UNC-Md: The Good & The Bad

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Andrew Jones analyzes Saturday's 59-7 loss to Maryland in his weekly "The Good & The Bad" column.

GOOD

Dexter Reid – What can you say about the team's best player? Once again he makes the "good" and he likely will for the rest of his career. He was in on just nine tackles, but some of the plays he made were Grade A.

Sam Aiken – Aiken's 10 receptions for 103 yards was truly a gritty performance. Many were short dumps over the middle, assuring he'd get pummeled. In a season of total downers, the senior's attitude and play has been a rare bright spot.

Zach Hilton – Hilton had two incredible catches for 21 yards. The yardage doesn't matter as both receptions were magnificent and because of his nature to go all out on every play. The NFL scouts are watching Zach!

Punting switch – Considering John Lafferty's struggles, one has to wonder why the staff waited so long to make a change. Lafferty was relieved of his duties by Paul Roberts, who bettered Lafferty by an average of 8.6 yards per kick. The switch was a good decision.

BAD

Embarrassment – The records set in this defeat were plentiful, and most certainly nauseating to UNC fans. But the reality is that a Maryland team that had been in the dumps for a decade before last fall ran all over a Carolina squad that prior this season had just one losing campaign since 1989. Read into it what you will, but blame can be spread throughout the Carolina football family - past and present. Yet it's up to the current regime to change the tone of UNC gridiron conversations from embarrassing losses to something positive. One can argue this approached the 1999 Furman loss in terms of sheer ugliness. One may argue it was even worse because the Heels had legitimate QBs playing and the excuse of Carl Torbush as head coach simply doesn't fly here. Plus, this team simply wasn't this bad a month ago. Heck, they were a lot better in the first half at Virginia two weeks ago!

Basic fundamentals – They just weren't there. Way too many penalties. Three illegal procedures on punts this year. False starts, you name it they've been flagged for it. The tackling is poor. It is an attitude, but it's also a technique. The blocking was bad. The passing mediocre at best. Special teams weren't exactly special. Nothing really worked and the team just did not appear

Heart? – Such a loss on Homecoming gives many observers reason to assume the team isn't playing with heart. Maybe that isn't the right thing to be searching for because the kids probably played heart and wanted to do well. But their football mental state is obviously a mess, and although they may have been giving it their all, it simply didn't appear so. Anyone who has been through down periods will understand that sometimes it's not the effort that should be questioned, but rather the state of mind and emotion, and the approach. As Will Chapman said two weeks ago, the Tar Heels are so fragile that when something goes wrong (see Maryland's first, second and third scores) they tend to wilt. But at the same time this team, even with all of the injuries on defense, just isn't this bad, and effort questions are certainly justified after such a beating. Maybe only a bottoming out or perhaps time – as in an offseason – can clear up this situation.

Regression – The offensive line has regressed in recent weeks. They haven't been particularly good at pass blocking all season, but the run blocking has gotten worse of late and the pass blocking is now simply terrible. This is why UNC's offense has slipped, not because there has been a change at quarterback. Who's to say that Darian Durant wouldn't have suffered the same fate as C.J. Stephens these last two weeks? With a line that has been shuffled around and is part of the team's psychological rut, no offense, regardless of the QB, would be successful.

C.J. Stephens – Stephens may not be as good as Darian Durant, but we may never know the true difference between the two, at least this year. The bottom line is that the procession of criticism levied his way is completely unfair. Has he been sharp? No. Has he been terrible? No. The opening drive Saturday was extremely impressive, and he had some other nice moments. However, he also should have had three other passes picked off. But to be fair, this team just hasn't been the same since halftime in Charlottesville. The offense has regressed and there are few encouraging signs on this team. This certainly isn't the type of nature that welcomes a new QB, especially one who hadn't started a game in four years until last week. To lay the blame at Stephens is irresponsible and ignorant. To conclude he has no business being considered a challenger to Durant is also a bit shortsighted because there is very little to gauge him by. Stephens and the QB position is the absolute least of UNC's concerns right now.

Last 10 quarters – The Tar Heels have been outscored 127-13 over the last 10 quarters going back to their 21-0 halftime lead at Virginia.

Last four second halves – In the second half of the last three games, and after UNC's 17-7 lead over N.C. State early in the third quarter a month ago, the Heels have been outscored 106-6.

Punt Return – First of all, the Heels were flagged for illegal procedure, then Laffterty belts a poor 29-yard punt, Maryland's Steve Suter catches the ball but UNC is flagged again, this time for a halo violation, and then Suter proceeds to race 77 yards for a touchdown - untouched. And, the Heels were penalized for a third time on the same play, this time for a personal foul. Has any one play symbolized this season more than that one?

Carl Torbush – It's obvious that Torbush didn't recruit well. Even his few remaining supporters will likely agree to that fact. The Tar Heels may have players that appear capable, but not every 6-foot-4, 285-pound person is meant to be a great or even quality football player. Put Tulsa's players in Texas uniforms and most fans couldn't tell the difference because the intangibles that make one successful on the gridiron go beyond physical makeup. While many of Torbush's recruits may have had many of the same physical qualities as those in many other classes, it is clear they didn't have the intangibles, and haven't learned them since arriving in Chapel Hill. To be fair, Torbush doesn't deserve all of the blame, but disregarding his role in this current mess would be foolish.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels host Clemson for a noon kickoff at Kenan Stadium for the final home game of the year. If UNC wins it will avoid a winless home season.


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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