UNC Beat: I’m Right … Unless I’m Not

I always enjoy taking the opportunity at the conclusion of a season to look back at what was said in season previews. It isn’t to make fun of “experts,” because nobody is perfect and prognostication can be a bit of an inexact science. It’s just neat to see where a team came from to reach its ultimate destination.

However, this is the first time I’ve had the luxury (or burden) of being able to reflect on my own written opinions after the end of a season. And anyone who knows me is well-aware I will never, ever, ever pass up a chance to engage in self-deprecating humor. So, let’s take a gander at what I said about this year’s North Carolina Tar Heels before the season ever started.

What I said: “Redshirt freshman Romar Morris is a speedy back that should shine in Larry Fedora’s new up-tempo offense … He will be a great complement to Gio, and a lot of fun to watch.”

What happened: I admittedly underestimated A.J. Blue’s impact on the offense. Nevertheless, the trio of Bernard, Blue, and Morris rushed for over 2,000 yards and averaged more than six yards per carry. Even as the third man in the rotation, Morris rushed for 386 yards and two touchdowns on 386 attempts. Morris also made some noise against Louisville in the passing game, catching touchdown passes of 44 and 50 yards in the loss where many of North Carolina’s key receivers were out with injury. Obviously, Tar Heel fans would love to see Gio for another season, but if Bernard enters the NFL Draft, fans should also have confidence in Blue and Morris to maintain the rushing attack.

Larry Fedora will give you wings.

What I said: “Now, UNC can add “Larry Fedora is a live wire who could convince you to run through a brick wall while chugging a (sugar-free!) Red Bull and smashing the empty can against his head,” to that list.”

What happened: To give that quote some context, I was saying that the “narrative” surrounding Fedora would be his high-energy demeanor, much the same way you can’t watch a Virginia game without being reminded Mike London was once a detective or that Dabo Swinney once correctly stated that South Carolina was neither Carolina nor USC.

With that said, for inane narratives to develop, you really have to play games outside of 12:30 on the ACC Network. When North Carolina finally found its way into the national spotlight, the wonderful beacons of sports programming discovered other ways to give these games perspective … like burying the North Carolina-Duke game on ESPNU in an absurd dressing of basketball montages. So this never really came to fruition.

What I said: “Nevertheless, the defense should be much more fun to watch than last year’s unit. Especially more fun than watching them against Clemson last season.”

What happened: Oh, dear. Well, the Tar Heels did intercept 16 passes, good for a tie for 14th amongst FBS schools. However, six of those 16 came against Elon and Idaho. When opposing offenses were given time to read North Carolina’s coverage, they found it more akin to a Dr. Suess book than War and Peace. After all, both Georgia Tech and a freshman linebacker-turned-quarterback for Maryland passed for over 200 yards against this unit, and a Wake Forest offense that averaged 200 yards of passing per game was good for 362 against the Tar Heels. So, no, this defense was not more fun to watch, and thank goodness they didn’t play Clemson or Florida State.

What I said: “When North Carolina hired Larry Fedora, one of the dominant questions was “What does this mean for Giovani Bernard?” The logic went as such: Spread offenses are passing offenses, which leaves a 1,000-yard rusher out in the cold. After all, Bernard chose North Carolina over Notre Dame largely because of Butch Davis’ pro offense against Brian Kelly’s spread attack. How often would Gio get the ball, and what could he do with it, with fewer blockers? Not all spread offenses are built alike, however, and many aren’t given nearly enough credit in the rushing department.”

What happened: I’m fudging a little bit here, as I actually wrote this with the benefit of the Elon game. However, it was my sentiment before the game that Gio would actually thrive rather than suffer as a result of the change in offensive scheme, and I think the numbers speak for themselves.

What I said: “Of course, whether [fans will come to games] or not is another debate. Average attendance for the Tar Heels dropped by roughly 2,500 last season. This is an especially rough look when 2,980 seats were added before last season with the new “Blue Zone” seating area.”

What happened: Officially, the average attendance for North Carolina football games at Kenan Stadium this year was 50,286. I’ll give you a second to regain your composure after you’re done laughing.

Yes, Kenan was packed for the North Carolina-NC State game. But I have serious doubts that actual attendance was anywhere close to 50,000 for Idaho, or Maryland, or Elon, or … you get the idea. It was a fun subject of many pictures on social media throughout the season. But there’s a serious issue – What will it take to get fans to games? This team won eight games with a new head coach, featured one of the best running backs in the history of a school that has seen several quality rushers in its time, and knocked off NC State for the first time in years. I’m almost not joking when I ask: Suppose next year’s team wins ten games (it’s far too early for me to know if this is a reasonable expectation or not, but, hey, look at Duke this year) but doesn’t have Gio. Will fans show up? What if they have Gio but still only win seven or eight games? Does a North Carolina football team have to contend for a national championship before people will care more than once or twice a season?

What I said: “The fact of the matter is the Tar Heels have gone too long without beating the Wolfpack in football. Frankly, I’m selfish. I don’t want to graduate without seeing it happen at least once, and October 27 is my last shot.”

What happened: 

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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