UNC got mugged by the Wolfpack Saturday.
I could write about linebacker Mark Paschal's excellent game, or the fact that QB TJ Yates showed a sign or two of returning to the form he was in before an injury forced him to sit out for most of the season, but that would be gilding the 41-10 turd that was today's game.
Coach Butch Davis, still steaming after the Heels managed to find a way to turn over the ball for a sixth time with almost no time left, said it best in his postgame comments: "Six turnovers - you can almost totally disregard any of the other stats. Once you get past the turnovers, there are other things that certainly contributed to today's loss - giving up big plays in the secondary, balls being thrown deep and not being contested, guys being open - all of those things contributed to the way that we played today."
Davis answered questions about starting Yates over backup Cameron Sexton who, for the most part, played the part of steady hand and maintained the team's positive momentum after Yates' injury.
"You can't look in the rearview mirror," Davis opined. "How do you know? We feel that both of those guys are pretty good quarterbacks. They have both had some pretty good success. Was T.J. nervous coming back for the first time? Conceivably, maybe so."
Yeah, could be.
Can the ‘Canes find a way to have Henry Staal come down to Raleigh for every home game?
Eric Staal made his old man proud and broke out of his scoring slump in a big way tonight, scoring
three goals in the first two periods for the ‘Canes’ first hat trick of the season. The hatter, Staal’s fifth of his career, gave him sole possession of first place in franchise hat tricks. Before tonight, he was tied with Erik Cole for the lead.
Staal provided all the offense the ‘Canes needed and Ward took care of the rest, giving the team its first win over western conference foe Phoenix for the first time since 2002.
“Sometimes its hard, but you can’t change your game,” Staal said. “I know I can score in this league and I know I can contribute offensively. I thought for the most part during the last few games I’ve been working hard, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Hurricanes dug themselves into a hole early when Staal drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty and Patrick Eaves received two minutes for the same infraction, giving the Coyotes 48 seconds of 5-on-3. The ‘Canes reorganized and managed to kill it off, but of course, it wouldn’t be a Hurricanes game if the other team didn’t score first. After the Staal penalty expired, the Coyotes scored with 37 seconds remaining in Eaves’ minor.
The Hurricanes could not have scheduled a better time for their annual father’s trip, in which players, coaches, and staff invite their father to travel with the team and attend a road game. Eric Staal has traditionally performed very well with his father, Henry, in the building; he scored his first hat trick in 2005 against Philadelphia during the inaugural fathers’ weekend. Staal finally snapped an eight-game goalless streak after he collected a Sergei Samsonov rebound and tucked it under Ilja Bryzgalov. Staal yelled and threw his arms up in the air, clearly relieved.
“Never once did anyone in this locker room worry about Eric,” Cam Ward said. “Even when he’s not scoring he’s bringing something to the game. It is nice to see him get rewarded for the hard work.”
Ed. note: N.C. State travels to Chapel Hill tomorrow for a noon showdown against the Tar Heels, which will be broadcast on regional televlsion. Jake Swiger, a UNC student who runs his own blog, www.tarheelbuckeye.blogspot.com, kindly sent us the results of tomorrow's clash, as played on NCAA 2009, a video game from GamePlay Video. Thanks, Jake!
UNC vs. NC State NCAA 2009 Simulation
In a battle between one of the nation's best secondaries and most efficient quarterbacks, the Carolina defense prevailed, picking off Russell Wilson four times and returning two for touchdowns as the Heels stormed through the Wolfpack 38-17.
Wilson entered the game with only one pick, but pressure from UNC's front four forced several uncharacteristic throws from the freshman.
On the other side of the field, TJ Yates started after missing most of the season. Yates finished 18-19 for 185 yards and a touchdown.
Despite the margin of victory, NC State moved the ball at will and out gained the Heels, marking the eighth time the Heel have been out gained offensively and still won this season.
North Carolina coasted by Kentucky 77-58 on Tuesday night in the main event of ESPN's 24-hour hoops marathon, but the game's outcome didn't mollify the anxieties felt throughout the UNC community in the aftermath.
To wit, near the end of the contest, big man Tyler Zeller was fouled on a breakaway and landed awkwardly on his wrist. Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Zeller had fractured his wrist and will miss the rest of the season.
