Posted on: December 31, 2010 2:12 am
Edited on: December 31, 2010 2:16 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
North Carolina uses a blocked extra point, three personal fouls, and two overtimes to knock off Tennessee 30-27 in the Music City Bowl.
Offense: The gift North Carolina fans got for Christmas was a healthy Shaun Draughn. Draughn has been battling an ankle injury since early November, but returned to make his first start of the season against Tennesee. The senior from Tarboro, N.C. had his second best outing for the season - rushing 16 times for 127 yards and a touchdown. Knowing that Tennessee was weak against the run, and both Elzy and Johnny White would be out, there was doubt as to if the Tar Heels would be able to take advantage of the weakness. Clearly they did, and clearly it worked out okay. GRADE: B
Defense: While North Carolina did give up 312 passing yards to Tyler Bray, they did limit the entire Vols offense to just 27 yards rushing. Forcing Tennessee to become one dimensional allowed the Heels to drop linebackers into coverage, particularly in overtime. Linebackers like Quan Sturdivant, who picked off Bray in overtime to set up the game winning field goal. The most impressive defensive performance might have come from Donte Paige-Moss. Paige-Moss returned from a busted nose he received from making a helmet-less sack to block the extra point to keep the score at 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. If that kick sails through and Tennessee claims a 21-17 lead, Barth's clutch leg would not have been an option. Big play after big play (not to mention Zach Brown's interception return), and this is a defensive squad lacking 3 future NFL draft picks. GRADE: A
Coaching: North Carolina head coach Butch Davis admitted after the game that the too many men on the field penalty was his fault. The offense had been told to clock the ball after Draughn's run, while the field goal team hustled out to try and kick it before time expired. The confusion was epic and the result, while the right call, will haunt Tennessee fans for a while. If anything, this was another example of Davis getting this team to battle back. It may be from suspension, it may be from injury, or in this case it was facing an impossible deficit in a not-so-neutral stadium. Somehow, the Tar Heels got it done this season - the newest Music City Miracle was just another example. GRADE: B
Offense: I know it stings for Tennessee fans right now, but there is plenty of good things to take away from the Music City Bowl. More than anything, the future is very bright with Tyler Bray under center. The freshman quarterback lived up to his late season charge against a tough Tar Heel defense and had a field day. Bray completed 27 passes to nine different receivers for 312 yards and four touchdowns. The deficiency in the running game (27 net yards) has to be a concern, and the three interceptions (particularly the last one) weren't fantastic, but there is plenty to be hopeful for with Tyler Bray leading the offense. GRADE: B-
Defense: Any positive things the defense did before the end of regulation will be completely forgotten thanks to some brutal decision-making in the final minutes. From Janzen Jackson's penalty on Harrelson to defensive end Gerald Williams' unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that set up North Carolina on the 12 yard line to start overtime. Additionally, giving up the touchdown drive before halftime was another huge momentum swinger, but after the way the game ended it seems like a moot point. GRADE: F
Coaching: It was mentioned earlier, but Derek Dooley will probably never want to play the end of close games ever again. After suffering this and the LSU clock debacle earlier this season, Dooley will lead the charge for a rules overhaul in regards to the punishments for substitutions I'm sure. But the blame will have to fall on Dooley as well for the penalties that cost them the game. Discipline issues in the college game will fall on the coaches as much as the players, and those three personal fouls in roughly a minute of gameplay changed the game entirely. GRADE: D
FINAL GRADE: Are you kidding me? Not to go all "standardized test," but if this game is graded in comparison to it's peers it is easily an A++. Not many games before today have carried this kind of impact on the entire college football community. Not to blow anything out of proportion, but this may the spark that gets the last minute run-off instituted in college football for offensive penalties. It does not belittle what North Carolina did in any way (the rule isn't in place), but it may be the last time it occurs ever again in college football. At least you have that kind of potential for historic significance. GRADE: A
Posted on: December 30, 2010 12:33 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2010 4:04 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
UPDATE: Shaun Draughn, who has been dealing with an ankle injury since early November, will start for North Carolina at running back. Draughn is the team's second leading rusher and was a starter in 2009 until suffering a season ending shoulder surgery.
The Basics: North Carolina (7-5) takes on Tennessee (6-6) in the Music City Bowl in Nashville at 6:40 p.m. on Thursday.
Why to watch: Earlier in the season, Tennessee made headlines by dropping their home-and-home agreement with North Carolina from the 2011 and 2012 schedule. North Carolina fans were upset to miss the opportunity to square off with their neighboring flagship university, and the Vols were upset to see a BCS opponent leave the non-conference slate. Both sides are coming in ready to make a statement, with the Volunteers fans looking to pack Nashville's LP Field for the Music City Bowl. Both teams have undergone major transformations since the preseason. North Carolina had the much-publicized agent and academic issues that saw as many as 13 starters missing time throughout the season. In addition to the suspensions, the Tar Heels have caught no breaks with personnel. Starting linebacker Bruce Carter, starting guard Alan Pelc, and the top three rushers, among others, are all out for the Music City Bowl.
