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.
Confession: I didn’t get a chance to start watching The Rivalry Game That Isn’t until about 2:45 on Saturday afternoon. I suppose that makes me a bad fan, but I was out doing good in the community (no, seriously, stifle your laughs because I was). I was thinking on my drive home, “How am I going to find this game? It’s on the ACC Network and isn’t televised here. Hmm.” On a whim, I fired up the Xbox and loaded ESPN3… and there was the game! Holy crap! So I got to watch the UNC game in full HD, on my own TV, while skipping commercials. By turning on my video game console. God I love technology.
I suppose I should explain why for a game that had a ton of hot air around it this week – UNC coach Everett Withers essentially called NC State a crappy academic institution, then later said “I was only referring to the academic facts” – I’m calling it the Rivalry Game That Isn’t. Because, as evidenced by the picture below, NC State really IS a crappy academic institution:
I mean, we should all just be impressed he spelled "Committee" correctly, right?
Trailing just 24-17 at the start of the third quarter, Clemson began their second half effort by going three and out. A small butterfly jumped somewhere in my stomach; could this be the game where the UNC defense puts on an inspired performance and the offense does just enough for the win? Could this be the signature win on an otherwise-marred season? Could this be the Tar Heels that, after suffering under the weight of NCAA allegations, a dismissed head coach, a maligned secondary, and a trying-really-hard interim head coach, turn the corner on a dismal season with a massive upset of a top ten team?
When Clemson got the ball back about a minute later, thanks to the anemic UNC offense, they ran the ball once for no gain. This was good news: maybe Clemson was going to go Miami from last week and play hyperconservative. Then Clemson coach Dabo Swinney remembered that the UNC secondary is awful and bites on everything. Swinney dialed up a trick play – a toss reverse pass. Boom. 39-yard completion downfield to DeAndre Hopkins. Two plays later, touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff return, returner Charles Brown left the ball out, got hit, fumbled, and Clemson recovered. Two players later, quarterback Tajh Boyd found a shockingly wide open tight end for the touchdown. What was once a close game was now suddenly out of reach, and I developed an intense interest in carpet fibers. In honor of the crapfest that was this game, this post will be entirely pictureless. Sorry I’m not sorry.
I wrote this column spur-of-the-moment after the game yesterday, and left in this first sentence for your perusal before rewriting the rest from scratch because it was simply too depressing:
“Where last week there was anger and resentment, this week there is only grim disappointment.”
At least, that’s how I felt. Feel, really. I wrote last week that UNC might have been the worst 5-1 team in Division I (I still refuse to use that idiotic FBS moniker, it reminds me of an amateur bowling league), and now I am sorry to report that my fears have been borne out. But first, some actual good news!
Here’s how bad this game was: With the score tied at 0-0 and Louisville lining up to try a field goal with nine seconds left in the first half, UNC coach Everett Withers called for a timeout. To ice the kicker.
I will repeat that. UNC thought the game was so bad it had a serious chance of ending 3-0, so they iced the kicker at the end of the first half. The best part? The guy missed.
<shaking head sadly> Ugh. I generally am gung-ho for the little guy, standing up to the big corporation, but I felt genuinely sorry for ESPN today. They were forced to televise a football game that probably could have been out-watched by PBA Bowling, which ESPN sometimes shows when they are up against a monster event they don’t get to televise like NFL football on Sundays. Nothing against bowling, of course, except that along with cheerleading, golf and NASCAR it’s not a sport.
Posted in UNC
Tagged Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones, Everett Withers, football, Gio Bernard, John Shoop, Lousiville, Optipessimism, Quinton Coples, Sylvester Williams, Tre Boston
Well, well. The first Optipessimism feature after a Carolina loss. I don’t have the lack of attendance to complain about since it was the first road game, so let’s get right to it.
Story. Of. The. Game.
Optimism: After a truly miserable half of offensive football, Renner seemed to clean up a little bit and settle down. In general, Renner wasn’t asked to do a whole lot throwing downfield. That’s about it for optimism. Of course, the week after I gush over Renner’s potential he takes a step back.
Pessimism: This was undoubtedly Renner’s worst game as a Tar Heel. His stats weren’t terrible – 17 of 25 for 204 yards , 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s – but this is one of those cases where stats don’t tell the whole story. Both of Renner’s picks came at particularly bad times, both when UNC had momentum off takeaways of their own. Both were especially bad decisions in a game filled with them; Renner’s first interception was thrown into quadruple coverage. I didn’t even know someone can have quadruple coverage on them. Renner looked extremely young in this game, often running scared out of the pocket and taking a lot of sacks he probably could have avoided.
Carolina won. Barely. Now that I’ve had a few minutes away from throwing remotes and trashing my apartment in frustration, I can approach this week’s Optipessimism with some idea of perspective.
But before we get into that, I need to ask about the Blue Zone. I saw a bunch of shots during the game of an end-to-end camera that showed the Blue Zone, aka The House That Butch Built, almost completely empty. What the hell? This is becoming a legitimate problem, because besides the fact that it makes Carolina look like a small-time loser school (okay, some argue that its football program is just that, but I don’t agree), it ruins any aspect of intimidation created by having it filled with angry Carolina fans. I know that it’s hot in the sun there, and I know the concourse is air-conditioned, but seriously, what the hell. Never fear. I have a solution, though one that might not even be legal and definitely won’t ever happen.
I was talking today with a fellow UNC alum about the upcoming season, and it got me thinking about how we as a fan base are feeling about the snafu that’s been this past year. Specifically, my friend mentioned how he was having trouble getting himself amped up for the start of what, on the surface, appears to be a lame-duck season for us Tar Heels. Let’s face it – this is not a good time to be a Carolina fan, as I wrote in my Firing Butch Davis piece. Once the novelty of football being back wore off (preseason NFL shitfest managed that pretty fast), my thoughts returned to Carolina as I thought, “This must be a tiny bit what it feels like to be a State fan.”