolina Tar Heels used an array of defensive looks and shut down highly potent Clemson and its Heisman Trophy quarterback in a surprising 38-3 victory before an overflow crowd of 84,000 at Memorial Stadium in Death Valley on Saturday.

Here is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's fifth win in a row and fifth in eight games.

GOOD

John Bunting – If anyone doubts UNC coach John Bunting's ability to be the CEO of a football program, they don't know much about college football. After witnessing Saturday's performance, it's clear that Bunting knows what he is doing and doesn't try to do it all himself, like some of the self-absorbed coaches. He delegates authority well and manages the entire project that is UNC football. He exudes confidence and obviously understands how to motivate players while teaching and maintaining his perch as the program's premiere authority figure. He appears to manage game-week preparations in addition to the games. So far, it appears that this may be a special union.

Defensive line – This was one of the great performances by a UNC front line in some time. The Heels did a sensational job of staying in their lanes, playing laterally while also applying pressure on Clemson QB Woodrow Dantzler. Their athleticism and intelligence was a lethal combination that would have likely stopped any offense on this day. They held CU to just 209 total yards, 65 on the ground and the Tigers completed just 14 of 46 pass attempts.

Julius Peppers – What can be said about this wonderful athlete that hasn't already been said or written? He is simply the best athlete in college sports and may be the greatest overall athlete in UNC history. Peppers snared his third interception of the season Saturday – and his fourth in nine games dating back to the Duke game last year – and did a great job fighting off double and triple teams against the Tigers. He has a tremendous attitude and plays with great passion and intelligence.

Secondary – After a tough week against Virginia, the DB's had an excellent game against the Tigers. They defended the long ball exceptionally well and didn't allow many short tosses. They also played the run well staying in balance with the front seven and tackled on the outside extremely well. Dexter Reid's sack on a blitz in the first quarter helped to set the tone for the entire game.

Intangibles/Offensive line - The offensive line was superb, kicking game excellent and the communication on the field was outstanding. The Heels had scoring drives of 80, 80, 80, 54 and 54 yards. Carolina ran the ball 54 times for 219 yards and allowed just one sack. UNC also led in the time of possession battle 33:08 to 26:52.

Quarterbacks – Like last week, Curry was off to a great start before getting injured. However, this time he made it well into the third quarter and was moving the Heels to a fourth touchdown before injuring his hamstring. Curry ran the ball extremely well and threw a few gorgeous passes including the 48-yard scoring strike to Bosley Allen. He threw for 109 yards and ran for 82.

Durant was exceptional, completing all 11 of his passes for 97 yards and running for a pair of TD's. This position is no longer a weak link in any way. Both can handle the job and share it well. Durant has shown tremendous maturity for a freshman.

Bosley Allen – Allen hauled in four passes for 100 yards including a pair of TD receptions. It was nice to see him get into the scoring column and do so with such grace.

Pass routes – Unlike the last few years, if UNC needs five yards for a first down the plays call for routes of six yards, etc., for the primary receivers.

Andre Williams – Williams is an extremely impressive back. He doesn't have blinding speed but is the kind of workhorse to help a team win championships. He is a clock-eater because he runs hard, straight ahead and usually stays in bounds. He shows more ability to run wide each week, but can turn up field quickly with his shoulders squared to the end zone. He had 91 yards on 23 carries and a score on Saturday.

Game plan – The game plan was exceptional. Brilliant. Defensive coordinator John Tenuta used up to six different personnel groupings and schemes, which had the Tigers flustered all day. In fact, defensive tackle Ryan Sims was apparently decoding Dantzler's audibles and the linebackers were calling out the plays as they blitzed and famed the rush. Dantzler called a timeout twice in the first quarter after calling and audible at the line of scrimmage. That just doesn't happen often at any level.

Offensively the Heels were prepared to run the ball either through basic run sets and attacks or from the pass. Curry said they called more than the 18 passes that were thrown but as the receivers and backs have learned more about blocking down field and the line has become conditioned to sustain their blocks, there is a run option on most passing plays. This worked to perfection on Saturday.

Confidence – The coaching staff clearly has a great deal of confidence in the players. The call late in the first half on 4th down to throw the ball toward the end zone took guts and was smart. It almost worked but was an example of how the staff now has the confidence in Curry that may have been different six weeks ago.

Character – This club obviously has tremendous character to have come back from an ugly 0-3 start to be 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the tough ACC. They have battled all year and overcome weaknesses to the point where there were no areas of weakness on Saturday.

Position – The Tar Heels are in second place in the ACC and trail Maryland by one full game. However, the Heels are in great shape to win the conference title. Maryland must travel to Florida State this week and also later host Clemson and then go to N.C. State. After the Heels visit Georgia Tech on Nov. 1 they host Wake Forest and Duke in conference play. It appears that the Heels are in excellent position to win the title and go to the Orange Bowl. Truly amazing!

Fans – The 4,000 or so UNC fans at the game were excellent. They made a great deal of noise and were constantly encouraging the team. They stayed well after the game to celebrate with the players near the locker room. It was great to see the fans so excited.

Environment – Make no mistake, Clemson is a football town. They know how to put on a good show. The tailgating is everywhere and the smell is wonderful. They wear orange and wear it well. Perhaps there were too many pairs of orange overalls, but the fans displayed their passion for football and the Tigers. The stadium was also full when Clemson took the field, running down the hill after touching Howard's Rock, which is one of the great scenes in American sports. If only UNC had more of this.

BAD

Chapman's injury – Defensive tackle Will Chapman will miss the rest of the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. It will be two to three weeks before he even has surgery and should be ready to go next fall. However, this is a huge blow to a UNC front line that had become one of the nation's best. Senior DT Anthony Perkins, who is fresh off recovering from an injury, and sophomore Donti Coats will take his place. This will be just one more thing for the Heels to overcome.

Penalties – Carolina was flagged eight times for 86 yards for the game but in the first quarter had two 15-yard penalties on Clemson's only scoring drive and had three for the half. One was on a late hit and the other was illegal participation.

Lack of respect – This isn't necessarily a bad thing considering this team has thrived on being an underdog and not being respected. But at this point, considering the schedule the Heels have played (second toughest nationally) and having won five in a row one would expect them to be ranked in the coaches poll as they are in the Associated Press poll (No. 23). ESPN ignorantly posted UNC's stats for the first three games compared to the last five and didn't clarify the scoring allowed number. UNC's defense wasn't blitzed early like ESPN and too many voters nationally assume, the offense and special teams allowed 41 points (five TD's and three safeties) directly and had a hand in 27 other points allowed. That's 68 points in eight games (all in the first three though), which is 8.3 per game. Meaning UNC's defense is mostly responsible for just 13.5 points per game.

Plus, Peppers deserves some talk regarding the Heisman Trophy. None of the offensive players in the running have consistently done enough to separate themselves so why not Peppers. He is as lethal as Hugh Green was in 1981 when he was a candidate as a defensive end at Pittsburgh and his three interceptions are more than some of the nation's premiere DB's have. Perhaps this is the year to turn what the award stands for completely around.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels will be off until Thursday Nov. 1 when they visit Georgia Tech at 8 p.m. on ESPN. If Carolina wins that game they might well win the ACC title and go to the Orange Bowl.


Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.

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