Tag Archives: UNC Football

A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

Blue is just another word for sad

-Me, over and over again, while I beat my head against a wall

Here’s a question: when did we as a society start to think that our sturdy, boxy cars weren’t good enough, and that what we really needed were bubbly spaceships made out of plastic. Here, this is what will keep you safe: a multi-ton death machine built to crumble around you instead of protect you! When did we replace functional, metal bumpers with sheets of plastic that can’t withstand any contact with another vehicle?

I hit a car. I hit an unoccupied, perfectly still vehicle inside a parking garage before the UNC-ECU game. Name the one car you don’t want to hit if you have a choice and I hit it. I hit a Lexus SUV in a parking garage and I was naïve enough to think that nothing would happen in the game that could suck worse.

You experience a complex mélange of emotions when you hit a car and there’s no one in it. What you should do (leave a note, we are a society etc. honesty is the best policy etc. lying never helped anyone except for politicians and CEOs etc.) is in direct opposition to what you could do, which would be to just drive away. It’s less about getting away with having made a mistake, and more about being able to do things in a vacuum. Like being home sick from school but you start to feel better by the afternoon, and you can run around the house naked or play video games and it’s entirely up to you whether anyone finds out what you’ve done, bad or benign. Like existing in another universe for a hot minute.

I did the honorable thing, though, I left a note under a windshield wiper and I parked right next to the car, but if I had known the way the game would turn out I would have driven to another spot, and then past that spot, and then out of Chapel Hill, and then right into Jordan Lake.

During the third quarter, I found myself wondering what would happen if Larry Fedora did that, simply led the Tar Heels off of the field and out of the stadium, mid-play. The ECU team would have to leave too, right? What would happen? If I have the option of walking away from my own mistakes, can’t Bryn Renner also walk away from his car-crash playing? They didn’t, and I didn’t, and the worst part of sitting through the drubbing Carolina was handed was that I couldn’t leave early, because I had to find out how much it was going to cost me to fix this guy’s bumper.

So I sat there, and I bathed in the boozy arrogance coming off of the ECU fans around me (the folks behind me, I swear if I’d wanted to I could have lit their breath on fire). A guy stood up whenever the Pirates did anything remotely good, wearing an outfit he was way too old for, and just waved his arms, screaming. It was the worst.

The problems with UNC’s defense seem to be that they’re running some kind of made-up scheme, they aren’t fast enough to get to where they need to be, and when they finally do get to where they need to be they somehow don’t know how to tackle. (The problems with the offense seem made up: someone has stolen Renner’s ability to throw a football. Eric Ebron insists on dropping one easy pass a game, like it’s in his contract along with a bowl of green M&M’s.  The two most promising freshman on the team are both receivers, one is three feet tall and the other is named Bug. Nothing makes sense and I hate everything. There’s holding on every single play.)

My favorite backyard football play was made up by a friend of mine, who called it “Leaves.” When you run Leaves, the receivers sprint as fast as they can down the field, then turn around and sprint back, and the quarterback hits whichever one is open. Any group of humans could run Leaves ten times against the Tar Heels and score on 5 of their tries. Logan Thomas has picked this defense apart as of a day before the writing of this. Brandon Connette will pick this defense apart. So will whoever plays quarterback for Pitt, so will whoever plays quarterback for Old Dominion. This seems like just reverse-jinxing but it’s actual, legitimate despair: UNC can’t beat Duke. Duke’s offense is too good for this defense to handle. That’s a real sentence I just typed.

This is what it’s like to love UNC football, which can’t love you back and will eat you alive. You spend 90 percent of the time worrying about everything going to Hell and the remaining 10 percent of the time in Hell. The worst I’ve ever felt as a sports fan was after the Duke basketball game in March. The mini-breakdown I had that night culminated with a mental rundown of all of my regrets while I listened to Celtic Woman sing “O Holy Night” and drank beer until I fell asleep. This ECU game was close.

It felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone. At one point, the announcer shamed a student after she missed on her first field goal attempt for free chicken biscuits for life or some such, by saying “come on, it’s military appreciation day,” as if to say “get it together, you slob. People are dying all over the world and you can’t even knock an extra point in? Do you hate America?” The hype video before the 4th quarter only serves to remind people that there was a time when UNC football players knew how to hit the opposing team hard enough to affect them or stop them in some way, an idea wholly foreign to the group we trot out every week. Inside my head, I kept screaming for Rod Sterling to come out of the shadows and explain to me what lesson I had just learned so I could turn the TV off. I wanted someone to tell me that there was no creature on the wing, but all I saw was that grown man in cargo shorts and a cowboy hat making elaborate and infuriating first-down gestures every single time a run up the middle resulted in a 15 yard gain for the Pirates.

