The Drive: UNC’s Last 5 Plays And What Not To Do

If you don’t realize I’m a Tar Heel I’m not sure that you’ve been following closely. I love my Heels, that’s where I spent the best years of my life and where I learned so much about football that I can be considered an “expert” at this game. As we saw last week with Auburn and Tennessee I have very little tolerance for “bad” football. Mistakes and poor decision making really get my dander up and poorly prepared players just draw my ire.

Enter North Carolina. Everett Withers did not have the boys prepared for this end game scenario. Not in the slightest. Scattered brained. Bad decisions. Lazy football.

None of which is acceptable. It is one thing for your players to not be good enough, it is another thing for guys to not understand down and distance, throwing the ball away and when to make something happen. UNC was guilty of the number one sin in football; not knowing what has to be done.

Take a look at the drive chart, it tells you most of what you need to know as the Heels just refused to take the necessary steps to get to the endzone when they had the ball, with no timeouts but plenty of time to run the two-minute offense to get on the board.

35-28. 1:35 to go. 84 yards.

Let’s get it.

If you’re an offensive football player this is why you play the game. The touchdowns are nice, the big plays are glorious, the blow outs are fun but the game being in your hands is why you strap it on week in and week out. This is why you do the seven on sevens and the blitz drill and the weight room stuff. This is the part of football that you oughta be living for everyday. The part where you need to do all that you can to get your team a score.

Except UNC doesn’t do that.

We’ll skip the play calling issues because quite honestly I cannot get past the actual execution to dial up all the issues in the calls. What we do have is a Heels team that makes some pretty egregious errors in their execution of the two minute situation. I guess we’ll start at the beginning:

The first play, a four yard pass over the middle to Jheranie Boyd. Not a terribly bad play, no one else was open and the ball got out quick. Georgia Tech’s Quayshawn Nealy makes a good play and we’re down 8 seconds. Here is where the Heels start to stick in my craw; the speed at which they get to the line.

You know Boyd got tackled. You see that he is in bounds. You know you have no timeouts. You know you’ve got 80 yards to go for the score. Get to the football. Get lined up. Get a play off.

Bryn RennerAnd they do. Seventeen seconds to go four yards. Not ideal but not awful either. What comes next is awful though. Bryn Renner takes a sack. Sacks are bad in any scenario but here, when you’ve got to move the football 80 yards and you’ve got no timeouts a sack is a killer.

Throw the football away.

Get the ball downfield or throw the football away. Those are the only two options here. A sack can’t be one. The only thing worse than a sack is a turnover and that’s only a little bit worse because while a turnover is a swift death a sack is a slow, slow agonizing torturous death for an offense trying to run the two-minute drill.

Next play, a 24 yard hit to Eric Ebron in the seam. Clock stops. You’re on the right track. 44 seconds are off the clock in three plays. The Heels aren’t in bad shape but things could be better. Especially without the sack. 51 seconds left to go 59 yards. This is still do able.

Then the Heels lose more time. They’re not ready when the ball is spotted. 6 second click off as the Heels get to the line and get their play called but that’s excusable because they appear to be in rhythm. Things are working. Bryn hit Giovani “near” the sideline but the freshman is tackled in bounds. More time going off the clock but you’re getting positive yards.

26 seconds gone for that first down play.

That’s unacceptable.

Two schools of thought are at work here. I’m of the 2nd and 2 you spike the football so you have third and fourth down to get things right. Apparently John Shoop is of the let’s run a play and keep the defense off balance school of thought. Both have their merits but neither is from the “let 26 seconds run off the clock because we picked up 8 yards” gameplan; only defenses with a lead subscribe to that logic.

25 seconds left. Brennan Williams gives up a sack. Well, to be more accurate, Brennan Williams gives up a sack and Bryn Renner takes one. Brennan has got to sell this out. He made Jeremiah Attaochu run the hump did not get the linebacker out of the picture. Bryn didn’t step up and make a play.

20 seconds left on the clock.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

19. 18. 17. 16. 15. 14. 13. 12. 11. 10. 9.

The ball finally gets spiked. 9 seconds left on the clock. Two plays, maybe.

Except you get 0 plays.

Eric Ebron took his time getting back to the line. He’s offsides when Renner spikes the football. Thanks to UNC’s 2010 Music City Bowl happenings there is now a 10 second run off rule in college football. The rule that helped the Heels beat the Vols last December is the same rule that ended any chance the team had of coming back this Saturday against Georgia Tech. No timeouts. Offensive penalty. 10 seconds come off the clock.

When there are only nine seconds that means game over.

35-28 gives the Jackets the win.

What should have happened? What has to be done differently going forward?

Let’s start with urgency. Get to the line. You can’t stand around and bitch about giving up a sack if you’re the offensive line. You can’t lollygag back to the line if you’re a tight end. You can’t mosey up to the line of scrimmage if you’re UNC. It has to happen now. Immediately. Get to the line and get a play off or spike the football.

These guys are young and they’ll learn but this is the sort of in-game moment that has to be drilled into players during “scenarios” practice. When you run your two minute offense during Wednesday practice that intensity must be for real. Players must have it. Coaches must give it to them. Not having the substitutions and the play calls and the signals and the understanding of clock management is unacceptable.

Withers and Shoop will get the boys right. This will not go unaddressed as an issue. Expect the Heels to be crisp when they get into this situation in the future.

And I could not end this without giving props to Georgia Tech’s defense. Al Groh and the Yellow Jackets played this end game scenario the way they should. No prevent defense, pressure on the quarterback and guys making tackles to keep UNC’s players in-bounds. That’s good coaching. For all the Al Groh jokes the fact is this guy knows his way around a defense and had his players ready to do the right things to win this ball game.