Entering Saturday’s matchup with the rival over in Raleigh, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Tar Heels, and they weren’t good ones at that. After starting the season 3-0, and earning a top 5 ranking, it was deemed that Mack Brown had in fact returned the program to national prominence. An upset loss at 1-3 Florida State changed all that. They say you learn the most about your team when adversity stares you in the face, and we learned a lot about Carolina in a 48-21 rout of the Wolfpack. The offense was in a rhythm from the opening drive, and the defense took advantage of the quarterback issues plaguing State. Leading up to the game, both teams mentioned that the more physical team was going to win the third meeting between the schools as ranked teams. It was apparent that Carolina was the more physical football team, and that started at the line of scrimmage:
A big reason for the loss last week in Tallahassee was that the offensive line wasn’t able to hold up in pass protection, against a mediocre pass rush from the Seminoles. NC State featured a talented front, so the same worries were present entering this contest. Phil Longo countered with a quick passing game, which neutralized the pass rush from the onset, and allowed Sam Howell to get into a rhythm early. In the run game, this offensive line continued to be superior, as they allowed Carolina to amass 326 yards on the ground, on 55 rushes, for an average of 5.9 yards per rush. This is a run first football team, which isn’t possible if they aren’t winning at the line of scrimmage, which they do on a weekly basis. They did allow three sacks, but they weren’t always due to a lack of blocking. Penalties weren’t as big a deal as they have been, but a holding call on Asim Richards that wiped away a touchdown, did result in a brief benching at the time. This group took a step forward in this game, and silenced some of the doubters, myself including with this performance. They’ll look to carry this over to next week’s trip to Charlottesville.
As disappointing as the offensive line performance was last week, the same could be said for the defensive front, allowing Florida State to have their way all night long. The challenge entering this game was how would handle preparing for a backup quarterback? Could they make him uncomfortable enough to take them out of their game plan? That answer was yes, as they forced three consecutive three and outs to start the game, making the Wolfpack one dimensional early on. If you look at the stat sheet, you won’t see any stats that jump out at you, but this was their best performance since the season opening win over Syracuse. Carolina did record three sacks in the game, two of which came from Tomon Fox, which this team is desperately counting on for more production. The team will now move on and get ready for Virginia, a team that had its way with the Tar Heel defense last year in Chapel Hill last season.