FOOTBALL: After Disappointing Loss, Tar Heels Shift Focus To BC
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 00:10
While the Boston College football team was taking a bye week last weekend, the University of North Carolina was coming closer than any other team has so far to overcoming what is now the No. 7 team in the country.
North Carolina had a 17-13 lead heading into the second half and maintained it until the final seconds of play, falling only when Miami’s Dallas Crawford scored with 16 seconds remaining in the game.
UNC quarterback Bryn Renner passed for 297 yards and a touchdown and set a new school record for consecutive completions as 15 of his passes hit home in a row. In the end, a 90-second drive from the Hurricanes proved too much for the Tar Heels and the upset was denied.
Though they sustained a loss, last week’s close loss will provide a lot of motivation and jumping off points for the 1-5 team.
“They got their guts ripped out Thursday night … But I think our guys have already put it behind them … We’re going to take the things that we learned from the game and make the corrections, but we’re also going to build off the good things that happened in this game,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said in the ACC weekly teleconference.
This week, the Tar Heels are expecting a highly physical game on offense and a dynamic defense when they face the Eagles on Saturday at home in Chapel Hill.
So far this season, North Carolina’s defense is allowing 203.3 yards per game rushing, which will be a major concern as Andre Williams and the Eagles come to town. With two 200 plus yard performances so far this season, Williams alone is averaging 139.7 yards per game, 5.3 per carry.
“The running back is pretty special, obviously. He’s, what, No. 5 or 6 in the country in rushing, and they are going to bring it downhill and try to beat you with a play action pass,” Fedora said. “What we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to commit ourselves to stopping the run. That’s for sure.”
On the offensive end, North Carolina is more of a passing team. Renner averages 282.8 yards per game with a 63.3 completion percentage. While the completion percentage is similar to that of Chase Rettig, who completes 63.8 percent of his passes, Renner puts just above 100 more yards on the books per game than Rettig.
Renner is not North Carolina’s only quarterback, as the team opts for a two-quarterback system with Renner and Marquise Williams. While Renner is more of a passer, Williams poses more of a threat when it comes to the run game. His gains of 19 yards per game eclipse Renner’s average of 5.2 yards lost per outing, but he sees significantly fewer passing yards per game with 78. Both, however, will use either strategy. That system presents unique challenges for the BC defense.
“They’re both very accomplished quarterbacks. Very capable to lead their football teams,” head coach Steve Addazio said. “You’ve got to prepare for a dual threat kind of situation. It just adds another component.”
Apart from their quarterbacks, the Tar Heels will rely on Eric Ebron, a junior tight end who, with 88.7 yards per game, leads the team in receiving yards and was just honored with the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver, last week. Quinshad Davis, a sophomore wide receiver who comes in second place in that category, will also need to perform on offense.
“I’m very impressed with their personnel,” Addazio said. “Obviously they played at a high level last week. You can see why people felt so strong about North Carolina this season. They have a lot of tremendous players.”
On Saturday, the Tar Heels will need to use their home field to their advantage and control Williams and the rest of the BC run game. If they fail in that department, it will be a huge challenge for the offense to get enough points on the board to come out with the win. With last week’s disappointing loss still fresh in their minds, this will be the first step toward recovery. The Eagles, on the other hand, are looking for a rebound after two losses in three weeks to top teams.
“It will be a great challenge for us,” Addazio said. “We need to go on the road and win a road game. We’re looking forward to that opportunity.”