Deems & Mark: State of the Heels

Inside Carolina's weekly roundtable discussion with former Tar Heels Deems May and Mark Paschal ...

Buck: The Boston College game was one of the strangest I've seen this year. In a game that was expected to be a low-scoring affair, and Boston College favored by about a field goal, it was stunning to see the Tar Heels take a 21-0 lead. How does getting a lead like that so quickly change the game? Or does it?

Deems: Two things can happen when a team jumps out to a big lead like that a) you smell blood, step on their necks and finish them by halftime, or b) you relax, don't execute and let them slowly get back into the game. UNC offensively was ‘b' and defensively was ‘a.' This is a team game however, and as much as the UNC defense wanted to finish them the offense didn't allow that to happen. Fortunately (as has been the case all year) the defense didn't let it frustrate them. And the offense, though only scoring a total of 10 points (you can't count the touchdown after Williams' pick as offensive no matter what the stats say) actually gained some yards in the second half and won the field position battle and allowed the defense to rest. They just couldn't score and BC's defense must be given some credit for that.

Mark: The game was low scoring if you take away the defensive scores, and putting the offense on the one-yard line. Their defense controlled the UNC offense for nearly the entirety of that game. I'm glad the UNC defense got on that plane up to Boston or else the outcome probably is not as pleasant.

When you jump on an opponent 21-0 in the first half, a sigh of relief obviously sets in on the sideline. The cushion you have with that lead changes the game plan up. For UNC, shorten the game, don't turn the ball over and don't give them an opportunity to get back into the game. For the team that's down, a more pass-happy approach will probably ensue. Problem was, UNC turned the ball over and let them get back into that game. The defense deserves a lot of credit for that win and the offense was able to make enough plays to hold on to the victory. I could not be more proud of the way the guys hung in there and fought for that win.

Buck: Deems, that was an ugly offensive game – on both sides – last weekend, and now there are only two games left. How would you try to change what UNC is doing offensively at this point of the season? What are the staff's options?

Deems: There are no options and you can't change anything this late. All you can hope for is that you can put some drives together like the first one against Boston College last week. That was as flawless and well-executed a drive as they've had all year and it was encouraging.

Coach Shoop has done an incredible job this year given the inconsistencies, injuries, and youth on this offense. I would not want to call plays at all for this offense. The inconsistency is the killer not because it occurs week-to-week but from series-to-series! This makes game-planning a nightmare. This is highly unusual and mind-boggling for anyone with football knowledge to comprehend. You can usually identify strengths and weaknesses early in the season and plan accordingly. Not this offense.

One series, they look great with the quarterback in the pocket and the next they look great rolling out. The very next series the polar opposite occurs. It not all Yates' fault. If you look at replays sometimes his receivers stop their routes or they round routes and don't make sharp cuts. Sometimes Yates throws a seed to a receiver on a rollout and the next rollout he throws it right to the other team. One play Houston runs hard north and south and the next play he stops his feet dead in the hole and tries to cut back against the grain and instead of 3rd and 2, its 3rd and 7. One play the offensive line picks up the blitz beautifully and the next blitz looks like a jailbreak.

I'm not trying to single out every position on the offense. I'm just trying to make it clear that it's not all Yates' fault and trying to show what I think has been an absolute incredible job Shoop has done this year. I don't care where they are ranked offensively, he has been coming to a gunfight with a pocketknife every week and they are 8-3. Period. Anyone who thinks he has done a bad job this year is certainly entitled to their opinion, however, my opinion is that I would rate their football intellect to that of an 8th grader.

Buck: The Tar Heels are now guaranteed a record no worse than last year's, and has a game left to exceed last year's total in the regular season. At one point the Tar Heels were 4-3 and now have reeled off four wins in a row. What does it mean to Butch Davis' program-building effort at UNC to have two eight-win (or more) seasons and two consecutive bowls?

Mark: This has been a great year for the guys in that locker room. What an unbelievable run they have put together. The work they have put in, the will to fight back after a couple early disappointments speaks volumes about the character of the players and the leadership that Coach Davis and the staff exudes. Not many teams in America are at 8-3 right now. The University of North Carolina has a lot to be proud of and it all starts with Coach Davis. He has taught these guys how to win, and how to win on a consistent basis and under his leadership the program has taken a giant step forward for the future of Carolina football.

Deems: I really don't know what it means, other than you like to improve in all aspects from year to year. Win totals are nice, but strength of schedule when factoring those totals is more compelling than just the total. Good bowl games are probably the most important factor in player development and recruiting. The value of getting your younger players and those red-shirted up to a month more practice time is immeasurable. If you can't get to a BCS game then you want to play as close to New Year's Day as possible in the warmest place possible. Recruits love to see that.

