The good news is that watching back I didn’t feel as bad about Chris Crane’s performance as I did yesterday. He was still bad, but I don’t know if we win that game with Matt Ryan. To emphasize my point, I would say the best and most consistent players this season have been Herzy, McLaughlin, Tennant, Gunnell and Castonzo. All of them made major and costly mistakes yesterday. I also think our coordinators didn’t do us any favors. The Pollyanna in me still has optimism. We just need to play much better down the stretch.
The good news, Crane only had six really bad throws. Of course three of them turned into costly INTs. Crane also pressed in the second half and had some of his deer in the headlights moments on broken plays. He also held onto the ball too long and floated some of his deep balls. The good news: his short slants into single coverage were good. His outs into single coverage were good. He ran the two minute offense well at the end of the half. Crane’s major, major problem is that he still locks into receivers. He never scans the field or looks off. When a team like UNC is dropping seven and eight, Crane locking in leads to disasters. Crane’s decisions off of play action are a mess too. Since he has less time to scan the field he turns and throws (poorly). As for what to do (and this will be discussed more this week): I am firmly in the play Davis and Crane in the first half of every game camp. I understand that Davis limits the offense. The fear is that the aerial attack is shelved with the redshirt freshman. Even if it does take away the deep ball, I think getting Davis on the field at least provides a change of pace and forces the D to prepare and play against two QBs.
Harris and Haden both had decent games. They both had a few strong runs and also got gobbled up a few times too. Both were involved in the passing game but neither broke anything. McCluskey had the most impressive day from the backfield. He had eight catches, most were late in the game. Sure North Carolina was giving him the short stuff, but McCluskey was getting positive yardage after each catch. He was also running hard. He was one of the few gamers yesterday.
The offensive line was very inconsistent. Ramsey was the only guy who didn’t have a bonehead play or make a major mistake. I’ve been leery of Tennant’s snaps out of the shotgun since the URI game. Saturday it finally proved costly…and on a third down. Tennant’s blocking was good. By my count Castonzo only got beaten once in pass protection. However, he had a few rough spots in the run blocking. Remember that one play when Marvin Austin horse collared Harris on the counter? Castonzo had a shot at Austin and tripped up over himself. Lapham had trouble with the inside speed moves and also tends to get locked up when you send two rushers right at him. Rossi had trouble with speed as did Claiborne. One of the reason I think that Logan probably didn’t run the ball more is that our run blocking was not sharp. This was the lines worst performance of the season.
Rich Gunnell was another guy who had some uncharacteristically inconsistent day. He alligatored armed a critical third down pass. He had two drops. There was also the catch that the refs ruled as out of bounds. It may have been a bad call, but Gunnell also has to be aware of where he is. Robinson had a decent game. Momah and Jarvis were both decent in the red zone. Megwa had a nice catch. Larmond needs to do a better job blocking. His passive effort got Crane pounded on one of the QB runs. Purvis had some really nice catches but failed to break any tackles.
I love Steve Logan but he did not have a good day. I guess my problem – and I am not sure if these even captures my concern – but I get the feeling he’s too willing to give up on the run. We only ran the ball 19 times for 58 yards. Clearly not effective. But sometimes you stick with it just to take advantage of what the defense is running. Who knows when a play will break. Where was the QB option or the QB dive/read thing (the play were Crane reads the end and either keeps it or gives it to the RB to follow the stretch block)? Both might have forced an adjustment. I also question not going deep more often. Like VT, the DBs were just sitting in their zones jumping Crane throws. Why throw slants and posts into the teeth of that? Have some more patterns that call for double moves. Throw some more Gg’s that might stretch and move the safeties. It is almost as if they said dinking and dunking worked against NC State so we should try it against a very similar scheme at Chapell Hill. Unfortunately the Heels have much better athletes than NC State.
Some might think that we missed Brian Toal. I would have liked to see Toal out there, but the guy we are really missing is Alex Albright. Our current DEs are serviceable but cannot close on a QB. Ramella and Giles did a decent job getting past the UNC line during passing plays but often lost contain or just plain got outrun by Sexton. Brace and Raji both had strong games. They did a great job disrupting the UNC line. Brace probably had his best game of the year. The second teamers (Willette, Scafe, Ramsey, Newman and even Deska) played well. They should have had more reps.
Unlike Brace and Raji, Herzy and McLaughlin had off games (for them). Herzy was still very productive and active, but missed a chance to stop Nicks’ final TD of the first half. McLaughlin was also guilty of some bad tackling – the shoulder to Draughns was the pefect example. In fact the tackling was as the worst of the Jags era. Francois did well in place of Toal and was very active. The second team guys did not get on the field until late in the game. My fear is that the lack of rotation is wearing down Herzy and McLaughlin. I hope the back ups get on the field more against Clemson.
They went after Gause early and exploited the cushion and his gimpyness. To his credit he adjusted and did a much better job as the game progressed. Fletcher also did a decent job, however, his run support wasn’t as strong as it has been. Rollins had a really rough day. He was overmatched against Nicks and struggled tackling. Akins had a good day – especially when blitzing. The announcers faulted him for the second TD allowed, but he really should have had some help from Bowman. Akins might have been the best performer of the day. Anderson struggled. He missed tackles and also need to make a play on some of the deep balls.
Special Teams: C-
You know who had the best day? Quigley. His punts weren’t boomers, but he did a good job of getting the numerous punts off under heavy pressure. The punt coverage was adequate.
Gunnell not only didn’t make anyone miss this week. He also bobbled a punt. Once again, not his best day.
Jeff Smith might be fast but he is not a natural football player. He runs into traffic, doesn’t adjust well and often slows as contact approaches. What really frustrated me was they’ve now paired him with Harris on the returns. Harris was waiting for him to field the kicks and then they took off together with Harris in the lead (as he should be). Harris would run to daylight and Smith wouldn’t follow! Instead he ran towards guys in blue. This happened twice! Now following Harris may have only meant an addition five or so yards, but you never know.
The kick coverage was poor again. The opposing returnmen get to run free for a good ten or fifteen yards before anyone even gets in the picture. Jags also took the blame for the squib at the end of the first half. UNC’s quick TD was a killer going into halftime.
There was plenty of blame to go around. Credit also goes to UNC. They played a strong game in all aspects. They also didn’t fold when they were down 10-0 early. Now the team has to lick its wounds and find out what works. Regardless of how Jags justifies it, something needs to be done regarding Crane. (I’ll have more on that this week.) The gameplan either needs to be tweaked or we need to mix Davis back in. Something. Anything because the season is on the brink and I fear that another shaky performance could lose the team and lose our shot at the division. Jags has pushed the right buttons in the past. He needs to do it now.