UNC-FSU: The Good & Bad

UNC-FSU: The Good & Bad

There was little chance that North Carolina was going to upset Florida State in Tallahassee. And although UNC was soundly beaten 40-14 by the Seminoles, there were finally some positives that coach John Bunting can take from the defeat.

Here is a look at UNC's ninth loss in 11 games, seventh in as many Atlantic Coast Conference tilts, and sixth consecutive defeat.

GOOD

Rush defense – The 'Noles ran for just 141 yards on 38 carries (average of 3.7 per attempt), and disregarding Adrian McPherson's yards – which included two sacks – FSU ran for 95 yards on 27 attempts (3.5 per carry). UNC also stopped 16 Seminole rushing attempts for two yards or less. The Heels made a lot more contact at the line of scrimmage than in recent games and also swarmed laterally better. More tackles were made wide than in any game since perhaps Syracuse. It also ended a string of 100-yard rushers in each loss this season.

Late 3rd quarter – Lets face it, considering the Heels' monumental struggles of late, trailing just 20-7 late in the third quarter was major progress. Had Carolina not missed some opportunities earlier in the game (missed FG, dropped INTs, dropped passes, penalties), the score at that point could have been much closer. But, all things considered, 20-7 with three minutes left in the third, especially at Doak Campbell Stadium, is a step forward.

Bobby Blizzard – Blizzard caught six passes for 100 yards, including his fifth touchdown of the season. He has excellent hands and consistently turns up field. He is difficult to bring down and has a tremendous attitude.

Dexter Reid – Reid played an excellent game despite a season-low five tackles. In fact, that he had so few tackles is a major positive for the Heels. That means other players were making plays instead of Reid, the team's free safety, bailing the team out as he has all season. He also had a sack and a pair of pass deflections.

Doug Justice – It has appeared much of the time this season as if the Heels have had no middle linebackers, but on Saturday there was little room for FSU to run up the middle most of the day. Justice and the other LBs were much better against the run, and Justice himself was as quick as he has been all year, showing decent sideline-to-sideline ability, and improved success tackling. He led the Tar Heels with nine tackles.

Derrick Johnson – Johnson played his best game of the year. He was beaten a few times, but also made some plays. His sack of Adrian McPherson stymied an FSU drive and forced the Seminoles to kick a field goal when they went up 3-0 in the second quarter. He was in on six tackles, broke up two passes, and was responsible for some quality coverage at times.

Jacque Lewis - Lewis ran the ball 11 times for 61 yards with a long of 32 on UNC's first scoring drive. Although he did fumble on the run, the Heels recovered and scored two plays later. He ran hard and turned a few no-gainers into two and three yard runs.

Pass defense at times – The Heels deflected nine passes and forced McPherson into some poor throws and to simply throw the ball away on a few more attempts. Overall, McPherson's stats (15-30, 237 yards, 4 TDs) were quite good, but had UNC's performance more resembled the last month his numbers would have been far more impressive.

Third down defense – FSU was just 5-13 on third downs.

BAD

0-7 – For just the second time ever, UNC has reached the seven-loss mark in ACC play. The only other time UNC lost seven ACC games was in Mack Brown's second year (1989), when Carolina went 0-7, and 1-10 overall.

9th loss of season – The loss to Florida State means this UNC club is now the third losing-est Carolina football team ever. Only Brown's first two teams that each went 1-10 have lost more games than the 2002 Heels. Only four other UNC teams finished with eight losses, one coming in 1999. So, four of the seven losing-est teams in Carolina history have come in the last 15 years, dating back to Brown's first season in Chapel Hill.

11 wins in 11-plus months – The loss also means UNC remains stuck on just 11 wins combined in its two main sports programs (football and men's basketball) since early last December.

Penalties – UNC was penalized nine times for 75 yards, but a few of the penalties were crucial. One erased a converted third down for UNC and another was an offsides on the Heels on a third-and-two for FSU at the UNC 22. The 'Noles later scored on that possession.

Turnover ratio – The Heels gave the ball away three times to none for the Seminoles. UNC is minus-10 for the season in turnover ratio. No other ACC team is in the negative. Wake Forest is plus-14.

Field position – Carolina's average starting field position was its own 19-yard-line. FSU's was its own 42. The difference is 23 yards per possession better the 'Noles, meaning that since UNC had 14 possessions, FSU had a 322-yard advantage for the game in starting field position. The Seminoles had just 71 more total yards than the Heels, thus more comparable field position for UNC could have meant a close game.

Completion percentage – C.J. Stephens (16-40, 175 yards) and Matt Baker (3-9, 55) combined to complete a paltry 19 of 49 passes. Stephens did have five balls dropped, but he also missed badly, often throwing behind receivers. He read some wrong routes and even threw the ball away on a fourth down. He was sharp over the middle though. Baker had similar problems from previous weeks. But his TD pass to Danny Rumley was pretty nice.

Missed opportunities – The Heels dropped a lot of passes, on both sides of the ball. Sam Aiken (two receptions for just 17 yards) had perhaps his worst game of the last two seasons. He dropped a couple of balls. And, Kevin Knight and Malcolm Stewart both should have had picks.

58-point turnaround – One year after UNC blasted FSU 41-9, the Seminoles exacted their revenge to the tune of a 58-point turnaround in the 26-point victory.

Musical tailbacks – After the Wake Forest game Bunting adamantly said that Mahlon Carey was his tailback, having replaced Jacque Lewis. Carey had three carries to Lewis' 11. Last week Lewis had nine to Carey's eight, but the week before Carey had 17 to Lewis' one. Bunting never cited an injury as to why Lewis wasn't playing, but it now appears he is back as the team's No. 1 back again.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels travel to Duke (2-9, 0-7 ACC) in a battle for eighth place in the ACC and for the Victory Bell, which UNC has retained every year since winning it back in 1990. The game is set for noon and will be televised by JP Sports.


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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