Heel Tough Blog: NC State Preview

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For the sixth straight season, the Tar Heels will meet their biggest football rival, the NC State Wolfpack, to close the 2019 regular season. This will be the first time since 2005 that the Tar Heels will enter the final game of the season needing a win and to do that they will have to break a three-game losing streak to the Wolfpack that has produced plenty of bad blood. Let’s get you prepared for Saturday’s regular season finale in Raleigh.



Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

The Tar Heel offense has become one of the nations top offenses as the season has progressed led by the phenomenal play of their true freshman quarterback. Sam Howell (211-355, 2,946 yds, 32-6 TD-INT, 84 rush, -22 yds, TD) has put together one of the best true freshman seasons by a quarterback in NCAA history, having already set the record for touchdowns in a season by a true freshman and in North Carolina school history. He has combined with a loaded receiving corps, headlined by Dazz Newsome (57 rec, 817 yds, 7 TD), who will return to the starting lineup after a one game suspension, and Dyami Brown (40 rec, 797 yds, 10 TD) to form a passing attack that has averaged 10.0+ yards per completion in six straight games. The Tar Heels passing attack combines with a strong rushing attack, which is headed up by the duo of Michael Carter (143 rush, 822 yds, 3 TD, 18 rec, 141 yds, 2 TD) and Javonte Williams (143 rush, 790 yds, 3 TD, 11 rec, 110 yds), along with a good finish from Antonio Williams (41 rush, 309 yds, TD) who has seen an expanded role late in the season with Javonte Williams being banged up. Everything has started up front with an improving offensive, aided by the progression of Marcus McKethan and Brian Anderson and the return of Nick Polino.

The game against Mercer helped the Tar Heel defense more than any other unit on this team. A struggling defensive line got a much needed confidence boost and a move to a more comfortable spot at defensive end for Jason Strowbridge (40 ttkl, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 scks, FF, 3 FR, PD) was rejuvenating for a player who, along with Aaron Crawford (46 ttkl, 8.0 TFL, 3.0 scks, FF), has played nearly 1,100 snaps this season. That’s the same case for the linebacking corps that saw both Chazz Surratt (100 ttkl, 11.5 TFL, 5.0 scks, FF, FR, INT, 2 PD) and Jeremiah Gemmel (76 ttkl, 7.0 TFL, 2.5 scks) rebound from rough outings against Pittsburgh. The secondary is still just trying to hang on for dear life with all of the injuries that have decimated the unit, but the good news is that Don Chapman (16 ttkl, FF, INT) provided a needed spark in last week’s start against Mercer. It also helps that Myles Dorn (74 ttkl, INT, 4 PD) is still back there to suit up for one last meeting with the Wolfpack.

The Tar Heels special teams has hit their groove after some early season struggles. Noah Ruggles (34-34 XP, 15-21 FG, Long of 49) has been accurate since returning to the lineup against Duke, having made each of his last five attempts since the Virginia Tech debacle. Michael Carter (15 KR, 25.8 avg) has turned into a nice threat on kick returns and although he’s had a quite season, Dazz Newsome (9 PR, 7.0 avg) is always a threat to take it to the house. Ben Kiernan (56 punts, 41.4 avg) has received a lot of criticism, but has been solid this year as a true freshman.

NC State

The criticism of this offense is earned, as the Wolfpack have been one of the worst offenses in the Power 5 this season. It all starts at quarterback, where the Wolfpack have rotated three different quarterbacks before they settled on Devin Leary (94-190, 1,121 yds, 7-3 TD-INT, 37 rush, 52 yds). The running game has been solid, but not great, as Zonovan Knight (124 rush, 689 yds, 5 TD) and Jordan Houston (93 rush, 464 yds, 2 TD, 13 rec, 115 yds) have led the way. The Wolfpack have a group of pass catchers who have put together a nice season, headlined by wide receiver Emeka Emezie (54 rec, 528 yds, 2 TD) and Cary Angeline (25 rec, 379 yds, 5 TD). While the offensive line isn’t as loaded as the past few years, but Joshua Fedd-Jackson anchors a good overall unit.

The NC State defensive has had to fight through injury issues, as well and are not quite as strong as the units of the past couple of seasons. The defensive line has taken a step back, but is still the strength of this unit thanks to players like Larrell Murchison (46 ttkl, 11.0 TFL, 7.0 scks, 2 FR, 2 PD). The linebacking corps suffered a big blow when James Smith-Williams (20 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck) went down with an injury, but is a solid overall unit with Payton Wilson’s (55 ttkl, 5.0 TFL, 3 PD) emerge and Louis Acceus’ (49 ttkl, 7.0 TFL, 4.5 scks) steady performance. The secondary has been the biggest problem for the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels passing game should be able to take advantage.

The Wolfpack’s special teams might be the most complete of the three units. Placekicker Christopher Dunn (26-26 XP, 20-23 FG, Long of 46) has had a strong season so far, but there has to be some questions about his range. Punter Trenton Gill (50 punts, 47.5 avg) has been one of the ACC’s best punters and punt returner Thayer Thomas (11 PR, 13.7 avg, TD) is a threat whenever he gets space. The kick returner spot is still a bit unsettled, but Keyon Lesane (16 KR, 17.4 avg) has handled the bulk of the load.



Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 30.4 (60th)

Off. PYPG: 270.9 (35th)

Off. RYPG: 184.4 (44th)

Off. TYPG: 455.3 (T-25th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 37.4% (92nd)

Def. PPG: 25.9 (56th)

Def. PYPG: 239.5 (83rd)

Def. RYPG: 150.5 (63rd)

Def. TYPG: 390.0 (65th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 38.8% (64th)

Sacks: 27.0 (T-42nd)

Interceptions: 9 (T-53rd)

Turnover Margin: +4

NC State

Off. PPG: 23.2 (104th)

Off. PYPG: 235.6 (66th)

Off. RYPG: 152.9 (T-80th)

Off. TYPG: 388.5 (79th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 36.8% (99th)

Def. PPG: 29.1 (T-76th)

Def. PYPG: 238.7 (82nd)

Def. RYPG: 140.1 (44th)

Def. TYPG: 378.8 (54th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 40.2% (74th)

Sacks: 32.0 (T-22nd)

Interceptions: 3 (T-129th)

Turnover Margin: -10



Keys to the Game

Be Ready to Play

For some reason, this always seemed to be a problem under Larry Fedora in this game. That shouldn’t be a problem with Mack Brown on the sidelines, but the Tar Heels can’t approach this game thinking that NC State will roll over because they can’t go to a bowl game. The Tar Heels need to start fast and finish fast if they want to go to a bowl game for the first time since 2016.

Cash in on the Red Zone Opportunities

Last week was a good week in the red zone for the Tar Heels, but that was expected against a struggling FCS Mercer team. The Tar Heels entered last week game with just a 48.7% touchdown rate in the red zone, one of the main reasons this team is just 3-6 in one possession games this season. If the Tar Heels want to go bowling, they need to convert their red zone opportunities into touchdowns.

Create Some Turnovers

While the Wolfpack haven’t turned it over a lot this season, but they have forced just seven turnovers all season. For a Tar Heels defense that has struggled to slow opposing offenses down late in the season, creating turnovers is an easy way to help yourself out. If the Tar Heels can create a couple in this game, that could help this beat up defense.



Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- Matthew Flint (leg), Brandon Fritts (knee), Cam’Ron Kelly (knee), Patrice Rene (knee), Bryson Richardson (knee), Myles Wolfolk (upper body)

DOUBT- Jace Ruder (lower body)

NC State

OUT- Dylan Autenrieth (knee), Chris Ingram (knee), Taiyon Palmer (knee), Damontay Rhem (suspension), C.J. Riley (knee), Teshaun Smith (shoulder), Justin Witt (shoulder)

QUEST- Nick McCloud (knee), Ricky Person Jr. (undisclosed)



Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels

Offense

QB

# 7 Sam Howell, Fr.

RB

#25 Javonte Williams, So. OR

# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.

WR

# 2 Dyami Brown, So.

WR

#15 Beau Corrales, Jr.

WR

# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.

TE

#84 Garrett Walston, Jr.

LT

#67 Charlie Heck, Sr..

LG

#75 Joshua Ezeudu, RFr. OR

#58 Nick Polino, Sr.

C

#68 Brian Anderson, So.

RG

#73 Marcus McKethan, So.

RT

#74 Jordan Tucker, So.

Defense

DE

#55 Jason Strowbridge, Sr.

NG

#92 Aaron Crawford, Sr.

DT

#52 Jahlil Taylor, RFr.

OLB

#12 Tomon Fox, Jr.

ILB

#44 Jeremiah Gemmel, So.

ILB

#21 Chazz Surratt, Jr.

OLB

#3 Dominique Ross, Sr.

CB

#29 Storm Duck, Fr.

FS

# 1 Myles Dorn, Sr.

SS

#13 Don Chapman, Fr.

CB

# 4 Trey Morrison, So.

Special Teams

K

#97 Noah Ruggles, So.

KOS

#95 Jonathan Kim, Fr.

P

#91 Ben Kiernan, Fr.

LS

#61 Drew Little, Fr. (P)

#60 Trevor Collins, Jr. (K)

H

#96 Cooper Graham, So.

KR

# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.

PR

# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.


NC State

Offense

QB

#13 Devin Leary, RFr.

RB

#24 Zonovan Knight, Fr.

WR

#88 Devin Carter, RFr.

WR

# 3 Emeka Emezie, Jr.

WR

#87 Thayer Thomas, So.

TE

# 6 Cary Angeline, Jr.

LT

#79 Ikem Ekwonu, Fr.

LG

#71 Joe Sculthorpe, Jr.

C

#50 Grant Gibson, So.

RG

#66 Joshua Fedd-Jackson, Jr.

RT

#62 Bryson Speas, So.

Defense

DE

#52 Ibrahim Kante, So.

NT

#29 Alim McNeil, So.

DT

#92 Larrell Murchison, Sr.

DE

#55 Deonte Holden, Sr.

BUCK

#12 Brock Miller, Jr. OR

#11 Payton Wilson, RFr.

MLB

#41 Isaiah Moore, So.

WLB

# 2 Louis Acceus, Jr.

CB

#14 De’Von Graves, So.

SS

#31 Jarius Moorehead, Sr.

FS

#10 Tanner Ingle, So.

CB

#28 Kishawn Miller, Sr.

NB

#21 Stephen Griffin, Sr.

Special Teams

K

#32 Christopher Dunn, So.

P

#97 Trenton Gill, So.

KO

#32 Christopher Dunn, So.

LS

#91 Joe Shimko, Fr.

H

#97 Trenton Gill, So.

KR

#85 Keyon Lesane, Fr.

PR

#87 Thayer Thomas, So.



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