Inside Carolina Staff Chat: Staying Power

The Inside Carolina staff convened for a free-for-all chat in advance of North Carolina's game at Miami.

Greg Barnes - Welcome back to our new staff chat feature. I’m filling in for Buck Sanders today as moderator. Let’s start off with a trivia question: Miami has played in the same stadium since 2008, yet the stadium has had four names. Name three of the four. Go!

Mike Ingersoll - Sun Life is's currently Hard Rock...wasn't it originally Pro Player?

Tommy Ashley - I blew the stadium name on the podcast so I give up on that one.

Dijana Kunovac - I plead the fifth. I am so terrible at stuff like this!

Greg Barnes - It was Pro Player from 96-05. It was Joe Robbie originally. In addition to Sun Life, it’s also been Dolphin Stadium and Land Shark Stadium. 

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Mike Ingersoll - Got any more brain busters Greg?

Greg Barnes - Brad Kaaya is related to?

Dijana Kunovac - Oh his mom is famous!! She's an actress. She was the mom in My Cousin Skeeter.

Mike Ingersoll - No clue...a "kaaya" sounds like a tropical fruit...for some reason that's the only connection I make.

Dijana Kunovac - Did I win?

Greg Barnes - Yes, Dijana wins. She was Felicia in Friday, iirc. That’s all of my Miami-related trivia.

Dijana Kunovac - BOOM.

Greg Barnes - Okay, so the Hurricanes are ranked No. 16 at 4-1. Are they overrated, considering the loss to FSU, which is their only big-time opponent?

Dijana Kunovac - Far be it for a Mark Richt team to be overrated...

Greg Barnes - Ouch, there’s years of pent-up angst in that comment, D.

Mike Ingersoll - Haha super salty Dijana. But Miami has a solid run game, and they have Miami-esque D linemen, but whatever it is Richt is trying to do down there, it looks like they've bought in.

Dijana Kunovac - Don't get me started. I think it's kind of unfair to assess that. UNC didn't have such a tough schedule last year and I think many people went with the "overrated" narrative. Plus that FSU loss was BRUTALLY close...

Mike Ingersoll - And to that point, it's hard to win in a P5 conference, generally. I think they have the core group of guys that makes them dangerous. I think they're right where they should be ranking-wise.

Greg Barnes - Good points. It’s also tough for me to overlook the fact that Miami ranks top-25 in 11 statistical categories nationally. That’s strong regardless of opponent. Before we dive into Miami, I want to ask about the importance of this game for UNC. It’s far too early for a must-win, right?

Mike Ingersoll - Yeah, every team they play is full of guys who were the best players on their high school teams, just like every other matchup in D1. I think they're where they should be--a dangerous 16. No, it's right on schedule. If UNC loses, we're out of the ACCCG. Period. They have to win this or we're looking at 9-3 and the Belk Bowl at best

Dijana Kunovac - Well, if you ask Fedora, every game is a must win but, yes, after that performance against VT they have to come back strong.

Mike Ingersoll - I agree. And regardless of how much stock you put in that performance (I don't count element games as indicative of anything for either team, ever), a loss is a loss, and we lost it to one of two teams we needed to eliminate, VT and UM.

Dijana Kunovac - I think it's more than the ACC race, it's national perception, too. Right?

Mike Ingersoll - Absolutely. Carolina is one of only a few teams that can be top-20, lose to a team that ends up in the top 10 at one point, and fall out, then work their way all the way back in to the top 20, lose to another ranked team, and fall out.

Tommy Ashley - Can't lose this game or it's State Championship or bust for this group.  Two weeks ago, that thought was ridiculous.

Mike Ingersoll - That's all perception. What it is, is staying power. Voters want to see consistency out of this program. We'll start getting the benefit of the doubt after we string together 10+ win seasons, but without the Miami win Saturday, we can't pull that off. See Baylor.

Tommy Ashley - And that comment - mine - is in itself ridiculous given Carolina football history. Somehow a nine-win season will be spun as a disappointment by fans and local press.  Crazy.

Greg Barnes - I agree with Mike about the staying power. Competing for ACC titles is the ultimate goal, but it’s hard for that to become a year-in, year-out goal if the team struggles to stay in the Top-25.

Tommy Ashley - Win 9-10 games consistently and respect in the polls will come.

Mike Ingersoll - Tommy you're right, but I look at it like the Panthers. This team is built to win NOW. If they can't it's a disappointment.

Greg Barnes - The other factor is that fans have one eye on the 2017 season, which looks to be a rebuilding year, so that puts extra pressure on this season.

Mike Ingersoll - Same with those 07-09 teams I played on. Built to win 10-12 games a year, so 8-4 was always a disappointment. You're exactly right Greg.

Greg Barnes - Let’s talk Brad Kaaya. UNC effectively took him out of the game last year by making the Hurricanes one-dimensional. What’s the key for UNC’s defense to excel on Saturday?

Tommy Ashley - Pressure on Kaaya.

Dijana Kunovac - Yep, that front line.

Mike Ingersoll - Run penetration and tackling. Our tackling has been atrocious this year, notwithstanding the VT game (again, element game, hard to get a clear inference as to what that means re: D's development).

Greg Barnes - The coaching staff has bragged hard on Naz Jones, but who needs to step up to help him out? Is that more on the D-ends or linebackers?

Dijana Kunovac - Is it cheating if I say both, Greg?

