It’s been two long weeks on the road for Carolina: Trips to East Carolina and Clemson, two losses, 120 points and 1,317 yards offense allowed.
“Needless to say, we’ll be happy to get back in the Tar Pit and get in front of our fans,” Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora says.
The Tar Heels and Virginia Tech kick off at 12:30 Saturday in front of what is expected to be a full house in Kenan Stadium for Military Appreciation Day. Carolina, 2-2, faces a Hokie squad that is 3-2 and has suffered a seven-point loss to East Carolina and a three-point defeat to Georgia Tech. Tech’s big win was on the road at Ohio State in week two.
Though the Heels fell at Clemson by a 50-35 margin, there were a handful of bright spots:
* The defensive front played better than it has all year and limited Clemson to 2.1 yards per rush and less than 100 total.
* The offensive line, with two starters out with injury, made all of its mental mistakes early, settled down and played reasonably well against one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.
* Freshman tailback Elijah Hood continued his maturation process and showed his power and toughness and burst of speed, rushing for 71 yards on a 5.5 per run average.
* The receiving corp was balanced and productive, with nine receivers catching at least one pass and Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer and T.J. Thorpe hitting big plays for touchdowns.
* Marquise Williams was productive running the offense, and freshman Mitch Trubisky played well in a spot role, showing his powerful and accurate throwing arm on 6-of-11 completions.
Carolina’s top priority going into Tech on Saturday is to clean up its act in the secondary. A mental bust on the part of safeties Tim Scott and Sam Smiley on the second play of the game gave the Tigers a 74-yard touchdown, and the DBs were beat in other spots 1-on-1 or with mental mistakes.
“Obviously we cannot give up the deep ball like we did at Clemson,” Fedora says. “I have no explanation for several of the problems we had—they were busts, as simple as that.”
Redshirt freshmen Nazair Jones and Dajaun Drennon each notched sacks, and senior Ethan Farmer was a load at noseguard. Junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer is one of the headiest Tar Heels in recent memory and raced from side to side to notch eight solo tackles.
“We’re keeping things very, very simple right now,” says defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “We obviously have some confidence issues on defense. We want our guys to turn it loose and play with a lot of energy. We’re down to as few a number of calls as I can ever remember. I hope our guys won’t have to think as much and can just go play.”