UNC Football Positional Grades vs. Liberty


That was a painful game to watch.  North Carolina was able to beat Liberty on Saturday night by a pretty handy score, but that was a terribly played football game.  I mean, there were ten turnovers, dumb penalties and the game took nearly four hours. I can’t imagine there being a Carolina fan who felt good about that victory.

So, here are the positional grades for UNC’s 56-29 victory over Liberty.

Offense: C

Yes, Carolina scored 56 points.  But four turnovers?  Against Liberty, who forced just a little bit over two turnovers per game last year?

Aug 30, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams (12) makes a throw during the 1st quarter against the Liberty Flames at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Liberty Flames 56-29. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not good.  That also doesn’t include the three fumbles that Carolina recovered.

If UNC does this against a better team than Liberty, it won’t fly.  You have four turnovers against Clemson, or Duke, or any ACC team for that matter, game over.  A good offense would embarrass you if you have four turnovers.  And the rest of the year, the Heels play a lot of good offenses.

Oh, and remember how all spring and summer we’d been hearing about how spectacular Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky are.  Yeah, we didn’t exactly see that on Saturday.  Williams did account for four touchdowns, but his two interceptions were unsettling, and Trubisky did not take control of the game either.

Okay, but enough about how mediocre the offense was.  The defense had to have been better, right?

Defense: C+

Oh.  Maybe not.

Carolina’s defense, unfortunately was the bright spot on Saturday.  The six forced turnovers kept the Heels in the game.  And Jeff Schoettmer’s interception return was the turning point in the game.

But the Heels gave up 346 yards, 157 of which came on the ground.  This does not bode well, especially after last year when defensive struggles cost the Heels several games.  If Carolina gives up 157 yards to DJ Abnar and Todd Macon, imagine what Duke Johnson and Kevin Parks could do.

Special Teams: D+

Ryan Switzer had a bigger impact receiving than returning punts on Saturday. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After Ryan Switzer’s electric freshman season, special teams were expected to be a highlight for UNC this season.  They were not against Liberty.

First, let’s start with Switzer and punt returns.  Switzer muffed a punt, and was clearly trying to do too much, as he was at the sideline with Liberty players surround him.  True, he is an escape artist, but if he catches that punt cleanly he gets hit by several players at the same time.  A fair catch was definitely the best option, but Switzer chose to take his chances.  Luckily, the ball went out of bounds, and the Heels didn’t gift Liberty with good field position.  Switzer did have a good return later in the game, but another was called back because of a block in the back.

Then there was that snap that led to the safety.  It was the first game of the season, and maybe you don’t quite have your rhythm down yet.  But c’mon.  As a long snapper, you have one job, which does not include sending the ball ten feet over the punter’s head.

Thomas Moore also missed his only field goal attempt, but it was a pretty long one so it’s understandable.

Coaching: C

The coaching, like the game, was pretty unspectacular.  There were no exciting play calls, but there were no plays that were blatantly bad.  The one gripe I have is how Larry Fedora distributed the playing time between Williams and Trubisky.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

I don’t mind that they got a pretty even amount of time, since this was pretty much the plan going into the game.  I do, however, dislike that the quarterbacks switched every couple series. Neither quarterback was able to get into a good rhythm and the offense suffered for it.  True, 56 points is nothing to sneeze at but I don’t think anybody thought the offense looked very good on Saturday.

Oh, one other thing.  Those uniforms?  Can’t say I’m a huge fan. The darker blue patches did not look good.  I thought they were sweat stains for the first part of the game, which is not exactly a menacing look.

Aug 30, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora and the Liberty Flames head coach Turner Gill shake hand before the start of the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, it was a very forgettable performance by the Heels.  Had it not been for the four minutes in the third quarter when UNC scored 28 points, North Carolina could have lost the football game.  As it is, they escaped with a victory.  Hopefully, UNC rebounds and has a more convincing performance next week against San Diego State.

But a win is a win is a win right?  And now Carolina just needs nine more wins to get to my preseason prediction of ten wins.  Unfortunately, North Carolina will need to beat nine teams better than Liberty, and they won’t do it playing like they did on Saturday.