ECU 6, North Carolina 27 is in the Books: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Apologies for being so lax on my posting. I had truly meant to give a good, bad and ugly on USM, but ran out of time last week. Wouldn’t life be better if those damn bosses out there didn’t demand you work for your paycheck? Bummer.

Below is my quick and dirty on the UNC game, good, bad, and ugly. And, then, next post will be an eye toward UTEP.

Without further adieu…

UNC: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

His time? Seems to me that Hunter Furr – along with Tay Cooper – has earned the right to be one of the two main backs now.

The Good Stuff:

1) Vintavious Cooper and Hunter Furr: Is it just me or have these two running backs EARNED the lion’s share of the carries right now? In Tay, I see a back who actually lifts his head up and looks for yards beyond the initial “hole” in the OL. In Furr, I see a big, powerful back who will get you the sticks from 3-5 yards out and God forbid if a LB doesn’t wrap up. If Carden deserved the QB job, then these two young men should have their chances to shine.

2) Offensive Line: I thought the OL – minus the center position (see below) – did great in the game against UNC. I will address the sacks below. Pass protection was very good again (see below for some work Carden needs to do) and the boys up front showed that they can open up some holes for the running game against an albeit young – but 4-star stacked – UNC defensive line. Carden did not help our OL in regard to the sacks, but aside from his pocket mismanagement at times, the OL held up well and that bodes well for the future.

3) No Interceptions: Sure, we had the bad fumble that hurt very badly, but overall, once again Shane Carden protected the football and gave us a chance. Fewer turnovers is simple math – you have a better chance to win when you minimize the turnovers.

4) Front seven against the run: I know…when opponents are carving up the defense for 300+ yards passing, how can you give anyone kudos? Well, I see the coverage issues as an X and Os issue (read: are you watching the tape coaches?). I thought when Coach Mitchell dialed up the pressure, our guys were effective against Renner – pretty much every time we pressured, he threw poorly or had to go to the short option. We also broke up a few runs that way. Unfortunately, BM dialed up pressure way too infrenquently and Renner carved us up.

5) UNC’s offense is pretty darn good and we played them tough for 3 quarters: Look, I hate to ever give UNC kudos, but their cheating has paid off well for them in the form of talent. That OL was legitimate and Brenner – given time – will carve up a lot of defenses more reknown than ours. They are deeper and more talented across the board and will be for as long as the playing field is kept uneven. We held up well other than the 3rd quarter when we self-imploded and gave away the football game.

6) Punting: Flat out…Trent Tignor and his coverage unit are simply good. They have been a very bright spot for this team…he not only can kick it a mile, he has killed a ton of the inside the 20 already, just 4 games in. And kudos to the hustlers on that unit. Those boys get downfield and kill the ball or the ball carrier – either and both.

7) Warren Harvey: I was happy for Warren…2-for-2 in  a pressure setting is what he needed. A trend developing? Let’s hope so…going to need every point we can generate.

8) Offensive philosophy: Love that the running game is emerging…I had a few issues with some of the conservative play by Carden, but believe it was on the QB, not on LR. I am pleased LR is committed to developing a run game. We are going to need it to keep our D off the field more.

The Bad:

1) Pass coverage: Yes, pass coverage goes hand-in-hand with pressure, BUT…our underneath coverage has killed us. Watch the tape of ANY game we play and you will find receivers – when you pause the tape – with not a single ECU player in the frame. NONE. How is that possible? Tells me that our boys are either not getting it or it is not stressed. We have great speed on defense, but apparently what is missing is actually looking for the receivers in your zone. Frankly, my boys flag-football team does a seemingly better job of identifying and getting to the receivers that are in their zones. And if this is a product of some sort of LB man on WR scheme, we need to rethink it. Fundamental, IMO.

2) Carden’s pocket presence: I stand by my opinion that Shane Carden is not only a gamer, but will be an extraordinary QB by the time he leaves ECU. I believe he will hold off Cody next year and will be a lot like Favre by the time it is over. HOWEVER…recognizing that he is a sophomore in his 2nd start, there are some issues there. First, recall when Dominique Davis first came into the program. As good as he was in his first season in 2010, does anyone remember that he was very prone to “retreat” first before seeking to work the pocket?? I remember how frustrating it would be to see him sense pressure and retreat 20 yards sometimes. Carden has a little of that. He has a good sense on when and where pressure is coming, but he does not help out his OL. They are trained to – and pretty good at – maintaining the pocket. The QB MUST trust in that and work himself back into the pocket before he jail breaks out and “creates” something. If you watch the UNC game closely, you will see that he had several opportunities to step up in the pocket before he bailed. I would have hoped that LR would have addressed this back in 2010 with all of his QBs when DD was doing this way too often. This is FIXABLE though.

