After a stunning loss to the Virginia Cavaliers that derailed their playoff hopes, UNC will need a dominating performance to get back on track. A lot went wrong this weekend against UVA in time of possession, with the Cavalier’s offense having the ball for 37:06 minutes vs the Tar Heels for 22:54 minutes of possession.
Much like Virginia, the Yellow Jackets should be a concern for UNC as they will be on the road against a team whose 3-4 record downplays their talent. If UNC wants to avoid back-to-back losses regaining their momentum, they will need to do a few things on the defensive side.
Here are the defensive keys to success for the Tar Heels to jump back on track.
Forget last week nightmare
Oct 21, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Tony Muskett (11) tries to get rid of the football as he is brought down by North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Kaimon Rucker (25) in the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Forgetting the loss while taking accountability for the role played in it is the first step. Despite UVA scoring 31 points, including 17 second-half points, a lot of the damage was done due to UNC’s offense’s inability to stay on the field.
The defense gave the team a fighting chance even late into the game. Staying disciplined in pass coverage and the run game while staying composed will help their efforts even if the offense struggles again.
Stop the run, force the throw!
Oct 21, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Cavaliers running back Mike Hollins (7) rushes for a touchdown against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
The following key is to contain three-star running back Jamal Haynes. If Georgia Tech is going to move the ball, it will be thanks to Hayne’s witty run style. Not only is Haynes a problem running the ball, but he is also phenomenal in receiving and being used as an actual dual threat.
Haynes this season has 465 rushing yards and 122 receiving yards. Clog the run and make them throw.
Get off the field and control the clock
Oct 21, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Tony Muskett (11) passes against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
It is unlikely that UNC will repeat last weekend’s results of being dominated in time of possession. However, if they are again, the defense must be ready to sustain long drives coming from the offense’s quick three-and-outs.
The bend but not break mentally applies here. The defense led by Cedric Gray has shown the ability to do so, with multiple long drives ending in a turnover on downs or a pick/fumble.
Stay aggressive, play it smart, and force three and outs.