Deems & Mark: State of the Heels

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders conducts the weekly roundtable discussion as former Tar Heels Deems May and Mark Paschal tackle the key issues, including Thursday's game at Virginia Tech.

Buck: It was the tale of two teams last Thursday. In the first half the offense moved the ball well, in the second half, outside of the opening drive, not so much. After holding FSU to six points in the first half, the Tar Heels gave up 24 in the second half. What did they do right in the first half that they didn't do right in the second? Or is it just a matter of the team losing their composure when they face adversity?

Mark: It came down to making big plays, limiting their big plays, and turnovers. In the first half, the Tar Heels were the aggressors on offense and defense and dictated the tempo and style of play. The second half, they came out a little on their heels after some things went FSU's way. They forced the big turnover in the 2nd half, and then hit some big plays and that's the story.

You cannot give a team like Florida State any sense of hope or momentum. Like I said last week before the game, they are front-runners - they play their best ball when things are going well and they have the momentum and we gave them that momentum. They were about three points away from giving up on that game, but that turnover-turned-huge-play-touchdown was the difference maker.

Deems: The first half of football was as fine a half as we've seen in the Butch Davis era. The second half could not have started any better – a three-and-out and a touchdown by the offense. We all know what happened after that. There is not one single player or coach to blame. It was a collective collapse. The defense gave up a long drive that resulted in a TD. As a defense UNC has to smell blood and step on their necks when up 24-6. Period. FSU wanted to quit, 24-13 gave them life.

UNC knew the Seminoles were capable of scoring so after their score the interception was a killer. T.J. Yates knows that and would love to have that throw back. Many say, "Well it was just like a punt, they were pinned on the two yard-line, etc." But it is a bit different. The defense had just given up a long scoring drive, they were on sideline making adjustments so the "sudden change" got them up off the bench and onto the field, whereas if it got to third and fourth down, mentally they are ready to go back if UNC doesn't convert.

Our defensive backslid got beat and the rest is history. Our defensive back has to grab him and tackle him if he can. Everyone loves the blitz and screams for the blitz, well UNC blitzed -- now you know where the term "live by the blitz and you die by the blitz" comes from, and we were dead after that.

Buck: A couple of weeks ago we talked about whether it was a perfect time for UNC to play Georgia Southern. Given the way UNC played on both sides of the ball last week, is this the worst possible moment for the Tar Heels to be making a trip to Blacksburg?

Deems: Everybody is so doom and gloom about going to BLACKSBURG and BEAMERBALL. "Oh, we are going to get killed, they are so good, they are best." Yada, yada, yada. I went to Alabama/UT game Saturday, our first half beats both of those teams and beats Virginia Tech; UNC is not that far behind anyone. Alabama won with a great defense and a kicker who made two field goals over fifty yards. Tennessee missed three field goals, having two of them blocked, or they beat the No. 1 team in the country. I'm so glad I went to that game, because I'm excited about our future and I know we are close to being competitive with everyone in the country. If our fans don't believe that then don't go tomorrow night or don't turn on ESPN - I'm sure "Dancing with the Stars" is on, my wife watches it every night.

Mark: This will be a challenge for UNC again offensively, but I truly believe Virginia Tech is a beatable team. I will warn the fans that this Tar Heel bunch better come to work and get ready to hit them in the mouth early and often if they plan on coming out of that environment with a 'W.'

I have never really felt that Virginia Tech is a great, unbeatable giant that the media and fans sometimes make them out to be. Are they good? Yes. They are very good, but they aren't world-beaters. Sometimes when things start going poorly, you find out who will compete week-in and week-out and who are the winners on your football team. This will be a great opportunity for the guys to showcase themselves on a national stage once again and see how they match up against a top caliber ACC football team.

Buck: Mark, the Tar Heels did a good job last year against Tyrod Taylor. This year, however, he seems much improved. Looking at the Virginia Tech offense this year, can the UNC defense come up with a similar or better effort?

Mark: I'm still not sold on Tyrod Taylor. He doesn't like contact. UNC intimidated him last year. He took himself out of the game. You shut down Tyrod just like we did last year - hit him in the kneecaps every time he tried to scramble. Trust me, a guy like Tyrod thinks he is the next "Vick" and all he is trying to do is get to the "League" - take some shots at him, punish him when he scrambles, and he will fold like a cheap lawn chair. They are a very average offensive football team if you do this for four quarters. If the UNC defense comes to play like we all know they can, Tyrod and their offense should be a non-factor.

Buck: Some fans believe that at a certain point in a season, when it becomes apparent that the goals set before the season are slipping away, the team should use the rest of the season to prepare for the next campaign. That's tough on seniors and I know it is a delicate topic, but is that something that consciously or unconsciously becomes a consideration?

Mark: I think that is a loser mentality. There is nothing more that frustrates me when people who say, "Yeah, lets pack it in and look to next year." I will tell you one thing is for certain, those players on that football team aren't thinking that way. They have a whole lot more invested in this than Joe Bleacher does. These guys have given their blood, sweat and tears into rebuilding this football program. The seniors' sand is running out of their hourglass. This isn't a time to "look to build for the future." Go out there and compete and finish the season on a strong note. There are still a whole lot of games on this schedule to win. Be a man, look yourself in the mirror and go compete and play. Continue to play the guys who give you the best chance to win.

Looking to the future is for spring ball.

Deems: The Tar Heels are 4-3, and sure, they will not play for the ACC Championship, but they can still improve the record from last year and go to a nice bowl. Consciously or unconsciously be damned, put your best 22 on the field (regardless of age) that; a) are not scared of any opponent especially the "vaunted Hokies, and their wonderful Beamerball," b) play every down like it's their last, c) fly around and knock people out, and d) don't go into the tank if things go wrong out there. If they do that they will win out, if not, they won't win another game.

Buck: Deems, during your first playing year at UNC, 1988, you were involved as a quarterback with a team and staff that changed who the starting quarterback was almost on a weekly basis. With T.J. Yates struggling the way he has in recent weeks, what are the pros and cons of making a change at quarterback at this point of the season?

Deems: I was the starting quarterback in 1988 for the first three games of that year against South Carolina, Oklahoma, and maybe Auburn? I got hit so much I can't remember. I was overrated first of all, coming out of high school, and I totally lost any confidence after getting sacked and beat up so much that I eventually moved to tight end. We changed quarterbacks often to no success (1-10, but it turned out to be a great move for me). So I have to believe that the offensive line struggles is the reason why we haven't seen Bryn Renner, especially in the Georgia Southern game to get some experience.

Conversely, as a senior (1991), Coach Brown came up to me after a loss and asked me what I thought about starting Jason Stanicek, as he was going to be the quarterback of the future and what my thoughts were as a senior and offensive captain. I told him to play him if he thought we could win with him. This turned out to be a great move and we went 7-4 and it launched a great career for Stanicek. I firmly believe that if Coach Davis thought UNC could win with another quarterback, no matter how old he is, he would be in there.

The quarterback position is only about two things: making plays and leadership, nothing else. You either have those two abilities or you don't.

Buck: Thanks a lot guys, and we'll see you again next week.


May
Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point. He's the host of the Inside Carolina Call-In postgame radio show.

Paschal

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