3) Routine Plays, Routine DROPS: My God…how long are we going to have to watch our receivers drop critical passes. This is a veteran bunch, but once again, while they didn’t drop a lot of them, the ones they did always seem to come on 3rd down or when major opportunities exist. Gotta make the catch.

4) Missed opportunities: Carden had two “what should be easy TD passes for a top-level collegiate QB” that he let get away from him. Justin Jones at 6-8 couldn’t climb high enough to get a ridiculously bad overthrow and then later Danny Webster saw the same thing: WIDE OPEN for six and a moonshot pass from Carden. Add those two to the scoreboard and UNC would have been a nail-biter.

5) In the middle: I am hoping that I am wrong, in general, and that the UNC defensive tackles are just very good, because our centers were abused on Saturday. Other than our tackles getting beat outside a couple of times (and Carden not stepping up), the only glaring issue in pass pro that I saw was that our centers were getting DRIVEN into the backfield and a couple of times, on key plays in the redzone. It was terrible if you watch the film. Not sure how to fix it, but keep an eye on that position again.

The Ugly:

1) Tackling: Our open field tackling has been atrocious, not just UNC, but for the most part all season. In the box, our guys have been stellar, but out in the open, man…teams are killing us. UNC’s 66-yarder is a case in point: Hit on the reception and not tackled…gone for 66 yard TD. Another, Bernard’s screen pass for a TD, hit twice, no tackle, all-too-easy TD. FRUSTRATING to no end and a “fundamental” issue.

2) In-game adjustments, lack thereof: Once again, already into their 3rd year, this staff appears to not be able to make in-game adjustments. Not even at half-time and that is very concerning. Coach Ruff noted after the USM game – he inferred at least – that the players had not been able to implement adjustments but did so in the USM game. Hmmmm…sounds like an under the buss toss, but OK. If the reality is that our players are incapable of getting and implementing otherwise wonderful adjustments, then this staff needs to rethink its recruiting. Great athletes with 2 cent heads will not win here. More likely, our green HC and his two green coordinators are still learning the roles. Last year, BM moved himself to the booth in lieu of veteran coach John Wiley managing the sideline and the defense made huge strides. Just saying.

3) Running Back by committee: This is not working. Cooper and Furr have earned the carries for now. They falter, then open it up the competition again.

4) Program issues?: Not looking to stir the pot, but it is troubling that there have been two “substance” issues to-date with this team. I am not a guy who thinks that marijuana should be against the law, but it is and to have two veteran players busted for possession in such close proximity to one another makes me worry that this could be a more pervasive issue with this team. NOT GOOD and I hope that the staff is pressurizing the situation on these players. Weed them out now before they make this a bigger issue for our program.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts and on the program at large.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “ECU 6, North Carolina 27 is in the Books: the Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. Mike Bartos

    I will add one other bad. On our first time inside the 5 yard line with 3rd. & 2 or 3 for a first down. One would think a field goal is a given on 4th. down. Why in the name Leo, would you not take a shot for a TD with pass to big guy or on a roll out to a receiver? Instead we run it & get stuffed. To me that was a big mistake & it falls directly on the pup, LR.

    • HI Mike…appreciate the comment.

      You’re right and you’re right. In that situation against a heated rival who outguns you, you have to nail your opportunities. Dicey – overly conservative – call it what you will, but I am with you. Gotta take your shots.

      Hopefully as LR learns on our dime, he will click in as a seasoned OC at some point.

      In fairness to LR, I will say, he didn’t overthrow a pair of wide open receivers in the end zone…ugghhh (that’s 14 points!!!)

      Drop in anytime Mike…love the passion!

      • Ralph Wright

        3rd quarter was hard to watch. Got the feeling our guys panicked a little when they felt the momentum slipping away.
        But I was encouraged by the first half. No score on their first possession and 2 solid scoring drives featuring some good running to answer their first half TD.
        No one left on the schedule with that kind of talent or depth in the trenches. The Liberty is very attainable this year as well as a 10-2 regular season record.
        Can’t wait for Saturday.

