Statistical Takeaways from UNC Football’s First Four Games


Five statistical takeaways from UNC Football’s first four games of the 2015 football season. UNC is 4-0 on the season. 

Though it seems like the season just started, Carolina is a third of the way through its regular season football schedule. At this point in the season, even though it is still early, we can start to take a look at some stats and see how they have changed from last season to this one.

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Of course, we have to keep in mind both the quality of opponents that UNC has played and the small sample size of this season’s data when trying to draw conclusions. However, I think there are some early trends starting to show up that will hold up throughout the season, thanks to the influence different factors, such as the difference that Gene Chizik has made on defense or to the rise of Elijah Hood.

Here are five statistical takeaways from the first four games of the season. (All stats from

UNC’s Pass Defense is Much Better

Last year, Carolina’s opponents averaged 8.5 yards per pass and 257.4 yards per game. Carolina also generated just 12 interceptions in 13 games in 2014.

So far in 2015, the early returns for Gene Chizik’s new pass defense are much better — UNC has allowed 4.7 yards per pass and 113.5 yards per game. There are obviously a few huge caveats here. First off, Carolina has not faced a good passing team yet, and probably won’t until Brad Kaaya and Miami come into Chapel Hill on November 14th. The quarterbacks UNC have played paled in comparison to some of the QBs who Carolina faced off against last year, like Shane Carden, Deshaun Watson and Everett Golson. But even when accounting for the small sample size and the quality of the competition, Carolina’s pass defense looks better on paper and on film.

M.J. Stewart, Donnie Miles and Mike Hughes are three underclassmen for the Tar Heels who are injecting new life into a group that was one of UNC’s weakest points last year. Stewart has two interceptions and three pass breakups so far, leading the team in both categories. Miles is Carolina’s leading tackler and has two pass breakups of his own. And Hughes, a true freshman, doesn’t have the stats yet but has played meaningful snaps at corner and is making an impact.

Chizik’s new and improved Carolina secondary is looking really good through four games.

UNC is running the ball less with QBs and more with Elijah Hood

2014: Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky combined for 204 rushing attempts in 13 games, averaging 15.69 rush attempts per game.

2015: Williams and Trubisky combined for 38 rushing attempts in four games, averaging 9.5 rush attempts per game.

Seeing how well Elijah Hood is running, it would makes sense that Fedora and co. want to put the ball more in his hands and less in the hands of the QBs. Marquise and Mitch are still running the ball (Quise had a rushing TD on Saturday), but just running it less in 2015.


2014: Elijah Hood — 67 attempts, 259 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per rush in nine games.

2015: Elijah Hood — 59 attempts, 384 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per rush in four games.

Hood almost has as many attempts in four games as he had in nine last season. Keep feeding Hood, Fedora. The dude is a beast.

Field goals are no longer a problem

Last season, Thomas Moore and Nick Weiler combined to go 6-13 from field goals, including 1-8 from field goals of longer than 30 yards.

That hasn’t been the story this year, as Weiler is 7-8 on field goals in 2015. He is also 4-4 from field goals of longer than 40 yards. His only miss, a 34 yarder, came against Delaware.

This is great news for the Tar Heels. Having a good kicker is helpful, especially when your offense is struggling in the red zone like the Tar Heels’ offense is…

Carolina struggling to score TDs in the redzone

2014: 55 total times in the redzone, 40 touchdowns scored (72.7%)

2015: 18 times in the redzone, 10 touchdowns scored (55.5%)

Teams want to score touchdowns when they get in the red zone, even if the field goal kickers are better. So far in 2015, UNC is struggling to get six points and having to settle for three points. Look for Coach Fedora and his staff to really work on the red zone, hoping to increase efficiency in this area of the field.

I think two potential solutions are more Elijah Hood and more simple fade throws to Quinshad Davis and Mack Hollins. Hood is a beast already has been utilized in the red zone, but it can’t hurt to give him the ball more. Also, the throws to Davis and Hollins are easy for the quarterback, whoever it is, and take advantage of those two wideouts’ big size advantage against many cornerbacks.

Defense, however, is better in the redzone

2014: Opponents have scored 48 of 54 times in the UNC redzone (88.9%).

2015: Opponents have scored 6 of 9 times in the UNC redzone (66.7%).

I also really like this fun fact…

Again, Gene Chizik making his impact on the defensive side of the ball for the Tar Heels. Small sample size and poor quality of opponents make this less of a hard takeaway than an early trend to watch out for. Carolina will know a lot more about its redzone after playing Georgia Tech and trying to stop that triple option in the redzone.

Stay tuned to Keeping It Heel for more UNC Football news and analysis.