The North Carolina Tar Heel special teams mirrored those of the days when Brown roamed the Chapel Hill sideline but this time Brown was the benefactor as the No. 4 Texas Longhorns pulled away for a 44-14 rout of the struggling Tar Heels before a national television audience on Saturday in Austin, Texas. The following is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's third loss in as many games.
Defense – Folks, this is an excellent defense. Yes, UNC is allowing 36 points per game, but the defense is essentially responsible for much less than half that and is only giving up 286 yards per outing. They forced Texas into uncomfortable sets in the first 38 minutes and even had the Longhorns questioning themselves despite UNC being in an early 14-0 hole. That ‘Horn lead came despite only five yards gained by the Texas offense.
Secondary – The secondary continued to defend the long ball well. Michael Waddell did an excellent job most of the time, especially on the ball to Texas star receiver Roy Williams on 3rd & 18 at the UNC 41 in the second quarter. This unit is tougher and tackles better than a year ago. UNC fans should be pleased with their play, especially considering the last couple of seasons. John Tenuta's brilliance as a coach is certainly showing.
Two-TD stretch – The Heels looked sharp in evening the game at 14 after getting behind early. Ronald Curry looked sensational during this stretch and made a Curry-like run to get the Heels their first score. The play calling was more conducive to Curry's natural skills, which was a positive change in philosophy. The long scoring drive was the first legitimate one Carolina has had all season while the game was still in doubt.
The TD run by Andre Williams was a combination of power and speed and the way he dove into the end zone is something rarely seen in recent years for UNC. For a moment, they looked like a big time club.
Played hard – Despite the many problems the Tar Heels had, they still played hard and came out intent on winning, not having a moral victory. Successful programs aren't built on moral victories and first-year coach John Bunting knows this and has effectively articulated this to the players.
Special teams – Hmmm, where to start? Nathan Vasher returned a punt 59 yards inside the UNC 10 that led to Texas' second TD and a 14-0 lead. … After a UNC score, the ‘Horns took the kickoff back to midfield. … A personal foul against UNC after the Heels tied it at 14 and had a decent stop on the ensuing kickoff gave Texas quality field position. … While it was still 14 all, Texas returned a punt to the Carolina 18 and nailed a field goal just moments later to take the lead they would not relinquish. Immediately after, Kevin Knight returned the kickoff to the 40, but a holding penalty brought it back to the 20 … UNC was forced to punt and was called for the halo rule, which turned out to be worth three points as Dusty Mangum belted a 49-yard field goal to close out the half and give the 'Horns a 20-14 advantage. He may not have connected on a 54-yarder. … After Texas went up 26-14, Knight bobbled the kickoff but didn't lose it. … After the ‘Horns went up 29-14, Knight returned the kickoff to the – FIVE, the Tar Heel five. A minute later, Curry was sacked in the end zone for a safety for a 31-14 deficit and the game was essentially over. … After Texas went up 38-14 on a Vasher 44-yard punt return for a score, Sam Aiken returned the kickoff to midfield but an illegal block returned the ball to the 25. Few major college special teams have played so poorly on nearly every opportunity than the Heels did on Saturday.
Offense – The Heels did run the ball better, especially in the first half with the more spread schemes and handoffs that allowed the back to choose their holes instead of running through predetermined holes that weren't there the first two weeks. However, in the end, the Tar Heels managed just 95 yards on 38 attempts. Carolina also threw for only 116 yards. UNC was flagged for two delay penalties in the first eight minutes of the game. Uggh!
QB's – Curry was bad again but at least this time had a few successful series. Overall, he continued to show little leadership and considering his lack of job security, he played with little if any sense of urgency or fear of loss. He continues to under throw the short ball, which has nothing at all to do with the number of offensive coordinators he has played for. Darian Durant hasn't been much better. He doesn't run as well as Curry but does throw a sharper ball and appears to check off his receivers more effectively, which isn't a significant improvement. Aaron Leak should have played in UNC's last possession. If nothing else, at least fans could have seen some of his skills.
Penalties – The special teams was responsible for a nice chunk of the 14 penalties for 108 yards that hurt the Heels. Even the defense got into the act being flagged for offsides four times, twice giving a then-struggling Texas offense 1st and five.
Turnover margin – Carolina is now -8 in the turnover department. UNC has fumbled the ball 10 times while losing four and been intercepted seven times. The Heels were near the bottom of the nation last year in this important category and have not improved one bit. In fact, if this pace keeps up, they will finish –32 for the season.
The Tar Heels open up their home schedule with Southern Methodist at Kenan Stadium Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The game is not on TV but all UNC fans should be there to support not just their team or the new coaching staff, but to also honor the great UNC teams from the late 1940's, the Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice era.
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He also is 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.