Greg Barnes - No, Dijana, I think that’s fair.

Dijana Kunovac - I mean honestly that front line can't just rely on Naz to keep carrying them...

Tommy Ashley - I still don't understand why teams don't run 9 out of every 10 plays against Carolina.  Especially wide.

Mike Ingersoll - In the pass game it's actually the secondary. They need to cover guys up to give the front seven time to get home on Kaaya. We don't have a lot of Man Mountain Deans on our DL in the pass rush, but they all have motors. So if they have an extra second or two, that's where we disrupt Kaaya. In the run, it's LBs shedding blocks. They've been lacking in that department all year.

Greg Barnes - What are your thoughts on the secondary play thus far, Mike? Is the no interceptions deal a fluke?

Mike Ingersoll - It's not a fluke, it's a function of coverage. Guys haven't been in many positions to make plays b/c opposing OCs have found the gaps in Chizik's scheme. Unfortunately, we don't have the Jimmies and Joes to make up the difference (i.e. recover when those gaps get exploited and get there in time to make a play).

Tommy Ashley - Aside from JMU, has any team attacked Carolinas secondary?

Greg Barnes - Good point, Tommy. Only 30 teams nationally have defended fewer passes than UNC.

Tommy Ashley - If the TE drag and RB wheel is there, why would they? Best DBs in the League have very few INTs. A ton of intermediate throws are picking us apart.

Greg Barnes - So essentially the Jimmies and Joes don’t matter in the secondary if the Jimmie and Joes aren’t available up front?

Jason Staples - Completely agree that if you don’t have the Jimmys and Joes up front, you’re not going to be good enough on defense regardless of anything else. All starts there. You have to be able to stop the run and create pressure or the back seven is going to get killed regardless of how good you are back there.

Mike Ingersoll - Correct. The DL also helps turnovers on the back end by creating disruption. Even the perception of getting disrupted matters. If a QB knows he's going to have time to go through his drops and progressions, he's more accurate. That's just basic football psychology. There really hasn't been a lot of deep completions, but the 10-12 yarders are killing us, the routes that sit in that purgatory between the LBs and first level of DB.

Jason Staples - Like Mike said, that puts a lot of stress on the secondary, and Miami can really stress teams downfield with their TEs and Stacy Coley. But to me you’ve got to be willing to roll those dice and rely on Lawrence and Stewart to cover one-on-one. You might give up a play but better than giving up 400 yards rushing. 

Tommy Ashley - The DBs have done their job.

Dijana Kunovac - Yeah I agree with Tommy.

Jason Staples - Kaaya is pretty banged up after that FSU game, both with the possible concussion and a shoulder injury that seems to have affected his ability to throw the ball in that game. If I were Chizik, I’d try to get some early hits on him to affect him similarly. The other benefit of taking that approach is that it should also help with the running game—bring an extra guy in the box and stop the run first and get to Kaaya second if it’s not a run.

Greg Barnes - The betting line has crept up to 8 points for Miami, which I admit I don’t really understand. Maybe I’ve been blinded by UNC’s play over the past year-and-a-half, but I think this has the possibility of a bounce back game for Mitch Trubisky and the Heels. Agree or disagree?

Tommy Ashley - Depends on weather.

Dijana Kunovac - Too soon Tommy, too soon. I haven't seen Mitch Trubisky emotional ever and after that VT game, he was emotional. I think this team is poised for a comeback.

Greg Barnes - Forecast calls for 83 degrees with a 60 percent chance of rain. He was emotional, Dijana. That was odd to see.

Dijana Kunovac - Right?! Greg you and I talked a lot about how much of a straight shooter he is when it comes to interviews. You have to think this loss shook him and this team, especially after coming off of the FSU win.

Tommy Ashley - He cares.  And he struggled terribly Saturday.  I'd rather see emotion than that catatonic - mess.

Mike Ingersoll - It always rains in South Florida, so we'll see if weather becomes a factor. If it's dry, I think UNC can pull this one out. I also think if VT was played on Friday or Sunday, we're not sitting here talking about must-wins, either. But under solid conditions, this offense can run with anyone, and I don't see Miami scoring enough points to outlast a crisp UNC showing.

Dijana Kunovac - You have to consider that Miami has the same mentality too though. This is THEIR comeback game - and at home.

Jason Staples - I’m not sure the point spread favoring UM is that surprising given what they looked like up front on defense against FSU. They were really strong on the defensive interior and their DEs looked like Miami ends for the first time in years. Carolina absolutely must have Hood and Peterson back for this game IMO. They’re going to need to be balanced to win it because of how good UM is up front on defense and how well they run it on offense. Tough matchup.

Greg Barnes - Okay, guys, let’s wrap here. Good stuff from all. Talk to you again next week.

The Participants
Tommy Ashley - Co-host of the Inside Carolina podcast and contributor since 1998.
Greg Barnes - Inside Carolina's highly esteemed beat writer since 2007.
Mike Ingersoll - Former UNC offensive lineman ('07-10), current UNC law student and Inside Carolina analyst.
Dijana Kunovac - Video production coordinator at Inside Carolina from 2011-15, now back on part-time basis.
Buck Sanders - Daily football columnist and Inside Carolina's president since 2000.
Jason Staples - Former FSU WR, now QB coach with a PhD from UNC and Inside Carolina's Xs and Os analyst since 2013.

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