Jeff: This is the only game we both attended and then also watched a replay of the game this season. It was a game that left us with plenty to talk about. Well, plenty to talk about aside from the postseason. Boston College is not heading back to Tampa and will now will almost certainly be selected last of all bowl eligible ACC schools which leaves little excitement left for next Saturday or the following Selection Sunday. To talk about the game, let's start with Shinskie and his turnovers. Is there any way to sugarcoat 5 turnovers?
Brian: I don't think there is any way to sugarcoat a 5 turnover performance. Shinskie threw some poor passes and the North Carolina defense had a field day on Saturday. As the game wore on, you could make the case that Shinskie outplayed UNC quarterback T.J. Yates, but you can't spot a good team like North Carolina 21 points and expect to win.
That being said, the five turnovers weren't all on Shinskie. The offensive line played well in run blocking but didn't give Shinskie much (if any) time in the passing game, as the North Carolina front four consistently got pressure on Shinskie. That's when his immaturity shone through the most - holding onto the ball too long, trying to force passes down field, and not throwing the ball away early when he felt the pressure. The trick play reverse is a perfect example of this when Shinskie had Justin Jarvis wide open down the field and held onto the ball for too long.
Also, Shinskie doesn't throw the best passes, but some of his interceptions hit his receivers hands. You have to come down with the ball or at least bat it down. The interceptions that hit his receivers hands and the blatant drops are as much on the wide receivers as they are on Shinskie.
Jeff: You are right that Shinskie never had any time to scan the field and throw. Montel Harris was able to get the corner on several running plays, but when it mattered most, like on 3rd and 1 inside the 10 yard line, the offensive line broke down and Harris lost 3 yards. In the passing game, the Eagles blocking was not very good and overall for the day the offensive line played poorly. North Carolina might have a really good defensive line, but our O-Line is supposed to be able to match up with anyone.
On the reverse play, Jarvis was wide open but it seemed poorly designed or Shinskie didn't run it correctly. When he got the ball, he had no room to step up and throw. Something went wrong on that play and it's unfortunate because that might have been the play we needed to tie the game up.
We were also reminded Saturday that we have a head coach that is too conservative to take us back to the ACC Championship Game unless we have superior talent on the field. Over the last two seasons we saw Jagodzinski and Logan call for fake punts and fake field goals when we needed scores to keep us in games or put games away. We also routinely went for it on fourth down once we were past midfield. Spaziani saw all of that happen and we went from a team that was always a win away from a BCS game or a conference championship to playing in the ACC Championship game the past two years under Jagodzinski. Now, in a year when we were once again were just one win away from an ACC Championship Game appearance, we went the entire season with no fakes on special teams and never going for it on fourth down unless we absolutely had no other choice. We saw this yesterday when we could've gone for touchdowns twice instead of settling for field goals when BC trailed by a large margin early. It all started in the loss at Clemson early in the season when Spaz was still punting from midfield in the second half while BC was down and desperately needed points. The data set is still very small but I am worried that Jags had the right gameday coaching style to win at BC and Spaziani is a little too conservative to take us back to the title game. What are your thoughts?
Brian: The offensive play calling was very suspect on Saturday. For one thing, does Gary Tranquill not have a screen pass play in his entire playbook? Montel Harris is a decent receiver out of the backfield and I can't remember one attempted screen pass all season. Defenses know we are going to play to this team's strengths and run the ball with Harris. Mixing in a few screen passes here and there keeps the defense honest.
As you mentioned, you have to come away with 6 points when you have the ball first and goal from the 2 yard line. With the Eagles down 21-3 at the time, you can't expect to win settling for 20 yard field goal chip shots. You also aren't going to win the game when you go 0-for-13 on third downs and 0-for-0 on fourth downs. The entire day the Eagles were down by at least one score and sometimes two and the Eagles never went for it on fourth down? That's ridiculous. Tranquill also didn't put the offense in a position to convert on third downs, electing to call short passes on 3rd and short instead of running the ball. For the second straight game, we got away from the running game in the third quarter and struggled moving the ball.
How about Spaziani's decision to bench David Shinskie late in the fourth quarter? I understand benching your starter to avoid injury but Marscovetra hadn't thrown a pass in over a month and it showed, as the UNC defense picked off his first pass and returned it 18 yards. I think the call was more than curious. The game wasn't necessarily out of reach at the time and my opinion is if you are going to win with Shinskie, you are going to lose with Shinskie. Why rattle the already-fragile confidence of your starting quarterback going into the final regular season game? Agree with the call to bench Shinskie?
Jeff: I disagree with benching Shinskie but we were down by 15 with 4:39 to go in the game so I am not going to jump on Spaziani too much for that one. Spaz needed to start coaching to win long before that moment. I hope if the Eagles are winning next week, Spaz takes chances to extend our lead. If we are trailing, he needs to coach to score touchdowns. We want to finish this season winning the final two games ... not on a three game losing streak.