UNC at Virginia Tech Preview: How the Heels Can Play Spoiler in Blacksburg
Up to this point with only two regular-season games left, most UNC fans probably have mixed reactions on how the season has unfolded for the Tar Heels (6-4, 2-4).
The losing streak to in-state rival N.C. State now sits at five games and has to be the most disappointing loss for this team this season.
However, in sports, we all know sometimes all it takes is a big win to cure some wounds of what once looked like a promising season.
The Tar Heels now have to travel to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg for a Thursday night matchup against Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1). The Hokies control their own destiny in the ACC Championship leading the ACC Coastal Division by one full game over the Virginia Cavaliers.
Here are a few keys that can help the Heels pull the shocker in Blacksburg:
Allow a Healthy Bryn Renner Plenty of Deep Throws
In football it is often said that the threat of the deep pass frees up more space for a running game than the blocking actually does. I happen to believe this is very true.
North Carolina's rushing attack just came off of a miserable performance as the Tar Heels gained just three yards on the ground.
Throwing the deep pass to senior Dwight Jones and softening the Virginia Tech linebackers and defensive backs will open the field up for freshman running back Giovani Bernard. Classic case of using the deep pass to set up the run. This leads us into Slide 2....
Actually Complete Some of the Deep Throws
My previous slide pointed out how the deep ball can help the rushing attack. Of course it really helps if you actually get a big completion or two.
Senior wideout Dwight Jones has 63 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns for the year. There will be no better opportunity for Jones to showcase his talent than the Thursday night prime-time showdown with Virginia Tech. UNC should spread it out and allow Jones to run some deep routes, then actually throw him the ball and give him the chance to make the catch.
Own the Line of Scrimmage on Defense
The front seven for the North Carolina defense has been inconsistent at times, but for the most part has held up pretty good overall against the run. UNC gives up only 108.3 rushing yards per game, good enough for 18th best in the nation. Facing a very good rushing attack in Virginia Tech Thursday, the defense has to find a way to control the line of scrimmage and get off their blocks to make tackles.
The four players who will likely be on display and in the spotlight while Va. Tech is on offense will need to make impact plays early and often.
Sr. Quinton Coples and So. Kareem Martin are responsible for containing the edges while Sr. Tydreke Powell and Jr. Sylvester Williams have the tasks of plugging up the middle. It is essential for these four to have monster games against the Virginia Tech rushing attack.
Protect the Football
Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner is viewed by many as one of the best quarterback prospects to come out of UNC in a long time. His poise and arm strength back that up pretty well.
However, Renner has developed a bit of a reputation for being careless with the football, throwing big interceptions at crucial times during games this season.
In Carolina's four losses, Renner has thrown six touchdowns to seven interceptions. Compare that to Renner's 13 touchdowns and four interceptions in the win column. In Carolina's last four wins Renner has thrown zero picks.
Turning the ball over to Virginia Tech would make it all too easy for the Hokies. Yes, the ball is a baby.
"Man-Up" and Play for Carolina Pride:
Without a doubt, the North Carolina Tar Heels' football program has been under incredible scrutiny and is viewed by many as a black eye to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But this has to be viewed as an opportunity for the current players involved to show the country on a prime-time road game against an ACC powerhouse that the pride still remains in Chapel Hill. This team has the talent to compete in my opinion with Virginia Tech. The question is whether they have the heart. We will soon see.