UNC-WFU: The Good & The Bad

C.J. Stephens

The North Carolina Tar Heels and their fans are getting used to this, and that's not good. <br><br> UNC dropped its third consecutive game, falling 31-0 to Wake Forest at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem on Saturday, and now must win out to be considered for a bowl game.

Here is a look at the good and bad of UNC's sixth loss in eight games, and fourth in as many Atlantic Coast Conference contests.

GOOD

Dexter Reid – UNC's best player had another sensational afternoon. He was in on 13 tackles that included some impressive pops. Every Tar Heel, both on offense and defense, should watch Reid and learn from his example. He plays at his maximum level on each play regardless of the score.

C.J. Stephens – Stephens had a better game than many are giving him credit for. He completed 17 of 27 passes for 221 yards with an interception. He moved the team in the first half, but mistakes, including a missed field goal, a fumble, and his thrown interception, derailed several drives. Nobody knows how much more or less successful Darian Durant would have been. But when a quarterback like Stephens is making his first start in nearly four years, had thrown just 30 passes in that period, is playing with a reshuffled offensive line in which only one starter – center Jason Brown – was in the same spot he was a week ago and one was a true freshman who just last week had the redshirt removed, and had the numbers and played with the poise Stephens did, UNC fans should be extremely overjoyed by his effort and overall performance. Not to mention his terrific attitude.

Jeff Longhany – Longhany continues to develop, and like last week at Virginia, had his best performance of the season to date. He was in on 12 tackles (six solo) and showed some badly needed athletic ability at times. The freshman is at least providing some reason for optimism.

Madison Hedgecock – Credit Hedgecock for switching positions earlier in the week, moving from fullback - where he had started since last season - to defensive end. The move was out of necessity and he accepted the request from the coaching staff for the good of the team, as he expressed after the loss. He actually was in on five tackles and battled hard. The young man has guts and his efforts should be appreciated

BAD

Injuries – This simply can't be overstated as a reason why the Tar Heels are struggling. Of the projected starting front four on defense prior to the season, only Isaac Mooring saw any action on Saturday, and that was just a few snaps. Will Chapman is out for the season. Eric Davis was lost for the year early on, and Donti Coats was out as well. Two freshmen and a junior Clay Roberson, who got little playing time before this season, started at linebacker. The need for Hedgecock to move the defensive end, and then receive significant playing time, should clarify the dire situation the Heels are in.

Run defense – Although injuries are an excuse and Wake is very well coached and executes at a high level, it's difficult to understand how the Demon Deacons could ever control UNC's defense at the line of scrimmage as it did. It wasn't as if Wake used primarily misdirection plays. They had tremendous success running right at the Tar Heels. For the game the Deacs had 245 yards on the ground and had the ball for 33:25.

100 yards – UNC has now allowed an opposing tailback to run for at least 100 yards in six of eight games. Syracuse didn't have one and neither did Arizona State (both UNC wins), although ASU did chew up 183 yards on the ground as a unit. Incidentally, both of the Heels' wins came at Syracuse and ASU.

Pass defense – Bunting was particularly unhappy with how his cornerbacks performed. Kevin Knight, who usually ends up in the "Good" section here, had one of his worst outings of the season, and Michael Waddell wasn't sharp either. They were forced into a lot of single coverage situations due to UNC's plan of stopping the run with as many as nine guys in the box. Still, for Wake to pass for 213 yards, with 152 coming in the decisive first half, Carolina just didn't play as it should have in the secondary and applied little pressure to Wake's QBs.

Wake vs. UNC – The Deacs have now won two in a row over the Heels and three of four. The losses include an ugly 19-3 loss at Kenan Stadium in 1999, last year's blown 24-point lead, and Saturday's debacle. In the last six quarters against Wake Forest the Demon Deacons have outscored the Tar Heels 66-7.

2nd half messes – Going back to UNC's 17-7 lead on N.C. State midway through the third quarter two weeks ago, the Tar Heels have been outscored 78-6 in the second half. Dating back to halftime of last week's loss at Virginia, UNC has been outscored 68-6.

Reality – It appeared that reality had settled in with UNC coach John Bunting after Saturday's loss. The look on his face when he met with the media wasn't exactly relief, but perhaps a certain resignation that his team isn't very good, but had too many players seeing action that aren't either ready or aren't capable, and that they may not win again. Please note he never said this, but it appeared as if that was at least somewhat the case. He may refocus a bit now and begin to look more into the future with his personnel.

Last 330 days – Since Dec. 2 last year, UNC's two main sports teams – men's basketball and football – have combined for a paltry 11 victories. That's nearly one win per month.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels return home next week to take on a Maryland team that has won five consecutive games and has improved as much as any team in the nation since the season began. Game time is set for 1:30 and it will not be televised.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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