Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, October 2, 3:30 PM
TV: Time Warner Cable Channel 520 Internet: ESPN3.com
Records: UNC 1-2; East Carolina 2-1
Meanwhile, back on the actual football field...
East Carolina and its high-flying aerial offensive show roll into Chapel Hill today in the legislatively-mandated Kobayashi Maru game. For the second straight week the Tar Heels face an out-of-conference opponent with a lot on the line for righting the season heading into the meat of ACC play.
The Pirates are off to a quick 2-1 start and have been lighting up the scoreboard along the way. ECU coach Ruffin McNeill has brought the gunslinging Texas Tech offense to Greenville, and Boston College transfer quarterback Dominique Davis has led ECU to wins over Conference USA opponents Tulsa and Memphis and to a big early lead on Virginia Tech before the team fell apart in the second half. Davis has put up some gaudy numbers as he ranks nationally 1st in points per game responsible for, 2nd in completions per game, 6th in total offense per game, 10th in passing yards per game, and 33rd in total passing yards. Senior Jon Williams is a threat out of the backfield to run or catch the ball, and All-CUSA receiver Dwayne Harris is averaging nearly 8 catches per game.
The problem for ECU is that they haven't exactly been able to stop anybody on defense. The Pirates are giving up nearly 42 points per game and over 300 yards per game through the air. They have also been giving up a 57% 3rd down completion rate. Not exactly the same kind of defenses the Heels have seen the past three games.
For Carolina, the defense took a big step forward last week in the win over Rutgers. Bruce Carter re-established his role as resident freak and the defensive line started generating pressure. The defense will welcome Da'Norris Searcy back to the defensive backfield, which will be a welcome addition against ECU's aerial assault, but LB Quan Sturdivant, who was injured against Rutgers, is listed as questionable for Saturday's game.
Offensively, the Heels sputtered a little last week after two solid performances against LSU and Georgia Tech, and RB Johnny White was injured and is also listed as questionable against ECU. But Shaun Draughn ran well against Rutgers and T.J. Yates has been making good decisions in the passing game, so hopefully the offense can regain its groove. One thing Carolina cannot do is be sloppy with possession of the ball, as the Pirates have converted five of its six generated turnovers into scores.
For the second straight week, the Heels face a team that has had an open date to prepare for Carolina, and UNC has had plenty of distractions of its own. But even a depleted UNC defense will be among the best ECU has faced this year, and if the Tar Heel offense gets it together, they should be able to move the ball effectively against the Pirates. It looks like it's going to be one of those sweat-it-out Saturdays to see if UNC's defense can get off the field, but chances are the defense can slow the ECU offense enough to outscore the Pirates.
UNC 38, ECU 28