Saturday will be the Tar Heels' first ever trip to Appalachian State in just their third matchup overall with the Mountaineers. With Kidd Brewer Stadium set to host a record-setting crowd for this one, Carolina will be walking into one of the more hostel environments that it will face all season long on Saturday afternoon. Here are the three biggest keys for them to walk out of Boone 2-0.
Get Off to Fast Start
With as wild as this environment is set to be on Saturday, the Tar Heels need to be able to grab momentum early and take this crowd out of it. Road environments simply overwhelmed this team year ago and keeping the Mountaineer fans from being a major factor in this one will be important to the Tar Heels' hopes of snapping their seven-game losing streak away from Chapel Hill. Jumping out to an early read could also force the Mountaineer offense into a less run-heavy approach and make them count on the arm of Chase Brice to win instead of those two outstanding running backs.
Win the Line of Scrimmage
This will certainly be important on both sides of the ball, but even more so on the defensive side. This unit held Florida A&M to just 56 yards rushing a week ago, but just didn’t seem to be nearly as dominant as they need to be. With how special that Mountaineers running game is, the Tar Heels have to be able to win their one-on-one matchups up front and create 2nd and 3rd & long situations. They also need to be able to establish more consistent pressure on the quarterback when he does drop back to throw, something that the team simply couldn’t do a week ago. On the offensive side of the ball, winning that battle in the trenches could become even more important than it already is if Josh Downs is unable to play. Regardless of if he plays or not, this Tar Heel run game needs to have some more success if they want to be able to win this one.
Limit the Self-Inflected Wounds
The Tar Heels stubbed their toe a bunch a year ago on the road and they have to avoid hurting themselves with silly turnovers and penalties in this one. Turnovers haven’t really been a major issue for the Tar Heel offense in the Mack Brown 2.0 offense, but with so much inexperience and youth at the skill positions right now, this is certainly a possibility if they aren’t careful. The bigger concern is the penalties that hurt the team so much a year ago. Saturday was a step in the right direction for this team but they have to be able to prove they are able to be more disciplined on the road.