The North Carolina Tar Heels football season kicks off on August 30th against the Liberty Flames at home in Kenan Stadium. To get you ready for the nationally ranked Tar Heel’s first game, Keeping It Heel will have an extensive football preview series previewing all of Carolina’s positions, games and reviewing 2013′s games. Check back to Keeping It Heel every afternoon for new preview posts. Today, let’s review last year’s season opener against South Carolina.
The North Carolina football team began last season with a loss at South Carolina. Despite losing 27-10, the Heels did not play terribly, and did a great job containing South Carolina’s star defensive end and number 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
North Carolina got off to a very slow start to the game, allowing South Carolina to take a 17-0 lead by early in the second quarter. However, the Heels were able to drive down and score a touchdown, closing the gap. The turning point of the game came early in the third quarter, with UNC down 20-7. The Heels had an epic 17 play drive that took up nearly half of the 3rd quarter. However, on third and goal from the three yard line, UNC was unable to score, and had to settle for a field goal. Had they scored a touchdown, Carolina would have been within 6 points, and in great position to make a comeback.
Unfortunately, North Carolina was down 10, and South Carolina had momentum after making a goal line stand. On the first play of South Carolina’s next drive, Mike Davis had a 75 yard touchdown run, giving South Carolina a 17-point lead, and ending any hope of a North Carolina comeback.
3 Key Stats
1. Even though Jadeveon Clowney was quiet to say the least, Bryn Renner was consistently pressured, getting sacked 3 times and hit 5 additional times. Renner was still able to complete 26 passes, but only for 194 yards (an average of only a little more than 7 yards per completion).
2. South Carolina had two long touchdown plays (a 65 yard pass and a 75 yard run). These two plays, especially the touchdown run, completely changed the complexion of the game, giving South Carolina momentum and energizing the crowd. If the UNC defense could have prevented just one of these plays the game could have been different.
3. North Carolina was unable to stop South Carolina’s offense throughout the game, allowing 406 yards. This was especially evident in the first half when South Carolina scored on 4 of its 6 possessions. You can’t spot a top-ten team 17 points in the first half and expect to win the game. While the Heels made a valiant effort trying to come back, the game was already decided by the end of the first half.
Relevance to this Season
North Carolina again will face a very good defensive end this season in Clemson’s Vic Beasley. His stats last season were strikingly similar to those that Clowney had his sophomore season, each with 13 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss (Clowney had 23.5 his sophomore year). The first instinct may be to try to stop Beasley at all costs like UNC tried to do with Clowney. However, this would not be a good idea. Last season, with all the attention on Clowney, the rest of the South Carolina defense was able to play very well against the Heels, and hold them to just 10 points (the fewest in the Larry Fedora era).
In my opinion, Carolina needs to focus on keeping the rest of the defense at bay. After all, big-time players like Beasley and Clowney are going to make plays, whether or not they’re double and triple teamed the majority of the game. On the other hand, if UNC contains the rest of the Clemson defense, any impact Beasley has will be offset by the lack of support from his teammates.
If Carolina makes the same mistake they did last year, and focus their efforts on just one of the eleven men on the field, they will not be able to score nearly enough points to keep up with what promises to be a very solid Clemson offense.