UNC Football Positional Grades vs. East Carolina

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Sep 20, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver T. J. Thorpe (5) scores on a touchdown pass from Ryan Switzer. This play was one of the offensive highlights for the Heels. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: D+

North Carolina’s offense moved the ball fairly well, gaining 439 yards and scoring 41 points.  On most days, 41 points should be enough to win.  But UNC’s offense was not as productive as those numbers suggest.

North Carolina’s two touchdowns in the first half both came on trick plays: a double pass play that led to a Ryan Switzer to T.J. Thorpe score, and a Tommy Hibbard pass off a fake field goal.  Marquise Williams, who was quarterback for most of the game, did not account for a single score.

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More concerning was the inability of Carolina to score touchdowns in the red zone.  In four red zone trips, Carolina scored two touchdowns.  Those two touchdowns came after the game had been decided and only served to make the final score slightly more respectable.  Now, I hate to say “I told you so,” but in my last article (Three Things UNC Should Focus on During Their Bye Week) I discussed finishing drives.  Evidently, North Carolina should have focused on this more, because they were not very good doing this on Saturday.

Now, I’m not saying that if the Heels had scored touchdowns on those two drives the end result would have been much different.  But consider this: if UNC had scored a touchdown on its first drive (when they had a first and goal from ECU’s five), then they are leading 14-7 when Brian Walker picked off Shane Carden’s pass to start UNC’s third drive.  On this possession, UNC again had first and goal, this time from the Pirates’ three.  Again, UNC had to settle for a field goal.  Had North Carolina scored a touchdown, they are up 21-7 with all the momentum in the world.  Instead, ECU has the momentum after making it’s second goal line stand of the game, and is only trailing 13-7.

If the Carolina offense had just gained eight more yards on those two possessions, I really do think that the game would have played out differently.  Finishing drives has been an issue all season, and it finally cost the Heels on Saturday.