The North Carolina Tar Heels haven’t won a football game in Scott Stadium since 1981. And if there’s one thing that was established as UNC’s 14th attempt to break this losing streak crashed in a cold October night: these guys are absolutely cursed in Charlottesville. There’s no other explanation. Really, there isn’t.
But, while Carolina’s curse dominated the festivities, there were a number of other curses that also plagued everyone present that night. The Notes will investigate them all….
Gold Curse: I won’t belabor this point, but Gold Cup plus Virginia home game equals dreadful traffic. The God of Gridlock truly threw a hex my way on Saturday. So, in what is turning into a trend, I missed the first quarter or so of the game because thousands of people wanted to go get drunk in an infield at the same time.
Carolina refs: Really? UNC had only one 5 yard penalty the entire game? Really? Either that’s a well-coached disciplined team or the refs were putting in a classic All-Carolina Conference type effort.
Things I can’t comment on: And, of course, my DVR malfunctioned and didn’t record the game. So, I have nothing to say on the intros, Glaspy’s interception, the bogus pass interference reversal, Carolina’s only touchdown, Simpson’s injury, or anything else that happened before I got my ass in my seat.
Uh oh: Was I the only one who thought the Hoos were in for a drubbing based on that first touchdown drive? I was following on my Treo while speed walking to the stadium, and I was ready to throw it over Beta Bridge after such a quick score. (Thx DU!)
Missed opportunity: It’s an absolute tragedy that the montage of the best Virginia interceptions didn’t include this one. I mean, that interception was sort of relevant to the opponent, wasn’t it?
Cursed hit: If any one Carolina player had a cursed moment on Saturday, it was UNC running back Shaun Draughn for getting absolutely leveled by Darren Childs on one play. I recall Childs having his name called a few times. Maybe he’s earned a little more playing time, no?
Offensive, Carolina style: The period from the opening kickoff until about the 2:20 mark in the fourth quarter was, to put it mildly, some of the sloppiest football I’ve seen since these two teams tangled for a 7-5 result in 2005. First off, the Carolina offense had some success moving the ball, but struggled to get the ball into the redzone all day. Those two long scoring drives accounted for most of their yards, as the Heels bogged down repeatedly by the time they reached the Virginia’s 40. Between their sloppy turnovers and other offensive breakdowns, UNC did everything in its power to keep the Hoos in this game.
Offensive, Carolina style: For UVa, the offense was even more inept. There were 5 three-and-outs, and the longest drive of the first half was 28 yards. And the other first half drives? None got more than double digit yardage. Now that’s bad. So, what happened? It seemed like the offense limited itself on in both the running and passing games. First, it tried too force the issue with Peerman far too long, running similar plays that the Heels were simply all over. I understand now that Simpson was dinged up, but I wonder why he was suddenly ready and so effective late in the game? Or perhaps more up-the-gut running by Peerman or Jackson? Regardless, with an ineffective running game, the passing game could only do so much. And, on that front, I thought the offense relied too heavily on the wideouts, as the tight ends were underused until the final drives. Perhaps the Heels had clamped up on Phillips and Co., but not attacking the middle of the field with the running or passing game took away too much of the field, and allowed the Heels to focus more toward the edges.
Blame the Carolina fans too: The UVa attendance was certainly underwhelming, but my take was that the most empty parts of the stadium were the visitors sections. The contrast between the ECU crowd, which filled up their sections impressively, and the UNC crowd, which did not, is striking. And I was surprised given that a finally-ranked-again UNC team has tons of fans in Virginia and should be drawing more Baby Blue sweatshirts than we saw. I know Carolina really is a basketball school, but their “midnight madness” isn’t until this weekend. Maybe the Psycho-T Charity Pancake Picnic was early on Sunday morning?
Last drive: I think plenty has been said about the tying touchdown drive, so I won’t need to say much. Carolina needed to put more pressure on Verica — that prevent defense was a classic example of why everyone hates the prevent defense. Having said that, I’m starting to forget that Marc is so new as a starter. He showed Schaub-levels of poise in picking apart UNC’s secondary.
Playing not to lose: I strongly disagree with those who think Butch Davis made the right call in killing the clock to end the game. With almost 50 seconds left and needing only a field goal to win this road game, you take that chance. Yes, there’s risk involved in turning the ball over and allowing Virginia to kick for that field goal. Yes, UNC quarterback Cam Sexton and his offense had turned the ball over three times already. Yes, perhaps gambling that Virginia’s kicking game and inept offense wouldn’t be able to match Carolina in overtime is a reasonable call. But the flip side is that you allow Virginia’s momentum to take command in overtime, which is exactly what happened. Butch showed an alarming lack of faith in his own offense, which is one sure fire way to curse your own team’s chances.
Rush, baby, rush: Normally, I’d cringe watching our fans rush the field after beating a barely ranked team that hasn’t won in Scott for decades. But, given everything this team and its supporters have gone through this season, I must admit that I was fine with it this time. However, I have one complaint. You never, ever listen to the announcer’s pleas to get off the field. Let ‘em beg all he wants, just stay out there and celebrate.