Carolina is Playing for Pride
North Carolina (6-4, 3-3) at Virginia (4-6, 2-4), Thursday, 7:30 PM, ESPN
There’s not much you can say if you’re Carolina, coming off a game where your offense scored 50 points and the defensive surrendered 68. The stink of the Georgia Tech dismantling still lingers around this team, and probably will for quite some time. But the Tar Heels don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. (Although I attempted to make some sense of the pointsplosion here).
Last week was embarrassing, to be sure. But there after facing the unconventional triple-option offense, there’s not a lot to take away from the game tape defensively. So why not just set it on fire (metaphorically speaking, of course)?
So with a short week ahead of them, trying to defend a pro-style offense that is decidedly nothing like the triple-option, that’s what the Tar Heels did. Even Virginia head coach Mike London said they wouldn’t use the tape.
“You don’t as much look at the Georgia Tech game as far as defensively for them because it’s a different style,” London said. “Anyone that plays Georgia Tech and has to defend that offense, sometimes you don’t always look at how the other defense is playing because you have to play it different.”
North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora pointed out that miscues on offense and special teams led directly to 24 of Georgia Tech’s 68 points. But the triple-option offense hasn’t been the only one to dissect Carolina’s defense. After not allowing 500 yards of total offense all year, UNC has allowed at least 500 for three straight games – 510 to Duke, 534 to NC State and 588 to Georgia Tech.
Just as Carolina’s defense is headed in the wrong direction, UVa’s offense has found itself. Since the bye week, the quarterback rotation of Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims (which London admitted was “random” rather than alternating from series to series) has seemingly made both better.
Rocco has completed 41-of-60 passes for 383 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games while Sims is 19-of-24 for 203 yards, one touchdown and no picks. The two combined for 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions before that.
It will be a challenge for the Carolina defense. At this point in the season, there’s obviously no possibility of a bowl or even of finishing with the best record in the Coastal Division. As right guard Jonathan Cooper told his teammates before the NC State game, they’re playing for pride and for each other. They’d better have plenty of both if they want to win in Charlottesville.
Moments in North Carolina-Virginia history: North Carolina vs. Virginia, aka “The Oldest Rivalry in the South”, will renew for the 117th time. The two first played in 1892 and have met continuously since 1919. UNC leads 58-54-4, but Virginia leads 24-22 at home (odd that isn’t a bigger lead, considering UNC didn’t win there from 1983-2008).
Virginia has a strong Thursday night history: the Cavaliers have played on Thursday just once since 2006 (a 28-21 win at Miami last year) but are 6-5 overall (3-1 at home). The Cavaliers haven’t lost a home Thursday night game since 1997 (28-17 to No. 16 Auburn).
UNC is 5-4 on Thursday night, but its last Thursday night trip to Virginia essentially sealed former head coach John Bunting’s fate. Carolina lost 23-0 to a 2-5 UVa team, gaining 11 first downs and 182 total yards. Former Tar Heel and current New York Giant Hakeem Nicks – then a freshman – caught a third of Carolina’s completed passes from Joe Dailey and Cam Sexton for 40 yards, nearly half UNC’s passing total (84).
From the Jarrett House North blog, this song was written in the late 1800’s by a UVa student and it’s called “Oh, Carolina”:
See the Tar Heels, how they’re running
Turpentine from every pore.
They can manufacture rosin,
But they’ll never, never score.
This remains perhaps the worst loss of the Butch Davis era: in 2008, No. 18 UNC lost in overtime at Virginia. UVa was 3-3 entering the game and had lost to UConn by 35, Duke by 28 and USC by 45. Carolina was coming off three straight wins over Miami, UConn and Notre Dame.
Not to pile on ACC officiating….but this remains one of the biggest facepalm-inducing moments in recent officiating history.
Sorry to do this to you, Carolina fans. It’s 1996 at UVa, which remains probably the most painful loss in UNC football history.
From UNC’s win in Charlottesville in 2010. This pretty much set the tone.
Prediction: Virginia, 33-27. If Virginia can win out, they will be bowl-eligible. They have Virginia Tech next week and the Hokies are as vulnerable as they’ve ever been, but Virginia has to get this one first. Virginia is rolling, UNC is reeling and its defense is seemingly getting worse just as UVa’s offense is clicking. Bad, bad timing for the Tar Heels.
Week 11: 4-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 52-19 (24-13 ACC)