When: Saturday, September 19th, Noon
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Records: UNC 2-0, ECU 1-1
Little brother just came into the room.
In what could very help be a repeat of last week versus UConn, the Heels brings their highly touted defense to bear against an ECU team that harbors similar shortcomings when driving the football. The bottom line? Get ready for another defensive battle. The prowess of UNC's defense is well chronicled. The win over UConn is owed almost entirely to the play of the defense keeping the Huskies in check until the offense found a way to put enough points on the board. ECU boasts a solid defensive front that will test the Heels' running game.
For UNC, the focus will be on a depleted offensive line and a pair of lineman starting for only the 2nd time in their career. Cam Holland will fill in at center and Greg Elleby will split time at guard with Week 1 starter Jonathan Cooper. With C Lowell Dyer out along with TE Zack Pianalto, the Heels will be digging deep not only for the offensive line but to locate some semblance of ball movement. Against The Citadel, UNC opted to run the ball first. Given the inconsistency in the receiving corps versus the experience in the backfield, the running game should be the strength. The offensive line issues plus the absence of FB Bobby Rome limited the effectiveness of the ground game against UConn. Rome will be back this week and while Pianalto will be missed for his receiving talents, Ed Barham may be more effective as a blocking TE. With Holland and Elleby acclimated to their positions and Cooper being available, the Heels should be able to open up something in the way of a running attack. A strong defense and ball control on offense certainly is the best way to wear down the Pirate defense and keep ECU's offense off the field. Two years ago, ECU QB Patrick Pinkney lit UNC up for 406 yards passing on the way to a 34-31 win in Greenville. Pinkney faces a more mature secondary and greater pressure from the front seven. Still, the best case scenario for UNC is keeping Pinkney off the field as much as possible.
One front that has not grabbed much attention is the turnover margin. UNC has broken even in two games which is fairly amazing since they have forced six in two games. The Heels do a great job forcing turnovers but in both games gave as many back by way of four INTs and two muffed punt returns. The respective defenses will likely control this game making turnovers golden opportunities for a short field and a quick offensive strike similar to what UConn got on the 2nd T.J. Yates INT. Whoever wins the turnover margin could very well win this game assuming the defenses match up evenly.
In the end I like the UNC defense to exert just enough control with the Tar Heel offense actually surprising some with a few sustained drives for points. Yates and the offense showed a lot of poise and patience against UConn waiting out the Husky defense until opportunities to move the football presented themselves. Look for a similar unfolding of this game and with the home crowd behind the Heels it should be enough to send little brother home with his hat pulled down on his face.
UNC 17 ECU 7