Brownlow: Go Figure
Which team is North Carolina, the team that has shown up in the first half of its last two games or the second-half Comeback Kids? It’s hard to know, but the difference between those two teams is absolutely staggering. (Note: These numbers only include Carolina’s FBS opponents, Wake Forest and Louisville.)
The Tar Heel defense has clamped down in recent second halves.
1st half: 36 rushes, 184 yards, 5 touchdowns allowed (5.11 per carry)
2nd half: 41 rushes, 63 yards, 1 touchdown allowed (1.54 per carry)
1st half: 33-40, 447 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 0 UNC sacks
2nd half: 18-27, 204 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 4 UNC sacks
1st half: 76 plays, 631 yards allowed (8.30 per play)
2nd half: 68 plays, 257 yards allowed (3.78 per play)
In the first half, Carolina’s defense has allowed 57 points, 34 first downs and 8-of-8 red zone conversions (seven touchdowns). Wake and Louisville combined to convert 6-of-10 third downs in the first half. Considering they combined for 76 first-half plays, it’s distressing that Carolina couldn’t even force more third-down situations, never mind the 60% success rate.
The second-half defense, presumably after a shot or two of Red Bull, has allowed 10 points, 17 first downs and 2-of-3 red zone conversions (one touchdown). It held Wake and Louisville to 4-of-14 third down conversions and forced a third down try on over 20% of their second-half snaps. Carolina hasn’t gained a first-half turnover, but has forced two second-half turnovers.
The Carolina offense has been more consistent, averaging 5.7 yards per play in the first half and 6.2 in the second. Carolina passed for 306 first-half yards and 428 in the second half (but averaged nearly the same yards per attempt). Carolina has eight more second-half first downs and scored 40 second-half points compared to 21 in the first, but a lot of that is due to getting more plays.
Carolina has had 12 first-half offensive possessions resulting in three touchdowns, five punts and three turnovers. Opponents have scored three touchdowns off of those turnovers and started the post-turnover drives in North Carolina territory on all three.
Carolina’s defense forced Wake Forest to punt on its first two drives of the first half. In the next four Wake drives of the half and the six Louisville first-half drives (10 total), the defense has surrendered eight touchdowns, a field goal and were fortunate that Wake missed a 40-yard attempt.
The biggest offensive differences have come in three areas:
1st half: 29 rushes, 53 yards, 1 TD (1.83 per carry)
2nd half: 30 rushes, 151 yards, 1 TD (5.03 per carry)
1st half: 4-13
2nd half: 9-16
1st half: 2-2 (2 touchdowns)
2nd half: 6-7 (5 touchdowns)
The Tar Heels have run 13 more plays than their opponents in the second half (+13), which is partly due to the offense running smoother, but probably more because the defense has stiffened up.
Carolina’s second-half offense has scored five touchdowns and two field goals on 13 possessions, punting three times, adding one interception and one turnover on downs.
The Carolina defense has also faced 13 drives and allowed just a touchdown and a field goal, not to mention gaining two turnovers (which the offense has turned into ten points) and forced seven punts.
Regardless of the reason for the wild half-to-half swings, the consensus is that is has to stop.
“I said it coming out of the (Louisville) game, I was like, that tells you how good we can really be. We’ve just got to start fast,” senior linebacker Kevin Reddick said. “We really could be a good team, it’s just that we don’t start fast. We’re going to have to to work on that.”