Heel Tough Blog: Trench Report-Pittsburgh
Carolina lost yet another barn burner Thursday night in Pittsburgh, falling to the Panthers 34-27. Sam Howell was exceptional once again, but a defense that couldn't generate any pressure on the Pittsburgh quarterback, struggled to make plays. The loss dropped the Tar Heels to 4-6 meaning they'll have to win the final two games of the season if they want to go to a bowl game. If that's the case Carolina will have to improve up front on both sides of the football. Here's your Pittsburgh Trench Report.
Entering the game against the Panthers, Carolina needed to protect Sam Howell for 60 minutes to give them a chance. They failed to do that, allowing Howell to land on his backside 5 times. When they gave him time to throw the rock, he was usual self picking apart the Pittsburgh secondary for over 300 yards & 3 touchdowns. As much as there was an emphasis on protecting their young signal caller, it was important to establish some form of a run game against a stout run defense. The big uglies excelled in the phase, as Carolina rushed for 136 yards. They did fail to convert a 4 & 1 early in the game, but there needs to be more concern about the play call as opposed to the execution. It was a uneven performace, but they played well enough to give the team a chance, which is all you could ask in that situation. With Mercer coming to Chapel Hill this weekend, the Heels should dominate the line of scrimmage. This game will allow them to work out the kinks one final time, before the season finale at NC State.
After a lackluster outing against Virginia, and then a week off to prepare for this game, you expected to see a better showing. That didn't happen. The line struggled to generate any pressure on Kenny Pickett, who threw for over 300 yards & rushed for over 50. Jason Strowbridge might've had 6 tackles, but only 1 was for loss, which means he wasn't active in the backfield. Aaron Crawford had a costly penalty, that a senior just can't make when you're trying to make a bowl game. This unit peaked against Clemson, and since then has regressed for the most part outside of the Duke win. Like the offensive line, this group will have the talent advantage this Saturday against Mercer. They need to gain some confidence before the road trip to Raleigh, where it appears Carolina will be playing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2016.