The Tar Heels’ 2021 season is heading towards being one of the most disappointing seasons in program history following Saturday afternoon’s game in Kenan Stadium against the Florida State Seminoles. The Tar Heels came in as 17.5 point favorites in a game where they were simply outplayed and outhustled by a Seminole team that came into the game 1-4 on the season with a loss to Jacksonville State. We take a look at who or what is trending up and who or what is trending down for a team that has all but eliminated itself from the ACC Coastal hunt.
After being exposed by Jordan Travis and other mobile quarterbacks over the past two seasons, the Tar Heel defense struggled once again Saturday to stop Travis and it was one of the main reasons that this defense looked as bad as it did. The Tar Heels allowed 7.1 yards per play and 238 rushing yards against the Seminoles on Saturday, very similar numbers from the ones that were put up in last year’s loss in Tallahassee. In his media availability on Monday, Bateman said that he felt like they had a good game plan in place and that the issue was more of a lack of execution than anything. While the execution may very well have been lacking, Bateman’s game plan against mobile quarterbacks hasn’t been great since his arrival, meaning it is hard to believe that these issues are more than just a lack of execution. This is something that he needs to take more accountability for and find ways to adjust moving forward because right now, it’s hard not to believe that his seat isn’t beginning to get warm.
The outside receivers had another quiet outing on Saturday afternoon. Of the four players that took reps on Saturday at those two spots, only two were able to come down with receptions and the groups combined for just two catches for 14 yards for the second consecutive week. Emery Simmons was the second most popular target for Howell on Saturday behind the team's stud slot receiver Josh Downs, but he caught just one of the seven passes that he was targeted on. The group as a whole struggled to create separation once again, especially deep down the field and that is something that has to change going forward for this offense to be consistent. That may (and probably should) mean more reps for some of the young options on the roster.
This unit was dominant in the game against Duke last weekend, but on Saturday against what may have been the worst offensive line that is easily the worst that they have faced this season. The unit that registered five sacks and nine tackles for a loss the previous week, the group finished this game without a sack and just two tackles for loss. With the amount of youth that this unit plays, it’s not shocking that the unit has been inconsistent, but it is a bit concerning that they were pushed around by an offensive line that ranked as one of the worst in all of college football.
Following two strong performances individually, Murphy had a tough day on Saturday. Despite playing 41 snaps in the game, he only finished with one total tackle on the day and was pushed around in the middle of that defensive front throughout the day. The Tar Heels need him to provide more consistent production moving forward for this defense because his is the key to the success of this defensive line right now.
The group wasn’t torched on Saturday, but it still didn’t have its most efficient day in coverage. Things seemed way too easy for Travis throwing the football and there were a couple of blown coverages that led to big plays. The safeties had a bunch of tackles, but neither of the starting cornerbacks registered a single tackle on the day. Communication is something that is clearly lacking with the unit and that will be the key to success for this position group going forward.
Jones was one of the few bright spots in this game on Saturday for the Tar Heels. Jones carried the ball eleven times for 60 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 15 yards. Jones showed some nice things on Saturday and hopefully the staff can continue to get him the football and that he can get some better run blocking in front of him.