It’s not a coincidence that the two times Carolina has lost this season, they lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. It’s also not a coincidence that in their two biggest wins of the season entering Saturday’s game against Duke, they won the line of scrimmage as well. Carolina entered the matchup against the Blue Devils, seeking a bounce back win after a disappointing loss at UVA on Halloween, as they tumbled out of the AP top 25. Mack Brown challenged his staff, and his players to be ready to play, and they responded in a huge way, winning 56-24 in Durham. Javonte Williams continued to make his case as to why he’s a Heisman contender, Sam Howell made the plays we expect him to make, and Emery Simmons continues to emerge as a passing catching threat. Defensively, Carolina forced 2 turnovers, and registered 5 sacks of the Blue Devils quarterbacks, as they took a much needed step in the right direction. There were a lot of different factors as to why Carolina made such quick work of Duke, but one main reason was that they won the line of scrimmage:
The inconsistencies of this group had me calling for Stacey Searles job if their play didn’t improve after the loss at Virginia last week. While that discussion is for the off-season anyways, Carolina responded in a big way in Durham, against a formidable defensive front. It helped that Jordan Tucker returned to action, although I think Carolina would’ve had the same results had he been on the sidelines. The physicality that this group plays with in the run game, is fun to watch, and they were at their best yesterday. Carolina amassed 338 yards on 47 carries, for an average of 7.2 yards per rush. Javonte Williams had 151 of those yards, on just 12 carriers, for a 12.6 average. Sam Howell was sacked just once, a big improvement from a week ago. Brian Anderson did get knicked up in the third quarter, but he should be okay moving forward, as Carolina now gets ready for Wake Forest.
This group has really struggled with injuries, and the lack of depth in the trenches this season, which caused defensive coordinator Jay Bateman to switch to a 2-4-5 look, despite mixed results. Yesterday, Carolina had their way with a mediocre offensive line that Duke has, and made a living in the backfield. As a team Carolina registered 10 tackles for loss, to go along with 5 sacks, giving them a performance to build off of. Desmond Evans got some playing time, and made an impact, registering 5 total tackles with a sack, and a tackle for loss. More important than any stat, Carolina maintained their gap integrity as best they have since the season opening win over Syracuse. That allowed Chazz Surratt and Jeremiah Gemmel to find the football, and make plays. They did just that, combining for 21 total tackles. Consistency is what this team is looking for, and they’ll need to carry over this type of performance next Saturday at home against the Demon Deacons.