Along with Tyler Hansbrough's lingering shin injury and a foot injury to Marcus Ginyard that may keep him out until January, UNC's mountain of depth has been whittled to a foothill.
But while Hansbrough — who has begun to resume practicing — and Ginyard are expected to return to full strength in plenty of time to make a national title run, Zeller's presumed absence is the first wound that time may not be able to heal in time for the 2008-09 Tar Heels.
That said, there's a much happier face to be applied for UNC faithful. Essentially, this year's team is the same as last year's Final Four group but one year older and better, with freshman big man Ed Davis replacing Alex Stepheson — and to this point Davis appears to be ahead of Stepheson already — and freshman guard Larry Drew replacing former backup and present hip-hop impresario Quentin Thomas.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – Seven minutes into Sunday's nail-biter at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Rhode Island--a team picked to finish ninth (out of 14) in the Atlantic 10 Conference--took the lead over No. 5 Duke, on a layup by URI guard Keith Cothran. For the rest of the game, Rhode Island would either be ahead of--or tied with--the Blue Devils, save for the first and last minutes of the second half. Of course, the last minute is the only one that mattered.
Fittingly, Kyle Singler--who turned out a solid 25 point/5 rebound/5 assist performance, and is one of Duke's brighest spots this year--gave his team both leads. After Duke had whittled a 12-point deficit down to one point at halftime (thanks, in part, to several hard-charging drives by Jon Scheyer, who had 23 points, 13 from the line), Singler scored the first basket of the second half, giving Duke a precarious 35-34 lead. Then, after Rhode Island dominated for much of the half (you read that correctly), Singler hit a pair of free throws at the 57-second mark, putting his team up 78-77. After one more lead change, Duke prevailed, 82-79, in a game that Coach Mike Krzyzewski described as "the best game yet in college basketball" this year.
For the second straight game, Caniacs had to sit through an entire half a game before they were allowed to “Wooo!” with Ric Flair.
(Speaking of Ric Flair, the ‘Canes staff managed to wheel him in to sound the warning siren before tonight’s game.)
Gone were the 10 and 11-goal contests of Montreal vs. Carolina games past. The Hurricanes were forced to win a nail biter over their storied playoff rivals from the north. Cam Ward finished the night with 29 saves and the ‘Canes managed 48 shots on Carey Prince, their largest total of the season thus far.
Sergei Samsonov finally got the monkey off his back and scored his first goal of the season. Ray Whitney potted one of his own, which turned out to be the game-winner, midway through the third.
“It’s a bit of a relief,” Samsonov said. “Whenever you get into a slump, it’s more of a confidence thing than anything, and it was good to see that one go in.”
The only thing that could have made the night better would have been a breakthrough Eric Staal goal, or at least a point – not that the franchise center didn’t come very, very close. Everyone on the team is all about getting Staal out of this scoring slump, because as the past few seasons have shown, as goes Staal, so go the Hurricanes. Staal came within millimeters; his perfectly-placed shot glanced off the side of the post during the Canes’ first power play of the night. He then appeared to have shoved it behind Habs goaltender Carey Price seconds later, only to have the netminder spit it right back out. He later zoomed in with Sergei Samsonov on a 2-on-1, but Price got over in time to stop his wrister.
One down, thirty-something to go. North Carolina's top-ranked basketball team toppled Penn 86-71 on Saturday evening to kick off the 2008-09 season, showcasing commendable potency even without injured superstar Tyler Hansbrough and fellow starter Marcus Ginyard.
As expected, Hansbrough's absence forced UNC to rely more heavily on perimeter jump shooting. The Quakers also employed a zone defense, daring the Tar Heels to hoist long bombs. For that reason, the Heels struggled to gain permanent separation from their feisty opponents, despite a few stretches of excellent basketball.
The statistical effort was balanced, but easily the most surprising aspect of the game was that UNC was led in scoring by freshman center Tyler Zeller (18 points) and in rebounding by freshman power forward Ed Davis (14 boards). Zeller and Davis each logged more than 20 minutes of playing time and enthusiastically capitalized on their scoring opportunities, shooting a combined 8-12 from the field.
Tuomo Ruutu and Rod Brind’Amour scored in the shootout, and the Carolina Hurricanes snapped a three-game losing streak with their first SO win in over a year.