Buck: Mark, the defense has been outstanding this whole year, but in the first part of the season they weren't creating as many turnovers as they did a year ago. Before the Miami game, the Tar Heels only had ten interceptions – they've almost doubled that total number in the last two weeks with nine picks. Is it accepted among players and coaches that interceptions typically come in bunches and almost at random, or are the Heels doing anything different the past two weeks?

Mark: Carolina's defense has been phenomenal. They are so fast, strong and deep at all eleven spots it forces the opposing offense into some negative plays and turnovers that a "normal" defense would not be able to create. Coach Withers deserves a whole heck of a lot of credit, but so do the guys with the blue helmets. The defense has done an excellent job of pressuring the passer the past two weeks, which has led to more errant throws and more interceptions. This defense is the total package when they can stop the run and get great pressure on the quarterback because they have the athletes in the secondary to make great plays. Carolina beat up BC's quarterback from the start and five interceptions later UNC wins.

Buck: Deems and Mark, you have both played in UNC-N.C. State match-ups in the past. This is a game that both fan bases circle on their calendars every year, and this year it comes on "Rivalry Weekend." What did this game mean to you as players? What is it like playing at Carter-Finley Stadium?

Mark: While I was playing, I faced two different head coaches there. Chuck Amato wanted their rival to be Florida State, and they always played well against them. Maybe it was because the majority of the players they had back then were from Florida. With Tom O'Brien, the things he has said about the N.C. State and Carolina game leads me to believe that he wants Carolina to be their rival. This game, to the guys who are not from North Carolina and didn't grow up a UNC or State fan, probably means about as much as the Boston College game last week did, and like it or not, that's the way it is. But for me, I loved playing against State.

Growing up a Carolina guy, I was raised to understand that N.C. State has great distaste for us. I never understood why they hate Carolina so much. Maybe it's an inferiority complex? I don't know. What I do know is that I have met some great State people in my time in the area, but the majority leave something to be desired. Being a spectator at a N.C. State-UNC game does not do State fans justice. Playing in this game opened my eyes to a whole new world of N.C. State fans. Let's just say I never understood how much value and emphasis their fans put into playing Carolina until I suited up my freshman year at State. For their fans, this is their Super Bowl.

Playing in Raleigh is different than playing anywhere else in the ACC. First off, their stadium is not even near the campus. You drive up to the Fairgrounds and there is a football stadium with a bunch of people wearing red, flipping you the bird. The majority of the women and children are also taking part of their pre-game finger festivity. There are a lot of trucks - I remember my freshman year thinking that I had never seen so many trucks in my life. Then we played ECU and that set the record for most trucks at a pregame tailgate, but that is a different story for a different day.

Then you get off the bus and walk into the worst visiting locker room I have ever been in, until the renovations, and it still isn't great. You get dressed to go play, and I remember walking onto that field laughing my freshman year to some of the things that were said to us. They ranged from moronic to pretty creative, but it was a memory I will always have. When you stand on the sidelines, you have to wear your helmet because of flying nickels, mini-bottles and batteries. The best part is seeing that Carolina blue corner and running over to the band when you beat them at home. I appreciate and understand the crosstown rivalry and enjoy it in good fun. To the State fans reading this, please, don't change a thing - it is far too entertaining and it makes the game that much more fun.

I want to send my best wishes, prayers and thoughts to offensive coordinator Dana Bible. I think I speak for the Carolina family in wishing you well and a quick recovery.

Deems: They beat us all four times I played, so I seem to just remember it meaning that I was 0-4 against them. The UNC juniors are 0-2 and, believe me, it's no fun living in North Carolina never having beaten State College. Here's hoping UNC's talented juniors haven't forgotten that beating last year and will step up and be the leaders Saturday. As for Carter-Finley, I can't remember a whole lot except smelling corn dogs and cotton candy because the fair was always going on. I also remember looking up at their press box sitting on the upper deck and thinking, "How does that thing stay balanced on there?"

Boy, times have changed. They have an awesome stadium. Club level, suites, enclosed endzone, not just the grass bank. An incredible football complex that is state of the art. You really have to hand it to them on the new Carter-Finley Stadium, it is a nice place and a huge asset to their recruiting. Let's just hope UNC can return the whipping that they gave us last year. Until we beat them, we can't talk trash.

A note to all fans: please keep coach Dana Bible in your thoughts and prayers. He recruited me at State when I was in high school and is a first class guy. I was fortunate enough to be heavily recruited and Coach Bible is one of the few coaches who recruited me that I can still remember their name and who they coached for. That says a lot to the type of person he is and how he recruited me. I know as fans we pick on State and they pick on us, but this Saturday is just a game and Coach Bible is fighting the real battle.

Buck: We at Inside Carolina would like to echo Mark's and Deems' remarks about Coach Bible. Guys, thanks for your insight and we'll talk again soon.

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.


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