Carolina beat State by 11 in Raleigh on Saturday. The Heels played a stellar first quarter, going up 35-7 after 15 minutes. After that first period the Heels played an ugly football game with only 10 more points and 3 turnovers. It is worth noting that the Heels had twelve offensive possessions in this game and five of them were in that first quarter. After the first period the game was much much slower and the Heels were negatively effected by the stretches of time where the offense had to sit and the defense was quickly gassed as they faced 36 minutes of field time. The Heels need the game to go a bit faster for the way they are built and that should be a number one goal next week.
Following on the time of possession difference, the Heels' defensive line was heavily rotated in this game and a lot of the damage the Wolfpack did was done with the backup line in the game. When the starters were on the field, the Heels forced the Jacoby Brissett interception and kept the running game bottled up. If the tempo reverts to a normal game flow, then the Heels' defense should look a good deal better than they did for most of this game.
Three Things We Learned:
Carolina's Run Game is Legit:
Carolina ran all over State, even more than Clemson did when they played the Wolfpack. The Heels ended up averaging 9.9 yards per carry on meaningful rushes and both T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood averaged more than ten yards per carry. The Heels did fumble twice but one of those was a strip sack of Marquise Williams. The Heels have used the run as their primary method of moving the ball since the Duke game. Hood has emerged as one of the best running backs in the country over the past few weeks. The Heels need to continue to rely on the run in the ACC title game as their run game can hang with anyone in the country.
Marquise Williams Still Struggles to Lead a Top-10 Team:
Williams has been inconsistent ever since the Heels played against Duke. Williams fumbled and threw an interception against State and while it is good that Williams has proved he has a short memory--top quarterbacks do not commit this many mistakes that need to be forgotten. Williams needs to hold on to the ball more and if the Heels get a lead on Clemson he needs to just go down when he is pressured unless the entire field opens in front of him. Williams has been a good runner during his struggles but Williams has only had 488 yards through the air since the Duke game. If the Heels really want to win the ACC title Williams will have to play like he did against Duke and not like he has in the three games since then.
The Linebackers Are Not Ready For Coverage:
The Wolfpack went after the Carolina linebackers in coverage. Des Lawrence, M.J. Stewart and even Malik Simmons were hardly involved in this game as Brissett completely avoided all of Carolina's corners. State did go after the linebackers and their coverage skills were exposed. The Heels have lacked a pass rush almost all season and when quarterbacks have time, they have routinely picked the linebackers apart in coverage. The Heels need to either force throws earlier or change their coverage schemes against Clemson if they want to win that game. If the Heels can not cover with their linebackers then their shot at a conference title and the playoff will vanish.