Heel Tough Blog: Week 9 Trench Report - Pittsburgh


Chapelboro.com


Carolina improved to 7-1 on the 2022 season, and they now sit at 4-0 in the ACC after taking down Pittsburgh 42-24 on Saturday night in Kenan Stadium. Drake Maye continued his impressive play, leading Carolina back from a 24-14 deficit, as Maye totaled over 400 yards of total offense, again. As well as the Tar Heels played on offense, it was the defense muscling up in the second half that allowed UNC to outscore the Panthers 28-0 over the final 22 minutes or so, as Carolina secured their first win over Pitt since Mack Brown returned to Chapel Hill. In recent matchups where Carolina failed to finish the game against Pitt, it was in large part due to losing the battle in the trenches, which didn’t happen on Saturday, and it’s a big reason why Carolina emerged victorious.


Offensive Line:

It was tough sledding for the Tar Heels running game, as they only manage to rush for 86 yards on 30 carries, with Maye leading the way with 61 yards, on 14 rush attempts. However, as Phil Longo deployed a pass-heavy attack, Maye was only sacked twice, despite attempting 44 passes. Usually, you wear down a defensive line by running the football, but this was quite the opposite, as Carolina was able to wear down Pitt’s front, despite airing it out. Thus, in the final quarter, when Carolina needed to run the football to milk the clock they got just enough to push upfront to do just that. Obviously, you want to see the Heels run the football better as we enter November, but they won the battle against a defensive line that had gotten the better of them in previous contests. All of the offensive penalties were assessed to the offensive line, which is something that will need to be corrected with back-to-back road contests upcoming. Here’s how Saturday’s participants graded out during the game:


Player Grades:

  • William Barnes: Offensive Grade (57.4) Run Blocking (47.3) Pass Blocking (75.1)

  • Corey Gaynor: Offensive Grade (58.6) Run Blocking (53.4) Pass Blocking (66.8)

  • Asim Richards: Offensive Grade (64.0) Run Blocking (66.4) Pass Blocking (58.1)

  • Ed Montilus: Offensive Grade (50.2) Run Blocking (45.7) Pass Blocking (47.1)

  • Spencer Rolland: Offensive Grade (51.2) Run Blocking (51.8) Pass Blocking (45.4)


Defensive Line:

That second half was what this defense needed, as they continue their push to clinch the ACC Coastal and compete for the conference championship in Charlotte in December. After allowing a Pitt touchdown on the first drive of the second half to extend the lead to 24-14, the defense rose to the occassion and outmuscled Pitt the rest of the way. Israel Abanikanda may have rushed for three touchdowns, but Carolina held him to 127 yards, not allowing him to take over the game. While UNC registered just one sack of Kedon Slovis, he was just 14-31 as Gene Chizik found other ways to make life difficult for him in the passing game. Jahvaree Ritzie led the charge up front, totaling 5 tackles in the game, and two QB hurries. Kevin Hester Jr, responded after missing a tackle that allowed an Abanikanda score, as he was second among defensive linemen with 4 stops. Noah Taylor would leave the game, and it was revealed yesterday that his season is over, but it was nice to see other players make plays in his absence. The same could be said for Kaimon Rucker, whose status for this Saturday is currently unknown, the depth is starting to show on the defensive side of the football, which is needed with Taylor and Des Evans out for the season.

Player Grades:

  • Kaimon Rucker: Defensive Grade (81.9) Run Defense (74.2) Tackling (75.1) Pass Rush (78.6) Coverage (60.2)

  • Jahvaree Ritzie: Defensive Grade (64.3) Run Defense (65.4) Tackling (74.1) Pass Rush (58.9)

  • Chris Collins: Defensive Grade (59.4) Run Defense (58.1) Tackling (76.4) Pass Rush (58.1) Coverage (62.3)

  • Jacolbe Cowan: Defensive Grade (58.5) Run Defense (58.2) Tackling (71.0) Pass Rush (59.0)

  • Kevin Hester Jr: Defensive Grade (54.7) Run Defense (51.9) Tackling (29.0) Pass Rush (59.9) Coverage (60.0)

  • Myles Murphy: Defensive Grade (45.0) Run Defense (42.9) Tackling (36.3) Pass Rush (55.7) Coverage (60.0)

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