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Tar Heel Hangover: Running to the second half

After another off-week, it is time to look ahead.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our Monday morning opportunity to review last week’s game, second guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.

Hopefully the team hit the reset button and is getting prepared for the second half of the season. A crazy schedule has meant off-week (Hurricane Florence), two games in five days, bye week. Not only that, but there have been two extra days of rest due to the Thursday night game. This should be a healthy and hungry team on the field Saturday.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

Last week, I argued that the staff should use the bye week to install the single-wing offense. The point of the single wing is to get as many weapons in the backfield at one time as possible while primarily utilizing the running attack. It seemed that this could be a productive approach given the poor quarterback play to date. With a solid defense, removing the mistakes from the passing game could have resulted in a different record to date and better opportunity going forward.

On Thursday, Jake Lawrence modernized this suggestion by looking to the triple option. The differences in the two offenses essentially boil down to an extra lineman, or tight end, in the single wing versus two receivers in the triple option. The single wing also drops the pretext of a potent passing game, although there is still the possibility of stretching the safety with down field throws against a single coverage defense.

Neither of these are realistic possibilities of course. What is likely is that with nine days off, the playbook will be stretched into a much more run heavy offense. Chazz Surratt can be put in multiple run-pass-option scenarios that take advantage of his foot speed and running prowess. Running the ball more equates to fewer interceptions and fewer defensive scores.

Eat the clock; run the ball.

Lying In Bed, I Wish I Could Change . . .

The credit that the defense is getting. Year after year fans have been clamoring for a solid defense that could give the offense a chance to win. This year has been quite the opposite. A solid defense has been begging the offense not to give up scores of its own.

Punting turns in to better field position than interceptions. First downs help even more. This is no longer the bend but don’t break style of defense that yields huge chunks of yards but stiffens when the field gets short at the goal line. This is a defense that is getting stops and getting turnovers.

Now, here is the caveat: half of the four games thus far have essentially been over early in the fourth quarter. I have confidence that the defense can hold up for a full four quarters and all Carolina fans are just looking for close games with chances to win at his point.

Looking Forward: A quick peak ahead.

It is time to size up the rest of the October schedule.

Virginia Tech at home in a night game. This will be another prime time event against a good but not great Hokie team. Saturday’s contest is setting up as a game of strength versus strength where the Heels need to run the ball and Virginia Tech only allows 100 rushing yards per game. Carolina will need to approach 175-200 yards on the ground just to keep this one competitive.

Next week, the Heels travel to Syracuse. The Orange are a surprisingly good team with losses only to Clemson and a big let down to Pitt in overtime. Their offense is exceptionally well balanced with over 200 yards passing and rushing per game. The result has been a 43 point per game output. The question will be whether the Carolina offense can keep up.

On October 27, the Heels will head to Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are undefeated at home against meager competition. Statistically the teams are fairly well matched and this could be an opportunity for a sneaky road victory.

Final Thoughts

In order to get bowl eligible, the Heels need to go 5-2 the rest of the way in. That will likely require two of the next three. The Hokies are the only one of those at home. It is certainly an uphill climb.