Everything from the weather to the product on the field was suboptimal for the Tar Heels on Saturday against Virginia Tech. While the conditions the teams were asked to play in were fairly terrible, both teams had to play in them. Only one came away looking like they weren’t totally overwhelmed by the wind and rain.
One of the few bright spots for UNC was their defense. The unit has been highly criticized for their porous run defense and inability to get off the field in big moments. That unit, however, was the one that showed up looking the most prepared for Virginia Tech on Saturday. They were able to keep Carolina in the game longer than they would have been otherwise.
Defensive Tackle Nazair Jones had himself a strong game, recording nine tackles, a sack, and a tackle for a loss. Three of his tackles were solo ones, he batted down a pass at the line, and recovered a fumble.
If the Heels played a game where the offense didn’t give the ball away on their own end of the field multiple times, everyone would be talking about how strong the defensive effort was for the Heels. They were constantly under duress because of said turnovers, and were forced to stay on the field much, much longer than they should have been.
While the result on Saturday wasn’t ideal by any means, hopefully the stronger defensive performance is a sign of better things to come. There were still a number of frustrating third and long conversions, so the work in progress is not yet a finished product, but everyone would have likely felt better about the defense coming out of the Virginia Tech game if the offense hadn’t been such a mess. That kind of overshadows everything else.
Jones is such an important part of the Tar Heels’ defense, and seeing him make his presence known was fun to see. His energy can definitely carry over to the rest of the defense. Hopefully when the playing conditions aren’t as miserable we can get another performance like this to enjoy.