UNC Football: Spinning through Hurricanes looking to Virginia

Oct 15, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Mack Hollins (13) makes the catch over the defense of Miami Hurricanes defensive back Sheldrick Redwine (22) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Mack Hollins (13) makes the catch over the defense of Miami Hurricanes defensive back Sheldrick Redwine (22) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

After a big win over Miami, UNC is now looking at Virginia before a bye week

Looking back over the last two weeks of hurricanes, the nation is wondering just how to take this Tar Heel team we thought we knew.

From the 34-3 pummeling UNC took at the hands of the Hokies and Hurricane Matthew to the way too tight 20-13 game played Week 7 against the bruised and beaten Hurricanes of Miami, the question remains, is the sleeping giant going to ever wake up?

Many thought the Heels would return a high powered offense that brought the team back as powerful or more so than last year. To that, scoring has been seemingly off. The truth is, through seven games, you cannot say so much.

North Carolina was scoring 37 points per game on average in 2015 as opposed to 32 in the same amount of games in 2016.

Barring the muffed Virginia Tech outing in the onslaught of Matthew, Carolina would be averaging the same 37 points per game this season. Looking at the defensive comparison, they gave up only 17 points through seven games as opposed to 29 this season.

So, do you criticize Chizik’s group based on 7 games? Not hardly.

Genes’ crew has faced the likes of Chubb, Conner, Cook:  How many singular C’s do you need? You need one, that’s Chizik. Criticized as a defensive whole, you might think that they are falling away based on the numbers.

The truth is the 22nd ranked team from Chapel Hill has played 4 top 25 teams though seven weeks in 2016 as opposed to no ranked teams to this point last year. We might need to rethink everything.

I had the opportunity to talk with Nazair Jones (after story in its self) after the Hokies game, and the main thing he said to me is “We have to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Well, based on the norm, they did, forcing two turnovers and giving up only 264 total yards.

That is the least amount of yards in 2 years. Jones spoke very highly of Sophomore middle linebacker, Andre Smith. When asked who he thought had the most potential for the future, Jones complimented Smith.

“Well, I would say Andre Smith and as a middle linebacker, you have to be vocal, not only just have a presence but you have to take control of the defense,” Jones said. “And I think he has done a great job so far.”

It is hard to argue with that statement, but in the absence of Smith in the first half as well and losing Hollins for the season, the injuries along with Andre’s awaited entrance, we could see an early problem in Charlottesville.

Now, on the other hand, if Trubisky and squad come out wide open as they have in the first half many times this season, the defense might be able to grind through the first half without Smith’s presence.

Let’s be quick to remember last year’s game in Chapel Hill, where both teams played a bit sluggish.

If we have one of those outings, the Wahoos could have what it takes to overcome Fedora’s squad. Speaking of Fedora:  two weeks ago he said he felt Naz Jones may have played the best game of his career against the Hokies. The defensive tackle earned a UNC Captain position for the Miami game (in which Coach Chizik said he was very deserving), the captain did not disappoint. For the second straight week the defensive tackle combined for 16 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

This guy has emerged as a major leader on the defense. The head coach went on to praise the defensive squad in the same manner following the win verses Mark Richt’s newly aquired team. Maybe, the defense is coming along.

As we look to Virginia on Saturday, UNC stands 5-2 (3-1), and the Cavaliers are 2-4 (1-1) coming into the contest. So, this is an all too critical game for both teams in the Coastal division. Virginia comes into this game having lost 6 straight contests to the Heels.

Before that though, from 1983 to 2009, the Cavs pretty well owned the boys from Chapel Hill.

In those years, UNC won a mere 6 games, while spanning a 20-year losing streak in Charlottesville during that time frame. Despite their record, Benkert Kurt has averaged 289 yards per game, fourteen touchdowns and 7 picks.

Five of those touchdowns have gone to speedy wide out Olamide Zaccheaus, who accounted for 423 yards.

Besides that, Dowling, and Johnson stats are just as comparable to complete this wide receiver trio catching the ball. Then, they have Mizzell and Reid coming out of the backfield combining for 701 yds rushing this season, along with over 200 yards receiving together.

That’s left in the hands of the UNC defense and whether they can fill the spaces, or will Virginia be off to the races.

The Cavalier defense comes in ranked 86th overall, and will try to shut down a North Carolina team that ranks 29th in total offense nationally . If UNC comes out of the gate offensively flat, like they did against Georgia or Virginia Tech, that may be possible. It is not likely though. To sum it up, Coach Mendenhall in his first season at Virginia, likely brings a promising future.

The former coach of BYU and his team, in their first season together, with probably need a near perfect day or a hurricane to slow the Heels down.