I’m not going to put a positive spin on last Saturday. The Heels struggled. The offense sputtered. Special teams missed two field goals. The defense seemingly got ran over by an eighteen-wheeler. It was ugly and frustrating.
Yet, despite the ineptitude, there was one small glimmer of hope. The defensive line had three sacks. Sure, I may be reaching really hard for some positive vibes, but three sacks against an ACC opponent is a noteworthy accomplishment for an often beleaguered defensive line. Let’s review.
Early in the first quarter, Aaron Crawford gives Georgia Tech’s center a hard shove and pushes him aside. An effective outside rush from Malik Carney stretches the left side of Georgia Tech’s line. The right side of the line is preoccupied with their blocking scheme to protect the running back who is in the flat (at the top of the screen).
This leaves a huge hole for Crawford to explode through once he dispatched his blocker. Carney’s pass rush from the left (or UNC’s right) side, prevents TaQuon Marshall, the Yellow Jacket’s QB from having escaping.
Later on the same drive, the Heels record their second sack. Cayson Collins acts as the spy on Marshall, and shadows him across the field. With four UNC players waiting near the line of scrummage, a GT blocker fails to trip Collins at the point of attack.
This appeared to be an option for either Marshall to run it himself or pass, once he got out of the pocket. It’s hard to know from this angle, but it he seemingly could not find an open receiver (good job, secondary!). Collins, exhibiting discipline and patience, takes advantage of the poor block.
The third sack is also in the first quarter, courtesy of redshirt-freshman Tyrone Hopper. This was similar to Collins’ sack. Hopper, lined up on the left side of UNC’s line, gets off his block and helps Cole Holcomb set the edge.
In Hopper’s case, he actually sheds two blocks, doesn’t overcommit, and waits for Marshall to lose any momentum before he pounces. It was another smart, disciplined play that resulted in the third and final sack of the day.
The biggest takeaway in all of this? All three sacks happened in the first quarter when the defense was fresh, energized, and aggressive. Not surprisingly, with the offense unable to sustain consistent drives and Georgia Tech’s ability to maintain approximately 120 minutes of possession, mental and physical fatigue set in.
Were it not for a fingertip miss in the end zone or two missed field goals, the Heels would have been within one possession (or tied!) at the half. For a second consecutive week the defense played well enough to win, or at least give North Carolina a chance for much of the day. It was not until the demoralizing interception by Chazz Surratt led to an even more catastrophic 63 yard touchdown run. Understandably, they never recovered.
However, if that’s not enough to give you some hope, then check out Tom Sheldon. Punters never get love, but this guy never lets the fans down. Here, he punts the ball almost 60 yards in the air. Enjoy.
Bring on Notre Dame.