North Carolina lost to East Carolina 41-19 on Saturday in Greenville. Grading the Tar Heels’ performance against the Pirates.
Junior Nathan Elliott played better than he did against California last week. He was 22-of-38 for 219 yards, took care of the football and threw the ball away when he was in trouble. But he did not play well enough to win the game. He over- and under-threw some of his receivers throughout the day. He was expected to have a big performance against an ECU team that was coming off an embarrassing loss to N.C. A&T, a Football Championship Subdivision program. But he was average on this day.
Running backs: B
The running backs would have received an A+ after the first half it had. Sophomore running back Antonio Williams had 96 yards on six carries in the first half, while junior running back Jordon Brown had 53 yards on seven carries and one touchdown.
But Williams was ejected late in the second quarter after he was called for a targeting penalty when he hit ECU junior defensive back Colby Gore in the head with his helmet. The momentum shifted at that point. UNC had only 30 rushing yards in the second half.
Wide receivers: B-
UNC’s receivers showed a lot of improvement. Junior wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams led the way with four catches for 84 yards. UNC sophomore wide receiver Rontavius Groves had a big catch for 34 yards on a go-route.
Seven receivers had at least one catch. But no receiver had a touchdown.
Offensive line: C+
The offensive line improved some. On the second play of the game it opened up a huge hole for Williams. He gained 48 yards on the run. But the struggled in the second half.
Defensive line: D
UNC’s defensive line failed to get the pressure on ECU that it did against Cal. Part of that can be contributed to the fact that its top pass rusher, Malik Carney, missed the game because of a suspension. UNC had only one sack all game. Reid Herring had a lot of time in the pocket and found his receivers down field.
UNC allowed ECU to run all over them in the second half. ECU had 220 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns for the game .The linebackers tackled poorly in the second half. The three starting linebackers combined for only one tackle for a loss.
“Guys weren’t in their right gaps, guys weren’t where they were supposed to be. Me included,” UNC linebacker Cole Holcomb said. “We didn’t play how we needed to play.”
Defensive backs: D
ECU’s wide receivers had success against UNC’s defensive backs. Three wide receivers had 50 or more yards. Herring had 291 yards total passing. The Tar Heels were missing safety Myles Dorin, who would have helped. Dorin seemed to injure his leg in the game against Cal.
Special teams: A-
Senior kicker Freeman Jones was excellent Saturday. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals. He had field goals of 32, 44, 49 and 42 yards. Senior punter Hunter Lent averaged 44.6 yards per punt and pinned two inside the 20.
This is a game UNC should not have lost. The Tar Heels were 16.5 point favorites coming into the game. ECU had just lost to N.C. A&T. UNC had seven first half penalties for 65 yards. The Tar Heels had only five first downs in the second half, and three points. This was not UNC’s best effort.
“We didn’t get the job done, and again that’s on me,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said.