The North Carolina Tar Heels face a tough challenge in the talented No. 17 Louisville Cardinals this weekend in Chapel Hill. Carolina must make adjustments on both sides of the ball for a competitive match up.
Despite coughing up three fumbles, the Cardinals managed to win the turnover battle against Purdue. Of course, racking up 524 yards of total offense may help combat those types of errors.
Needless to say, Carolina’s players will need to step up in crucial situations, especially on third downs, against a team that can make plays. Here are two UNC players that can make a difference in the outcome of this game and set the course for their seasons.
Offense: Chazz Surratt
As mentioned by Coach Larry Fedora earlier in the week, there is no decision on the starting quarterback, and a rotation will likely go throughout the game.
Scanning through the box score shows that Chazz Surratt had the better game than Brandon Harris. Surratt was 18-28 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown. On 16 carries, he rushed for 66 yards a touchdown. The use of the option was a new weapon for the offense and his ability to tuck the football and run on both designed runs and passing plays was evident.
Surratt got the nod to run the two-minute offense when the game was already out of reach. Al Hood mentioned this earlier this week, and it is an important consideration moving to this Saturday. Surratt was in his first collegiate game and “live fire,” no matter if the game is already decided, is beneficial to the progression of a quarterback.
With Old Dominion next week, it is doubtful either Harris or Surratt will secure the starting job. However, each have a chance to tip the scales in their favor against Louisville.
Defense: Andre Smith
Andre Smith’s declaration of UNC stopping Lamar Jackson made him an easy choice for the defensive player to watch this week.
Smith’s interception last week was big for a couple reasons. First, it was the second of the game for Carolina. The pick with 3:40 left in the third quarter doubled the amount of interceptions from the entire 2016 season. Next, it was returned 73 yards and two plays later the Tar Heels scored a touchdown to put them ahead 24-21 for their last lead of the game.
Last year’s interception issues were part comedy of errors and part unbearable frustration. Hopefully Smith’s interception exorcised those demons and the issue fade away.
Smith led the team in tackles last week and will need another productive performance this week. Jackson threw for 378 yards and ran for 107 more against Purdue. Needless to say, the defense in all three zones will need to stick to their assignments to contain the ability of Jackson to tuck-and-run. Smith will be an integral part in this effort.
Who will you be looking for to step up against Louisville? Let us know in the comments below.