Sunday Storylines: The Bell Tolls
•After committing 15 penalties in each of their previous two games (both wins, incidentally), Carolina shaved that number down to two(!) in Saturday's loss at Duke. But both of those penalties, particularly the first, are illustrative of just how costly a single penalty can be. In the first quarter, Tar Heel linebacker Kevin Reddick was called for a personal foul on Duke quarterback Sean Renfree. Not only did that give the Blue Devils 15 yards, it gave them the ball back. The penalty negated a Darien Rankin interception and return deep in Duke territory. Carolina was leading 3-0 and would have had the chance to go up two scores in the first quarter. Even if Rankin doesn't intercept the ball, an incompletion would have made the next play 4th and 10 at the Duke 32. But the penalty gave Duke 15 yards and the first down, and propelled them to a touchdown-scoring drive.
Carolina's second penalty was a false start on the ensuing drive. Those five yards made it 3rd and 11 at the Carolina 24. 3rd and 6 vs. 3rd and 11. An incompletion on the next play ended the Tar Heel drive.
•Bryn Renner was simply not himself yesterday. The Tar Heel quarterback took a hard shot and had the wind knocked out of him on Carolina's first drive. Marquise Williams came in briefly, rushing for a yard and then tossing to Giovani Bernard for a 39-yard catch and run. Renner returned on the same drive and Carolina settled for a field goal after having 1st and goal at the Duke 8. Through three quarters, Renner was 10-19 passing but for just 36 yards. He was checking down to second and third reads and the Tar Heels did not threaten downfield. The quarterback got the Tar Heels back in the game with three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, but some of that same magic would have done the team a lot of good in the first three periods. Renner's longest completion of the day was the 36-yard completion to Erik Highsmith, who then fumbled and saw the ball scooped up and run in for a score by Bernard.
•Duke runs the same 4-2-5 defensive scheme that the Tar Heels do, and the Blue Devil coaching staff knew exactly where the weaknesses lied. They had tremendous success running straight up the middle and finding holes through the air. By the run and the pass, Duke was consistently getting to the second and third levels of the Tar Heel defense (they ran the ball 53 times for 234 yards). Carolina's Tre Boston had 17 tackles - eight of them solo stops - on the day. Those are Dexter Reid and Trimane Goddard-type numbers. "It’s not good when it’s from the safety position, especially if you're not rolling him down into the box the whole time," Larry Fedora said. "That’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing we had him."