UNC Beat: Flags Flying

One of the great things about our image library is that our editor encourages us to re-use images, like this one from last week’s article. You’re welcome.

[Note: I’m not deliberately ignoring Duke as part of some silly rivalry mind game. Instead, I shared my thoughts on Saturday’s game with Duke cohort Mike Kline, which you can see HERE.]

266 yards.

No, I’m not referencing Giovani Bernard’s final rushing tally against Virginia Tech (that was 267). That is the total penalty yardage North Carolina has accumulated over the past two weeks against divisional opponents Virginia Tech and Miami.

Miami’s lone touchdown drive last Saturday at Sun Life Stadium should have ended quietly in Miami territory with a punt. Instead, Romar Morris caught a whole lot of Miami punter Dalton Botts and zero football, giving the Hurricanes another chance. While a later sequence involving consecutive illegal substitution penalties for having twelve men on the field wasn’t exactly hurtful, as they occurred while backed against their own goal line trying to keep Miami from a score, they were pretty embarrassing.

On their opening drive against Virginia Tech, North Carolina racked up three false start penalties, including two by Eric Ebron on consecutive fourth-down plays. Of the seven false starts in that game at Kenan Stadium, five were committed by the Tar Heels.

To this point, it hasn’t come back to haunt North Carolina just yet. Somehow, the Tar Heels sit atop the Coastal Division with Duke next on the slate. Sure, Florida State and Virginia Tech led the ACC in penalty yardage in 2011. But neither of those teams were averaging 77 penalty yards per game the way North Carolina is currently in 2012.

For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the most penalized team in the FBS, both in terms of number of penalties and yardage marched off, in 2011: the Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State opened 2011 with a 6-2 record, including wins against three ranked teams (vs. Oregon State, at Utah, vs. Colorado). Then the wheels fell off: The Sun Devils lost their last four regular season games, head coach Dennis Erickson was fired, and Arizona State was trounced by Boise State in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas.

Amazingly enough, looking back at recaps of those five Arizona State losses, penalties aren’t mentioned a lot (see: at all). In fact, Arizona State committed fewer penalties than their opponent in most of those games. However, turnovers were an issue over the final three games, when pressure mounted as Arizona State drifted from a front-runner in the Pac-12 to a barely-eligible bowl team.

There isn’t such pressure on this year’s North Carolina squad: No matter what happens, they aren’t going bowling. However, there will be a lot more pressure during the next two games against in-state rivals Duke and NC State. Are the penalties the byproduct of an aggressive play style or a lack of composure? I promise the next two weeks will answer that question.
TAKEAWAYS FROM LATE NIGHT WITH ROY: Here are my musings from Late Night With Roy, which was last Friday night at the Dean Smith Center.

– I’m disappointed with this squad’s ability to actually dance pretty well. Normally, Late Night provides the opportunity to make fun of a couple of guys during the “skit” portion of the evening who actually have worse moves than me. In that sense, there is no Tyler Zeller on the 2012-2013 Tar Heels (and even he was vastly improved as a senior last year).

– I thought the Olympic-themed inclusion of the non-revenue sports via an “Opening Ceremony” was a great touch, not to mention it provided a nice photo opportunity when they joined the “UNC” spelled on the court by the band.

– I could have done with about three fewer videos of the men’s and women’s hoops teams attempting those sports, though. We get it, basketball players aren’t necessarily good at other sports. The most painful part was Stuart Scott (of whom I’m a huge fan, judge me) trying to make jokes after every such video and floundering.

– Speaking of Scott, the moment with him and Roy Williams sharing pleasantries admittedly got me a little choked up, as someone who has lost family members to cancer.

– Last year, I helped a group of strangers save about five seats so that their group of ten or so could all sit together at Late Night. Lent them a hoodie, a pom-pom given to me upon entrance, whatever it took. My reward for my good deed? Between the volleyball game that prefaced last year’s Late Night and the actual LNWR action, I walked downstairs to visit the restroom. I came back, and my seat was gone. That has nothing to do with this year’s Late Night, but if you were in that group and one day read this, I still haven’t forgiven you.

– Oh, wait, you were hoping for basketball analysis? For the most part, the freshmen looked pretty good. P.J. Hairston put on a shooting spree. James Michael McAdoo didn’t look so hot. You’re not getting much more than that out of me from a 20-minute running-clock scrimmage, though. What stood out to me the most: Normally, these ordeals are all offense, no defense. There was a lot of effort defensively in this scrimmage, though, including one sequence where about four different players dove for a loose ball.


First Star – Tommy Hibbard: Darn right I’m giving a star to a punter. Four times, Hibbard punted the ball to Miami Saturday. Three of those four times, he pinned the Hurricanes inside the 20-yard line, twice inside the 10-yard line. And if that wasn’t enough, he threw a pass to Eric Ebron on a second-quarter two point conversion!

Second Star – Caitlin Van Sickle: In a battle of top-five field hockey programs, senior defender Caitlin Van Sickle netted a rebound goal in overtime to give the Tar Heels a 3-2 victory over Virginia, improving North Carolina to 4-0 in ACC play and netting herself ACC Player of the Week honors to boot.

Third Star – P.J. Hairston: With 12 points, Hairston was the unofficial leading scorer of the scrimmage at Late Night With Roy.


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Zach Evans is brilliantZach Evans is a student at the University of North Carolina and a lifelong fan of the Tar Heels and follower of the ACC. Outside of the ACC, Zach is also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Carolina Panthers, and bad puns. He includes nailing the Final Four in his 2009 NCAA Tournament group and batting .000 during the 2011 intramural softball season among his crowning achievements. For more commentary, follow Zach on Twitter at @ztevans.

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