Tennessee has undergone major changes as well, most notably at the quarterback position. True freshman Tyler Bray finally hit his stride in the second half of the season, helping lead the Vols to four straight victories to become bowl eligible. Bray began sharing snaps with starter Matt Simms in the middle of the season, but head coach Derek Dooley's gamble paid off when he gave the frosh the keys to the offense. In those final four games, Bray through for 1,234 yards and 12 touchdowns. North Carolina won't be guaranteed to see the Vols in the future, but they will get to see the future of the Vols on Thursday.
Keys to victory for North Carolina: Tennessee has a pretty poor rushing defense, giving up over five yards per carry. This would be a great time for Johnny White, Anthony Elzy, or Shaun Draughn to help set up T.J. Yates and the passing game by pounding the ball on the ground. With White and Draughn hurt, and Elzy scratched for academics, the running responsibilities will fall on Hunter Furr. That puts even more pressure on Yates, who will continue to pad his lead in the UNC record books in several major categories. The Volunteers defense does not give up the long ball often, but they also do not get a lot of interceptions. Yates performs well when he can pitch and catch the ball down the field, and they will need him to do it in order to score with a limited rushing game.
Keys to victory for Tennessee: Once Tyler Bray got in sync with his receiving corps, everything changed for the Volunteers. Tennessee finished the season ranked fourth in the SEC in passing, and several receivers all capable of making the big play. North Carolina's secondary, though loaded with talent, has not delivered the same shut-down performances from years past. Virginia Tech and North Carolina State exposed North Carolina's weaknesses in the pass defense, and Bray will be looking to exploit that. Another major opportunity for the Volunteers will present itself in the special teams play. North Carolina, mostly due to a shortage of players, has been weak in the special teams department all season. If they can get one or two game-changing plays out of special teams, it could mean a victory for the in-state underdogs.
The Music City Bowl is like: A MTV/VH1/Bravo reality series. Both Tennessee and North Carolina are "big names" in college athletics, but neither team has been able to stand out on the field this season. But off the field? Oh man, the storylines! Obviously there is plenty of juicy scandal in Chapel Hill, and Tennessee still has some lingering bitterness towards their ex (Kiffin). Imagine the Derek Dooley confessionals as he defends his support for "the new guy" Tyler Bray. Butch Davis hitting the Nashville streets to GTL? Okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
Posted on: September 7, 2010 8:07 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Generally speaking, conference awards for "player of the week" are a good thing; bringing some extra recognition to the top individual performances from each weekend is certainly in the best interest of the conference, its teams, and their players. Certainly, we can all agree on that.
And yet, the recent proliferation of these awards is a little unsettling. Sure, there's not a ton of value in a conference handing out one award each week to the quarterback who threw the most touchdowns and calling it "offensive player of the week," but the exclusivity of it--one side of the ball, one award, maybe two if both guys are deserving--at least gives the designation a little heft. That's why we were a little disappointed to see so many weekly awards handed out over the past couple days.
For example, the ACC gave the designation to eight different players this week. EIGHT! That includes--deep breath--an offensive back (UNC quarterback T.J. Yates), three co-offensive linemen (FSU's Zebrie Sanders, Georgia Tech's Sean Bedford, and Virginia's Oday Aboushi), a defensive lineman (Maryland's Joe Vellano), a defensive back (Maryland's Kenny Tate), a specialist (Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman), and a rookie (Miami running back Lamar Miller). Now, as a line play geek, honoring offensive linemen is something near and dear to my heart, so I hesitate to call for an end to such ridiculous practices as this. But... come on. Further, shouldn't the ACC really just honor offensive lines as a whole? They function as units far more than individual blockers, after all, and each of the linemen would have been made to look a lot worse if they weren't on the same page as the linemates next to them.
The ACC's avalanche of awards makes the Big XII's decision to announce co-winners in each of the traditional three categories positively reasonable by comparison, and we barely batted an eye at "MAC West Defensive Player of the Week" when the division elected not to give the award to two other people at the same time.
Look, it's fine to bring recognition to top performers, and we won't stoop to singling out any of these players as specifically being undeserving of the awards given to them. It's just that the more of these that get given out, the closer they come to being glorified participation ribbons, and where's the glory in that?
Posted on: September 5, 2010 12:04 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Is it possible for both teams to lose a game? LSU fans would probably argue yes after the Tigers' wild 30-24 survival against North Carolina. The decimated Tar Heels failed to convert a fourth down with under two minutes left, only to force a fumble on a game-clinching first down for LSU. With 1:08 left and no timeouts left, T.J. Yates drove UNC to the 5-yard line with 6 seconds left.
Alas, two throws into the end zone fell incomplete, the second bouncing off Zack Pianalto's hands as time expired. Both Yates and announcer Brent Musberger both thought there was some pass interference on the final play, and um, they kind of hand a point. It was the type of contact that doesn't always get called on the last play of a game (unless it's the 2003 BCS Championship, anyway).
So North Carolina comes away from the game 0-1 and still wondering when their 15 players will be declared eligible, while LSU gets a win but has even more reason to resent Les Miles and his offense than before (which, after the first half, seemed impossible). Fun times all around!