If you watched Virginia Tech play Georgia Tech this past weekend, you understand that the Hokies' offense boils down to not much passing and a whole lot of running. A good chunk of that running will come from former redshirt sophomore Tyrod Taylor who has the maddening mobility that turns 15 yard sacks into eight yard runs for first down. So this week presents quite a challenge for a young Tar Heel defense that has but one meaningless sack to it's credit in two games and still looked little prone to give up decent runs.
With Virginia Tech next on the slate, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said the buzzword for this week would be "discipline."
But with multitalented Tyrod Taylor running the Hokies' attack, there's a catchphrase going around the practice field, too: "Don't bite the cheese."
It means, Davis said, to "not just get sucked in on the first thing that appears -- realizing down and distance, realizing personnel groups and allowing things to unfold, and being in the right place. And being more disciplined in your techniques."
All are important strategies against Taylor, who stretches defenses and tests their patience by running, throwing -- or doing both at the same time. Dating to last season, the guy whose style is often compared to Michael Vick's is now 6-0 as a starter.
"You'd better be one disciplined football team to slow him down,'' UNC cornerback Kendric Burney said. "He's matured from last year, he looks real good back there, and we definitely have to read our keys and play good defensive football."
The upside for a UNC team playing with confidence is they have seen Taylor once before. Taylor went 10-19 passing and ran for a score last season in a game UNC had a chance to tie late but could not overcome the Hokie defense. Now that Taylor has matured and it appears he has the keys to the car for good, you can expect he will be more dangerous. This is why Davis is preaching discpline all week and hopefully getting the players to understand the need to stay home and make the right play.
The Heels did a great job clocking Scarlet Knight offensive players last week and also taking on a nice "bend but not break" mentaility. Rutgers did move the ball some but when 3rd down came UNC found a way to stop them. This was accomplished by a great team effort of converging on the football and containing Rutgers after the catch or past the line of scrimmage so they could not make the first down marker. Virginia Tech is far less potent on offense with a nonexistent passing game. It will be interested to see if Withers and Davis shift the focus to bring more pressure as opposed to the apparent desire to sit back in coverage against Rutgers.
All of this underscores the importance of this contest. The prevailing wisdom in the media is this game is the "one ring to rule them all" in the Coastal. The winner here gets an inside track though Miami still must be dealt with and the Heels still have Georgia Tech. For UNC this game is at home and you simply cannot drop home games if you want to get to Tampa. And on that note allow me to exit with this quote from Kendric Burney which underscores the change in vision for UNC football.
"It's step one to getting to Tampa ... but to us, every game is big,"