After watching the Tigers nearly implode in the second half against an undermanned but overly inspired Tar Heel team last week, I came away with a number of thoughts regarding improvement.
At the top of Les Miles’ list of things to address with his team, as they approach this weekend’s tilt with Vanderbilt, has to be “60 Minutes.” There are probably more than a few observers who got the impression that the Tigers somehow thought the game was over after 30 minutes.
UNC just about proved them wrong.
It all has to do with attitude, discipline, attention to detail, and fighting for 60 minutes whether you are up or down by 30 points or just one. Les and his staff are responsible for making that happen.
I remember a recent former Tiger head coach saying that he instructs his players to not look at the clock or scoreboard during the game, and if they do happen to catch a glance of it, to ignore it. The point being is that neither bit of information should affect your level of play at anytime during those 60 minutes.
Les and his staff also need to revisit the concept of playing hard while playing smart. I saw a lot of hard play by a lot of players, but there were times throughout the game when the smart part was somewhat absent.
The Tigers did not have a crazy number of penalties (8—65), but they did have a couple that really hurt. Two of those penalties led to a 14-point swing in the Tar Heels favor: Seth Fruge (I think) roughed the punter reviving their drive and leading to seven and T Bob Hebert, flagged for holding, took away seven as well.
I realize there is a lot of youth out there on the field, but this will be the coaching challenge, to motivate and extract hard play, yet smart and penalty free play.
More specifically, I believe the Tigers need to stick with the run, despite possibly tough going early. And they need to liberally rotate the backs looking for the hot hand du jour.
Against UNC I saw a good dose of Stephan Ridley, a fumble by Richard Murphy and that was it other than a few handoffs to WR Russell Shepard.
From what I saw in the spring game of Michael Ford, I would like to see a bit more of Michael Ford in the fall games.
Speaking of Russell Shepard, the guy is pure lightning, and although he seems like he is still somewhat learning his new position, you cannot ignore his athleticism and tremendous playmaking ability.
He must touch the ball more.
The defense played lights out most of the night, especially up front. Drake Nevis is a beast and youth is being served nicely in Sam Montgomery, Michael Brockers, and Josh Downs.
The secondary, on the other hand, at times looked quite uncharacteristic and down right scary (bad scary for you Tiger fans).
They came through with the game hanging in the balance, but their breakdowns are what led to it being in question until the final play in the first place. Kudos to freshman corner Tyrann Mathieu.
To sum it up, against Vandy the Tigers need to look more within than to look at the Commodores.
The gulf between talent and experience is evident. If the Tigers shore up their own game, both individually and as a team, they will be just fine in Nashville.