      • Good to hear from you Ralph!

        Love the half full…totally agree…10-2 is feasible, but our boys are going to have to execute.

        I share your thoughts on the first half. I expect a good game plan and a fired up team this weekend.

        Cheers!

  2. Agree with your assessment. I think the game is a little fast now for Carden and Im sure it has been drilled into his head that the fastest way to loosing his job is to throw pics. I think for this system to work you need to complete a high percentage and to date that has yet to happen. I think we need to try and streach the field and make better use of the talent we have. This should help the running game and short passing as well. Our defense cleary lacks an enforcer at the back end that will send a message that you just dont throw over the middle without paying a price. Since Cooper was an Ex QB how about mixing in a gadget play or two along the way. My biggest concern last week was that once we were down late in the 3rd quarter the team played with no sense of urgency and seemed content on running the ball and letting the clock expire.

    I brought the cheating issue up in a CBS post back in August. At the time USC was the preseason #1 coming off 2 years probation. Ohio State ended up with a coaching upgrade after their issues with the NCAA. UNC over the past 5 seasons has landed top 15 recruiting classes and turned numerous kids into NFL talent. The image as a basketball school is now going away. Since they have not won an ACC championship since 1980 what differece does it make if they cant play for the tittle for a year while rebranding itself as a football power. Closer to home UCF made its bed with a seedy coach and a corrupt athletic department but will be moving up to the land of riches in the Big East despite their 2-9 record against us and the 15,000 fewer bodies from that so called large market that show up to the recycling bin on game days. While I would never advocate cheating please show me an example where the offending party did not emerge stronger.

    • Totally aligned with you on the cheating perspective DCP 28!

      As Johnny Dangerously said in summary….”Remember kids, Crime doesn’t pay…” then, to the camera as he heads off, “Well, it does a little.”

      The backbone of the SEC was built through cheating – akin to the fortunes amassed by such highly regarded families as the Kennedys and the Rockafellers. Crime does pay in this NCAA environment. Seldom does the punishment hit the cheater hard enough to really “punish.”

      Cheat now, win big later. It is a joke and it is sad. The NCAA is nothing more than a sham organization joining many others in college sports who are hard cuffing the till all day long, right in front of everyone’s faces.

      Anyway…also agree with your insights on Shane. He has a bright, bright future but for him to break out this weekend, we need to see Reese Wiggins, Lance Ray, and Jabril Soloman going downfield and taking our changes. With that, just think how open the likes of Justin Hardy, Danny Webster, and Justin Jones will be all day long. WE should have no problem putting up points on this defense. We will learn a ton about Carden’s future in this game, chiefly his decision making and his passing acumen. Can he through the deep ball? can he put touch on it? he should have time and open receivers.

      Cheers!

  3. Great stuff Ron, as always.

    Just wanted to add a few thoughts to your points. Taylor Hudson, making his fourth career start at center, was going up against a future 1st round NFL pick and an All-American candidate in Sylvester Williams. The guy is an absolute monster and I’m not surprised to see Hudson get beat. Williams is just better and more experienced at this stage.

    Also, regarding the sack issues…I think the blame has to not only go on Carden, but the pass protection as well. While Carden’s holding onto the ball probably caused 2-3 sacks in itself, the OL really had trouble with assignments and blocking, especially in the second half when UNC started to bring pressure. From my vantage point in the press box, receivers were rarely open and the LT and RBs struggled with blitz pickup off the edge. When Rob Jones went out with an injury, Harner struggled for a few series as well with UNC’s speed seeing as he’s still not at 100 percent health with his ankle. There were multiple times when Carden absolutely had no chance from the snap no matter what he did. That said, he still had some instances where he has to get rid of the ball and not back pedal like you said. However, I think that will come with time. I’m more worried about the OL, which is full of experienced juniors, still struggling at times.

    • That is some great analysis Stephen…thanks for sharing. That makes sense in regards to Taylor’s struggles there at center. Hopefully he won’t face a guy like that again soon.

      Yeah…Elsawi got taken to the shed several times with speed rush. Carden will get a better feel as time goes on, where he can slip inside when a guy gets around his tackles so easily…the QB has to help his OLs at times.

      I am bummed that Harner’s injury is such that he will likely not ever be the same…we needed him. Thank God we don’t play anywhere near that type of DL talent the rest of the way.

      As always, Stephen…I appreciate and look forward to your inputs.

      Cheers!

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