What hurts the most is that this was supposed to be The Year. We had a proven quarterback and a year of the new system under our belt, and a stable of running backs that was supposed to be at least reliable in the absence of Saint Giovanni. An ACC schedule without Florida State or Clemson that peaked in difficulty with the first game and then dropped off considerably. Even the most jaded fan could have looked at that schedule at the beginning of the year and seen 9 wins. But then again this was also supposed to be the year when I was responsible enough to not hit a parked car.

So I sat there in the parking garage and waited for whoever drove the Lexus to come and see the silly wreckage I’d perpetrated on its bumper, and when he finally did he looked at me and said the only true thing we ever came up with as a civilization: ‘shit happens.’

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The Fed Spread Offense – Red Zone Challenges

In last week’s post, I broke down the basics of the Fedora offense. The two buzzwords about the Fed Spread, as I’m calling it, are “matchups” and “spacing.” In short, by spreading the field with skill players, the defense is forced to tip its hand before the snap or risk giving up a big play; unless the defense goes to a nickel or dime package, there is then a resultant mismatch pairing a slower linebacker on a faster wide receiver. If the defense goes small, then the run game can dominate.

Now, the spread offense depends on a few things to succeed, the first of which is space. A common struggle of a typical spread offense is that scoring tends to drop off in the red zone, more so than conventional offenses accustomed to operating in a short space anyway. Because the field is much shorter inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, the defense is able to hide its intentions a bit better, since it has less space to cover when making up for lost ground. Spacing becomes less of an advantage as the goal line gets closer, because the vertical game becomes progressively less of a threat. Even the primary goal of the spread, to create mismatches, becomes less attainable since even an out-of-position safety can usually recover on a short field – even Houston’s #24, who had a bad game for the ages against Southern Miss. Hehe.

The screenshot evidence this week is both lacking and of poor quality; for that, blame both the difficulty in ferreting out hard-to-find online video of Conference USA games (go ahead, you try, and highlight YouTube videos don’t count) and the awful video quality of the one USM game I could find on ESPN3, their September 24 contest with Virginia. Southern Miss won the game 30-24, but only scored one touchdown in the red zone.

Let’s first quickly review the basic concepts of the spread in the red zone. In the following play, Southern Miss is on Virginia’s 20-yard line, trying to score in one gulp:

I told you the quality sucked. USM is represented by the smudges in white; the Cavaliers are the nondescript blobs in what I think is navy. Austin Davis, the Southern Miss QB, is about to take the snap in an extremely typical spread formation (and hey, I didn’t call him Anthony Davis this time!). He’s going to read the playside linebacker, circled in red, but he also has to contend with the safety, who’s off the screen standing on the ten yard line. You can sort of see a smudge of him, right at the point where the #2 WR’s arrow ends. More on him in a second. The linebacker is matched up in what looks like 1-on-1 coverage against an athletic tight end. Mismatch.

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The Spread Offense, Fedora-Style

Unless you’re a diehard football tactics junkie or Josh McDaniels, you probably think of the spread as Mike Leach, 45 points a game, and a fast running quarterback. In fact, let’s do a quick test: when I say, “spread offense,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably thought of one of the following:

  • 60 passes a game
  • 5 wide receivers every play
  • A correspondingly bad defense
  •  “System” offenses
  • Colt Brennan.

When UNC hired spread offense disciple Larry Fedora last week, a lot of UNC fans started to dissect the relative merits of the spread against what we’re used to here in Chapel Hill – a pro-style offense using a lot of motion and multiple packages. Fedora’s offense is decidedly not pro-style. Technically, it’s probably best categorized as a one-back balanced spread offense. The big question for most fans, though, is “what exactly IS this spread offense I keep hearing about?”

In this post, I’ll try to provide an overall framework for what Fedora is going to try to do here in Chapel Hill. I broke down the game tape of Southern Miss’ victory over the heavily favored Houston Cougars to illustrate some of the central concepts, so be forewarned: this gets pretty technical at times, though I’ve tried to coach the explanations in everyday language.

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He kinda looks like... an old Tony Romo...

With the first pick in the 2012 College Football draft, the Tar Heels select… Larry Fedora, University of Southern Mississippi! Today, Fedora is expected to put pen to paper and ink as Carolina’s coach of the future. So who is this guy? For a school whose last hire made a big splash with Butch Davis, Fedora is a relatively unknown coaching candidate; after all, he doesn’t come with NFL head coaching AND national championship experience. As a Tar Heel, should you be excited about this, or depressed at the sad, sad state of the program? To find out, I traded emails, faux-Grantland style, with TRB site editor Will Earnhardt.


So the timing of this is either fortuitous or awful. I’m studying for a physics test, which is roughly equivalent to having the stomach flu and throwing up so many times your stomach hurts to the point where you’re are simply bathing in your own acid.

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The Season Finale: Duke – UNC

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.

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