DEACS WIN! 28-27. I have to post the most pertinent information first because the win is more important than any analysis I can give you. Congratulations to the team on securing a hard-fought victory. Having been a part of some late game wins during my career, I know how great these tight victories feel. Blowing out an opponent is fun, but I can guarantee you there is no better feeling than the one those guys had last night.
As promised yesterday, I will take this time to give you my thoughts on the game. I want to highlight things the Deacons did well, areas where they can improve, and to reflect on my own predictions. I certainly wasn’t perfect, so I am learning too haha!
Keys to Victory:
- The Wake defense was able to rattle Bryn Renner(I think he might have been literally knocked out for a second) and slow down the UNC offense enough to get them out of rhythm. The Tar Heel offense was moving with tremendous pace in the first half and giving the Deacs some trouble. In the second half, however, their offense did not move nearly as fast. Multiple times they had to slow down to check with the sidelines, which gave the Deacs a chance to breathe. UNC’s T.O.P. was 8:15 in the third quarter compared to 4:46 T.O.P. in the first quarter.
- The return of Bud Noel was huge. He played with a swagger all night. The UNC receivers tried to intimidate him all game, even using some cheap hits after the play, but he never backed down. His attitude rubbed off on his fellow defensive backs. I saw everyone of them get in their own individual scuffles, all of them refusing to back down. I love seeing that from a defense.
- 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 deflected passes. That was Hasan Hazime’s stat line. He recorded almost every statistic you can as a defender. When Nikita Whitlock went down I was extremely worried about our defensive line, but Hasan Hazime really stepped up in his first start for the Deacs. He forced them to account for someone other than Whitlock. Hazime was drawing double teams quite often even with Whitlock in the game. The coaches now have two legitimate defensive ends in Hazime and Thompson.
- Huge kudos to the offensive line. This was a patch-work line if I’ve ever seen one. Wake entered the game without starting left tackle Devin Bolling (Something that really worried me) and the situation got worse throughout the game. Starting right tackle Collin Summers went down during the game, forcing RS Freshman Dylan Intemann into action. This was Intemann’s college debut and LG Whit Barnes probably hadn’t played 20 snaps in his career, but they both played meaningful snaps today against a quality defense. The performance of the offensive line was by no means perfect, but considering the lack of experience and position changes it was a job well done. Coach Himey is doing a great job.
- Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro have some sort of mind link going on right now. 13 catches for 164 yards is scary good. In my pre-game edition I mentioned Tanner Price needed to improve and he did just that. His completion percentage rose 14% from last week. He completed 71% of his passes against the Heels.
- I was wrong about Matt James stepping up this week, however, Brandon Terry stole that opportunity from him. He showed up in a huge way to take a little pressure of Campanaro, although I’m not sure he needs any help right now. 4 catches for 87 yards for Terry, keep it up young gun.
- Alex “Mate” Kinal put the ball wherever he wanted yesterday. The hang time and pin point aim on his punts really helped change field position for the Deacs. The last punt that pinned Carolina on their one yard line slammed the door on the Tar Heels hopes. He is a major weapon.
Room for improvement:
- The offensive line must find a way to run the ball. Coach Lobotzke made clever use of screens during the game winning drive to manufacture some yards that weren’t there in the run game, but it won’t work forever. A good running game is the key to continued success in the air. 64 yards won’t suffice.
- Tackling, Tackling, Tackling…The defense has got to wrap up better. Too many missed tackles yesterday. I saw way too many guys in great position to make plays and they just didn’t wrap up.
- Jimmy Newman and the field goal unit have to make some kicks. The missed field goal before half did not end up hurting the Deacs, but a little breathing room wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully Newman can get a short chip-shot through the uprights next week and build some confidence.
I can’t stress enough how great this win is for the Deacs. Being tested twice early on in the season is going to help the team down the road. They know how to win games late and that is invaluable. Sharpening up the running game and tackling better will help this team continue to improve. Bring on the Noles!