Wrap It Up: The Weekend Review

8itorials, Articles, Sports

North Carolina lost to Texas … Again

There’s just something about those damn Longhorns. Or maybe it’s the time of year, and UNC just happens to play Texas a lot in mid-December when the team is traditionally focused on finals and researching which courses they’d like to take in the Spring semester. Either way, it’s absolutely crazy to think that UNC is a lifetime 3-7 against Texas, with two of those three wins coming before 1995.

Sometimes a loss is just a loss, but with teams in the national spotlight like North Carolina is, every loss HAS to mean something. The loss to Northern Iowa meant that the Heels would be alright when Marcus Paige came back, and that certainly seemed to be validated with the huge home win over Maryland. But with this game, it’s much more difficult to find a meaning. Maybe it just means we need to just take UNC at face value as a team who certainly is much better with Marcus Paige in the lineup, but still winning just 69% of their games (76-34) with him running the show.

While it’s becoming easier to visualize a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 loss as opposed to headlining One Shining Moment, the good news for North Carolina is that no one is really that good this year. Whether it’s the Tar Heels, or Kansas, or Kentucky or Michigan State, a good, but not great team is going to cut down the nets. It’s definitely time to accept that this is the same UNC squad with double-digit losses each of the last three seasons, but guard against counting them out for the National Championship. Experience is going to be a hell of a weapon down the stretch, this year.

Oh, and I’d be more mad about the shot getting off late than about the potential push on Paige under the basket. Replay officials stay losing.

East Carolina football finds their man in … wait, who?

There is literally no such thing as a sure-fire safe bet when hiring a football coach, and if anyone expected that from ECU, that’s a personal problem that has nothing to do with Duke’s ex-Offensive Coordinator Scottie Montgomery being hired as ECU’s new football coach. On the flip side, when the Athletic Director fires a beloved graduate of the very school he’s coaching in order to “upgrade the program”, you pretty much have to find the safest bet out there. In that sense, this was a terrible hire.

Removing that foolish quote from the equation, the Pirates probably couldn’t have found a better fit in terms of someone who can motivate fans and players alike, bring some excitement to the ECU football program, and relate to high school football players across the state of North Carolina. Convincing an in-state player to head to Greenville instead of one of four viable ACC options is asking that kid to go against the grain, and Montgomery was able to sell that at Duke because that’s exactly what he did as a high school standout. In Durham, he was a master of finding that two or three star player with a handful of FBS offers who somehow slipped through the cracks of the ratings services. That’s going to pay off immediately for the Pirates.

In Chapel Hill, the hire means that super-coordinator Gene Chizik stays put for now, although that’s likely just delaying the inevitable. In Durham, there’s likely not going to be much drama in the search to backfill the staff as head coach David Cutcliffe was actively searching for a spot that better suited Montgomery than the job he had at Duke. The Blue Devil offense regressed under Montgomery, and a change was imminent, so there’s likely a replacement already in mind. There’s more to coaching than playcalling, and Montgomery is perfectly suited to be a head coach if given the right staff. In fact, many expected him to be the “coach in waiting” when he returned to Duke, and now AD Kevin White gets to evaluate that possibility in a much safer manner with Montgomery coaching someone else’s school. With the need for a new staff in Greenville, the waiting game begins in Durham to see which other spots need to be filled this off-season.

Cam’s feelin’ hella good, so he’ll just keep on dancing

The set-up is soooooooooo obvious. History tells us that the Panthers are going to lose a game this season, and when they do, you can bet the ranch that it will be because of Cam Newton’s celebrations. Case in point, see the below from The Big Lead:

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This was one of many post-game columns and blog posts continuing the running commentary on Cam’s behavior as “an MVP leader who loves to celebrate”.  Cute little comments like “as you can see, there’s still time on the clock” and “Dan Quinn will show this video to his team next year before their first game against the Panthers” roughly translate to “I hate Cam Newton and I want him to stop rubbing it in my face.”  You don’t care about the Falcons, The Big Lead. You are tired of seeing Cam, for whatever reason, and you desperately not only want someone to do something about it, but you want Cam’s antics to be the reason why when it does inevitably happen. In fact, you’re so mad about it you didn’t even think to check the schedule to see that the Falcons get another crack at the Panthers in two weeks.

There’s plenty of work available both criticizing and defending Cam, but EVERYONE is missing the single biggest story in Carolina this year … as much as we’ll always love Steve Smith, this is finally Cam’s team and it couldn’t be working out any better. Newton’s leadership may not look like what we expect, especially not in football. Football is tough and violent, and you have to lead by stern example, or by get-in-your face, manhood-challenging rage in the (deep voice) National Football League. Nobody’s supposed to be having fun and playing loose out here. Smitty fit the NFL mold, and so did Sam Mills before him. Even a guy like Brett Favre was so rugged and tough because he made everything look so difficult. Cam? Man, this comes easy. It’s fun. And he certainly has his teammates playing like this game isn’t very difficult, which has come in handy in the few come-from-behind situations the Panthers have faced this season.

Dan Quinn may show that film to his team, The Big Lead, but I don’t think they’ll see what you see. They’d probably be texting their agents asking them to reach out to Carolina in the off season because that’s the kind of quarterback they’d like playing for.