When: Saturday, September 12th, Noon
Where: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Records: UNC 1-0, UConn 1-0
The real season begins now.
With The Citadel being not much more than an exhibition game, UNC now kicks off three game stretch which will see the Heels on the road twice and face ECU at home in between. The first stop is against UConn a team UNC defeated 38-12 last season in Chapel Hill on the strength of special teams play and an INT return for a TD by Marvin Austin. UConn actually outgained the Heels on the offensive side of the ball racking up nearly 400 yards. Given the way the defense played in 2008 with a focus on containment and INTs by the buckets it was not unusual for UNC to give up yards yet still win big.
This season that portends to change. The defense is more experience and on the basis of the game against The Citadel far more willing to use their speed to aggressively press the opposing team. Butch Davis has indicated his primary concern is the Huskies' running game and rightfully so. Against Ohio last week, UConn racked up 259 rushing yards versus 127 yards in the air. Two Husky running backs hit 100 yards on ground versus a passing game which also gave up three INTs. In other words, UNC will be staring out a team very similar to itself in terms of offensive focus. UNC linebacker Bruce Carter will draw a little extra attention and probably has kept UConn coach Randy Edsall awake nights this week. Carter blocked three consecutive punts against UConn last season and that is not likely to be forgotten. Granted the odds of that happening again are pretty slim but that does not mean UConn won't be keeping an eye on Carter. If Carter receives special attention it could open the door for Quan Sturdivant or Zach Brown to do some damage.
On the offensive side, UNC will run the ball but OL concerns with Jonathan Cooper and Lowell Dyer questionable could severely impact those plans. While UNC will look to run the football, the passing game is needed to set the table. Look for more consistency and better hands from the WRs this week now that the first week jitters are past. It would be nice to see Greg Little have a breakout game and if that happens it should get the right pieces in place for a balanced offensive performance. I also expect we will see healthy doses of Shaun Draughan but do not be shocked if Butch Davis and John Shoop spread the wealth in the running game a bit utilizing multiple options behind T.J. Yates.
This game is a bit of a must win for UNC since there are a few games that the Heels could lose they certainly need to take the ones they are capable of winning. Getting off to a 2-0 start is extremely important with ECU coming to town a week from today.
UNC 28 UConn 13