What a crazy weekend in sports we just had. Three NFL games on Thanksgiving Day, including a victory by my beloved Ravens in the first-ever meeting of sibling head coaches. A slew of rivalry games, including an awesome game between Denard Robinson and Ohio State that ended with Michigan breaking its absurdly long string of losses to its rival. The NBA lockout ended as both the players and owners realized that until after the Super Bowl, 95% of America really couldn’t give less of a shit about the NBA. They ended the lockout specifically at 3 am after watching enough compelling NCAA basketball to realize that until after March Madness, 75% of America still won’t care about the NBA even when football ends.
The best part? UNC beat Duke in its annual slamfest. The last time Duke beat UNC was seven years ago. Since I matriculated at UNC from 2006-2010, I literally don’t know what the Victory Bell looks like painted any color other than Carolina blue. The silver lining for Duke fans is that there are only about nine of you that care about football at all.
The worst part? UNC basketball turned around and played an incredibly uninspired game against UNLV, losing to a school whose greatest recruiting advantage comes from the fact that they can gamble legally (there’s totally no downside to that, right?).
I know, I know, it’s a largely meaningless game against an opponent that played the game of their lives, blah blah blah, but ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?! UNLV!? THE RUNNING REBELS!? HOW DO YOU LOSE TO A TEAM CALLED THE REBELS WHEN YOU’RE THE GODDAMN EVIL EMPIRE!?
Okay, I got that out of my system. Bump in the road. Let’s talk football, namely how bad Duke sucks. Normally I’m more reasonable in this space, but this is a rivalry board and this was the rivalry game, so today I think I’m just going to talk about how Duke is doomed to failure forever and ever. Mostly because its coach was dressed like a confused board member whose chairman is about to dissolve the company. —>
Point #1: It reached a point yesterday where I vowed to break something if I had to see another wide receiver screen. I. Hate. The wide receiver screen. It’s come into vogue for some reason this year – just about every college football game includes at least 4 or 5 designed screen plays. Why it is so popular is one of those great enigmas in sports, like why Wes Welker, by all accounts a pretty slow white guy, is so damn hard to cover or why Dan Dierdorf is allowed to have a microphone. In some games this season, I’ve charted how many screen passes opponents run, and the number rarely falls below 6. I didn’t do it this game because I lost count by the end of the first quarter. Also because my head was going to explode. This is attributable to the propensity of defensive coordinator Art Kaufmann to sit his cornerbacks approximately seven nautical miles off the line of scrimmage, allowing anyone who can throw a football more than 30 feet to rack up 200 yards of passing offense against a Carolina defense, no sweat.
This problem has been compounded by Carolina being maybe the worst open-field tackling team I’ve seen in more than 5 years. That includes high school. It’s a particular problem on the outside, as Carolina’s corners are young, inexperienced, and prone to arm tackling. It was a particular problem against Duke because their receivers are the strongest part of their team (admittedly, that’s like saying “the best part about The Happening was….” You’re splitting very fine hairs at that point).
There’s a variety of schematic ways to defeat the receiver screen in any of its iterations – jailbreak, bubble, iso screen, whatever – and I could go all science-y and diagram it out for you with screenshots. But there’s a solution far more simple than all of those: MOVE UP AND STOP BEING SO FREAKING AFRAID OF BEING BEAT DEEP. Carolina’s corners aren’t All-Americans, but they’re not Nicholls St. either. Chuck Pagano, the previous defensive coordinator, had similar talent and played an aggressive, attacking defense that disrupted routes at the line of scrimmage and routinely blew up screen passes. They were susceptible in other ways, but I’d prefer anything over the slow death of watching a team screen their way down a field. Pagano is now coaching the Baltimore Ravens. Which brings me to point #2:
Point #2: The only offensive coordinator I’ve ever seen do a worse job than John Shoop was Duke’s offensive coordinator. Duke fans: you gotta get rid of that guy. Is it Matt Luke? He kept trying to run the ball when it was completely absurd to do so because the NUMBER TWO DRAFT PICK WAS SITTING THERE WAITING FOR YOUR AWFUL RUNNINGBACK. Quinton Coples singlehandedly killed the Duke running game. It was pitiful. Unsurprisingly, what was working was the bubble screen, which you all ran at least once per set of downs – and then stopped doing so in the fourth quarter when you actually needed the yards. Seriously. He sucks. Haven’t you ever heard of attacking the weaknesses of a defense?
Then again, John Shoop called an end around, while Luke at least dialed up a couple of trick plays. I guess it’s a push.
Point #3: Anthony Boone, the backup who replaced Duke QB Sean Renfree after Coples clotheslined him with a Forearm of Doom, did an admirable impression of Willie Beamen before doing his best Kyle Boller impersonation. Boone did well, honestly, providing an excellent change of pace. The poor kid can’t really throw, but he can throw screens, meaning he can presumably beat UNC. But when it counted, Boone dropped back to pass on 4th down and stood statue-still, looking for all the world like a deer in the headlights. Sylvester Williams, UNC’s most overachieving player besides the injured and forgotten Mattavince Papaletti, pasted Boone and the game was over.
Point #4: Duke should have been out of the game by halftime, but lucky big plays and awful tackling kept them in it. Don’t even argue, Duke fans, you know it’s true. The first touchdown was a blown assignment, and the second was set up by a punt return where UNC missed seven tackles. The third was because Tim Scott screwed up, which is unfair because Tim Scott screwing up is one of the few certainties of Carolina football.
Point #5: The season, pointedly and appropriately, ended with a penalty. ‘Nuff said. UNC will probably go play the Air Force Academy in the Military Bowl. I think maybe seventeen people will watch that. I should note that while it’s a near certainty that Everett Withers has coached his last game in Kenan Stadium, the man was total class in his postgame comments. I hope he gets a head coaching job, because with the crap he’s dealt with this year he deserves it.
The moral of this story, as always, is that Duke sucks. But there’s reason for optimi-hahahahaha, sorry I couldn’t help but laugh because Duke football is doomed worse than Miami.
Enjoy basketball season. Go to hell, Duke!