The Carolina RailHawks announced Scotsman Martin Rennie as the team's new head coach. Rennie comes to the Railhawks from the Cleveland City Stars of the USL's Second Division. At Cleveland, Rennie compiled an impressive record, taking the Stars to the USL-2 semi-finals in his first year and winning the league in his second year. This is clearly a coach who knows how to develop and implement functional tactical systems. Rennie is also noted for his ability to maximize player potential. A high percentage of his acolytes went directly into the MLS or foreign professional leagues following their stint in Cleveland.
Rennie comes to Cary with Europe's highest coaching qualification: the UEFA "A" license. This is an unusual accomplishment for someone who has yet to begin plucking grey hairs before press conferences. Rennie also carries the UEFA youth license, which will be a huge asset in identifying and developing local talent to bring through the RailHawks' fledgling development system. He has significant connections with professional teams in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean and suggested that he will immediately look to add to the international character of the RailHawks' squad.
During today's well-attended press conference, RailHawks owner and president Brian Wellman identified the synergy between the RailHawks organization and Rennie saying "we are here to deepen our roots in the community, promote a family-friendly soccer environment, and put a championship team on the field. Martin will bring us consistency, a winning attitude, and a proven track record of success." Wellman was also very clear that the RailHawks are not content to just compete in USL-1 but will continue to bring in top Mexican and MLS teams, and will target the new CONCACAF Champions League which would bring meaningful (and lucrative) international competition to WakeMed Soccer park.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – Following an impressive victory over Houston in the first round of the 2K Sports Classic hosted at Cameron Indoor Stadium, unranked Georgia Southern fell to Duke 97-54 Tuesday night. The game was decided in the first few minutes, as Duke—ranked number 5 in the nation by the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll—capitalized on strong defense and superior rebounding to overwhelm the scrappy Southern Conference team. Indeed, Duke’s 33 second-chance points, and 24 points off turnovers, surpassed their opponent’s entire offensive output. Sophomore power-forward Kyle Singler was dominant, racking up a team-high 19 points and 8 rebounds off baseline drives, steady put-back shots and frequent trips to the free-throw line, where he was 9-for-12.
“Each game presents a different style,” Singler told the Indy. “This game, I didn’t have any open shots. What was there were put-backs and points at the line.”
Overall, though, Duke shot just over 50 percent at the line—including an abysmal 1-for-8 from the explosive junior power forward, Lance Thomas. Coach Mike Krzyzewski attributed the low free-throw percentage to players “losing a bit of concentration” once the clock was stopped.
“It’s November 11,” he said. “The familiarity of playing hard, and stop-action, is something you have to get used to.”
But when the clock was running, the Blue Devils were unstoppable. Singler, it appeared, was everywhere at once. In one series, he scored baseline, then grabbed a one-handed rebound on the opposite end, drove the ball up himself, and dished it to shooting-guard Jon Scheyer for a three. Later, Scheyer stole the ball at mid-court, and gave it back to Singler for a dunk. (Scheyer had 8 points, 3 steals, and a team-high 7 assists.)
Sophomore Nolan Smith, who started over senior Greg Paulus at point guard for the second game in a row, had a solid showing of 13 points, including a breakaway one-handed dunk, though no assists. Scheyer, and others, were there for the extra pass, and Singler was often in place to help himself to a put-back in the paint. In one notable play, Paulus—who made an immediate defensive impact when he entered midway through the first half, despite modest offensive numbers (11 points, 1 assist)—lobbed a cross-court pass to Smith, who missed the shot, but was greeted with a hug by Paulus. If there’s any love lost between the competing point guards, neither of them show it.
After the game, Krzyzewski deflected a question about whether Smith had earned a permanent starting role at the point, noting that Paulus was still recovering from a knee injury. He added that the two guards will share time in the backcourt, though he did not speculate where Scheyer, the team’s lanky shooting-guard, would fit in. Because of Scheyer’s size—at 6-5, a mere 185 pounds—most match-ups will force Krzyzewski to rotate the three players, and Scheyer should see heavy playing time. A diminishing role for Paulus—the team’s leader—may be inevitable, as long as Smith can prove himself as a playmaker.