Game Recap: @ Duke

By AnthonyPagnotta
Nov. 12, 2016

On Thursday night, Larry Fedora and the Heels headed 8 miles down the road to Durham to face Duke. The Heels came into Thursday night’s game having won 23 of 26 against the arch-rival Blue Devils. The game began as many thought it would, as the Heels jumped out to a quick 14-0 on two early Mitch Trubisky touchdowns. From that point on, however, the Heels were outplayed by the Blue Devils on both sides of the ball. In the end, Trubisky had a chance late in the fourth quarter to lead the Heels down the field once again, but throw a uncharacteristic interception to seal the Heels fate. The Heels headed back to Chapel Hill with a very disappointing 28-27 loss to Duke. Here’s what we learned.

The Virginia Tech Loss May Not Have Been as Much of a Fluke as We Thought

Although the Heels scored 27 points, the offense struggled for most of the night. The Heels were shut down by a defense that has struggled to stay healthy all season. Defensively, the Heels were picked apart by Daniel Jones, reminiscent of how Jerod Evans picked them apart in Chapel Hill. That same Virginia Tech team beat the Blue Devils a week ago, proving that this year they are the best team in the Coastal.

The Heels Offense Goes as Mitch Trubisky Does

Trubisky started the game hot, throwing three touchdowns in the first half, but tailed off as the game continued. The turning point was the interception one the opening drive of the second half. The Heels were driving to re-take the lead and Trubisky was intercepted on the Duke 27. That pick seemed to rattle Trubisky and from then on he never regained form. The interception on the final drive was just a head scratcher. There seemed to be no one in the area that Trubisky threw into, something that we haven't really seen from Trubisky. This is how it has been, though. In the three losses this season, Trubisky is averaging 170.3 yards per game and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 3 to 4. In wins, Trubisky is averaging 356.1 yards per game and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 19 to 0. My point: This team goes as Trubisky goes.

Elijah Hood Needs More Carries

After struggling for the first half of the season, Hood has rounded into form and is feeling it. Hood had 75 yards on Thursday coming on just 13 carries. Hood was running through defenders most of the night, but still didn't get the ball that much. Part of that was apparently due to Hood struggling with asthma throughout the evening. This was a problem that I was personally unaware of before this game and may explain why Hood hasn't seen more carries throughout his entire career. The other part of it is the personnel groupings. Khris Francis hasn't shown he can be effective, yet is still on the field for a decent amount of snaps. I wish we could see more of Hood-Logan when we go into the two back set as opposed to Logan-Francis most of the time. Whatever it is, Hood needs to get the ball more, with the fact that he's averaging 8.5 yards per carry over his last three games.

Third Down Defense Needs to Get Better and Fast

The Heels have struggled at stopping teams on third down defense all year. After Thursday’s game, teams are now converting on 42.2% of third down against Gene Chizik's defense. That simply cannot keep up or the Heels defense will continue to struggle keeping opponents from driving the field. In my opinion, the Heels need to start being more aggressive on third downs by pressuring the quarterback and playing more man-to-man defense on third down situations.

Tackling Struggles Bit the Heels Again

It's been an on and off year tackling wise and Thursday was an off night. Missed tackles allowed Shaun Wilson and Daniel Jones to have big nights on the ground and T.J. Rahming to have a very successful night after the catch. Before Thursday, the Heels tackling had been consistently good over the previous three weeks, but with this performance they took a step back. The Heels will have to rebound with The Citadel coming to Chapel Hill next Saturday.

Switzer Has Officially Cooled Off

At the midpoint of the season, Ryan Switzer was one of the hottest receivers in the country. Over one three game span Switzer recorded 35 receptions for 467 yards. Since that stretch ended, however, Switzer has just 27 receptions for 176 yards over a span of five games. Switzer hasn't seen nearly as many targets with teams adjusting their schemes to make him ineffective. Bug Howard’s emergence has also hurt Switzer’s production, but that a good problem to have. Hopefully Switzer can close the season hot and finally get to that 1000 yard mark.

Depth is Still Being Built

When playing on a short week, depth is extremely important. The Heels lack of depth showed on Thursday. The Heels started the game extremely fast and as Jones Angell said the players looked surprisingly fresh early. As the game went on, fatigue set in and the lack of depth forced gassed starters to have to stay in the game and young players to be forced into action. Defensively, fatigue killed the Heels, especially with that fact that Duke had the ball for 37:39. Depth will eventually come as Larry brings in full recruiting class over these next few years. A nine day break should give the Heels time to recuperate.

PSA: While this was a tough loss, this team is still have a good year following a sensational season last year. The goal of reaching the ACC Championship Game would take a miracle in all honesty, but this team still has a chance to go 9-3, which I would see as a successful season. I encourage everyone to stick with this team and, if you can, be at Kenan for the final two home games, especially the NC State game to support the seniors.

Next Game: vs. The Citadel (3:30 PM, TBD)