Last week, UNC took on a South Carolina squad that outmatched them in every phase of the game. Offensively, they were more potent and perhaps more importantly, they were much more aggressive defensively. All in all, the Gamecocks were a much better team than the Tar Heels and the results showed. Now, it’s time to focus on what’s ahead.
I have got to imagine that going into practice this week not having to answer any Clowney or other South Carolina questions is beyond refreshing for the Tar Heel team. That game is officially done and behind them and now the team has a game at home to look forward to and a new opponent to focus on which will both be welcomed with open arms.
Obviously an unspoken goal for the Heels was to win every game this season. That’s not going to happen, nor was it expected to happen. Fedora has been clear that to win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC title game is the goal of this team. That, on the other hand, is still attainable. Saturday’s contest against Middle Tennessee State won’t determine Carolina’s ACC fate on paper, but a win will go a long way in helping with the Tar Heels’ confidence.
The offensive attack, that has a stellar reputation of being explosive, was anything but against South Carolina last Thursday. Senior quarterback Bryn Renner looked panicked in the pocket and really missed on a ton of throws he normally has no trouble completing. Most of the credit for disrupting Renner should and will go to the South Carolina defensive line for putting constant pressure on him all night. Fortunately for Renner, he won’t have to face that type of defensive front for the rest of the season. I have seen Renner enough times in person to know that he is a truly great quarterback and that he will do what he needs to do to reignite the Tar Heel offense, which by all accounts is proven to work, going forward.
Expect to see Renner get his top playmakers more involved this week. Renner and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, really settled on conservative play calling and just dumping the ball to the back off a screen which wasn’t overly productive. In order for North Carolina to win games, they are going to have to take shots down the field and allow their top playmakers, Eric Ebron and Quinshad Davis, make plays. Once those two become factors in Renner’s aerial attack that’ll open up room for Romar Morris and AJ Blue to just up and dominate the Blue Raider defensive front with runs up the middle. This isn’t a prediction of what will happen, but instead more of a telling how it’s going to happen. No way Anderson allows his offense to settle for screens and slants two weeks in a row especially with no Clowney on the other side.
The defense should have an easier time as well. Minus the two homerun plays by South Carolina, the Tar Heel defense stood tall. They got good production from their Bandits Norkeithus Otis and Darius Lipford, but in order to keep big plays from happening this weekend, they will need to get good pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz a ton of people. The Blue Raiders have an experienced offense and can put up points in a hurry. The difference here is that the talent level on the field favors the UNC defense where as it didn’t last week.
If the Heels can force the Blue Raiders to make throws they don’t want to make by putting pressure on them in the backfield, then the Tar Heel secondary can shake off that vulnerability they showed last week and keep everything in front of them.
There are some positives that UNC can take away from the South Carolina game, the biggest being that the game is over. We know this team can score points because we’ve seen it before. We know this team has guys that can make plays on defense because we’ve seen it before. Now it’s time to relax, go out there and just play football. Time to move forward.