Sunday Storylines: A Plethora of Penalties
Yes, Carolina won Saturday at Miami. Yes, it was exciting. However, it could have been a lot more comfortable had the Tar Heels not shot themselves in the foot time and time again with penalties. For the second straight week, the Tar Heels committed an astounding 15 penalties. Those infractions cost Carolina 140 yards and gave Miami five(!) first downs.
As Larry Fedora noted after the game, some penalties are penalties of aggression. Fedora wants his teams to play smart, fast and physical. Well, they're trying to do that. Three times Saturday, a wide receiver was called for holding. "If Quinshad (Davis) isn’t trying to block so hard and trying to finish the guy we probably don’t get a holding call," Fedora said. "You’ve got to be able to play hard but still play smart. You have to be disciplined enough to not make those mistakes when you can’t afford to."
Erik Highsmith was called for holding on a Giovani Bernard run. After the game, he explained what he and his fellow wideouts are attempting to do on runs and screen passes. "It's trying to be physical, trying to displace our guy, and unfortunately he got out of our framework and we still want to keep driving him out," Highsmith said. "They're going to call it every time, but it's something we can learn from."
It's often immediately obvious when a penalty is costly: Carolina roughed Miami punter Dalton Botts on 4th and 2; that was the first four four penalties on the Hurricanes' first scoring drive. An offsides call and two consecutive substitution infractions (when you get called for 12 men on the field, someone ought to probably head to the sideline before the next snap).
Sometimes it helps to look at the play by play: Romar Morris got down to the Miami 6 but a Davis holding call backed the Tar Heels up 10 yards. That drive ended with a missed Casey Barth field goal attempt.
Penalties are going to happen, but it's up to the Tar Heels to play with discipline. The first word of 'Smart, fast and physical' is 'smart.'