Sunday, September 5, 2010

Carolina's players on the field deserved better

The North Carolina players who were suited up last night deserved better.

I hope the Carolina football players who are ultimately determined to have done wrong in the NCAA and UNC investigations are ashamed at not being able to help the Carolina football players who were on the field fighting against powerful LSU.

Ultimately falling 30-24, the Tar Heels also fought inexperience and the corresponding errors that come with that. Two plays - a dropped sure touchdown by one inexperienced back and a booted kickoff return in the end zone that another inexperienced player chose to run out of the end zone (ultimately getting to the three-yard line) – really were the difference between victory and defeat.

Carolina got a field goal instead of a touchdown on the dropped pass play and then a center snap when the QB wasn’t ready (after the ill-advised runback) led to a safety. That’s six points right there. A chip-shot field goal in the fourth quarter would have won it.

Still, the Tar Heels were inches away at the end from beating LSU, which was a two-touchdown favorite. And, make no mistake, the Heels should have won. Sure-handed tight end Zack Pianalto failed to haul in a catchable pass in the end zone with six seconds left and then, with time expiring, he dropped a perfect pass from T.J. Yates.

“It was pretty simple - I just dropped both of 'em,” Pianalto said after the game. To be fair, the first pass was a bit behind him and banged off his shoulder pad and the second pass was dropped while a defender grabbed a shoulder pad, prompting Yates to ask officials for a penalty.

Yates answered critics by going 28 of 45 with three touchdowns and 412 yards, the third most passing yards in a game in Carolina history. He also hooked up with Jheranie Boyd on a 97-yard touchdown pass, the longest in Carolina history, in the second half to get the Heels back in it at 30-17 after the Heels trailed 30-10 at the half.

Boyd, taking on the role of suspended Greg Little, had six receptions for 221 yards – that’s the second highest single-game receiving yards in Carolina history.

Carolina had more total yardage than LSU – 436 to 313 – and the defense shutout LSU in the second half.

But an explosive five minutes in the second quarter by LSU doomed the Heels – a 50-yard TD run on a reverse play, an 80+ yard punt return for a TD and 51-yard TD pass.

UNC had a lot of miscommunication, especially early, and some muffed snaps and fumbles but make no mistake about it, the Heels could have, and probably should have, won that game – even without the shamed players left home.

Random Thoughts: Coach Butch Davis said the Heels burned eight redshirt players – in other words eight guys who would have sat out the season and had four more years of eligibility had to play.

All of the seven defensive starters who sat out the game would have been on special teams, which was the area that ended up being the difference. LSU had 244 return yards in the first half alone as the Tigers ran out to the 30-10 lead.

Carolina might have gotten one more play at the end but it appears the Heels didn't realize the clock was going to start after the ball was set following a stoppage of the clock for an injury with 19 seconds to go. The clock ran from 19 to 15 before the ball was snapped.

Everybody was talking about the losses on defense but the loss of runningbacks Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn, at least for this game, turned out to be a big impact as well as the Heels managed only 24 yards on the ground.

If some of the players not allowed to play are able to come back, this game could be a plus as key depth was born in the form of many Carolina players, including walk-ons, who got significant time and gained experience and confidence in a big game.

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