Football continues to evolve as offenses become more pass heavy and the game seeks to better protect players from concussions. One everlasting truth that has stood the test of time, though, is that tough teams can run the ball.
NC State talked a lot about being the tougher team in last weekend’s contest. Here are some eye-opening stats that beg to differ:
Carolina ran the ball at will. Let’s take a look at three of the best runs of the day.
1st Quarter, 9:12, 3rd & 4: Spread formation with Dyami Brown split wide left, Dazz Newsome five yards off the left tackle, TE Garrett Walston a good two steps behind the left tackle, Michael Carter on Sam Howell’s left hand side, and Emery Simmons wide on the right. On the snap, left guard Ed Montilus pulls right, followed by Walston. Howell holds the ball until Montilus passes by, and as he gets to the edge of the line on the right side, he immediately pushes Payton Wilson out of the play.
If you freeze this point in time, Payton Wilson is thinking about Hank Williams playing in Dave Doeren’s pick-up truck since his involvement in the play is over. Michael Carter is deciding where to go, but with NC State defenders all occupied by blockers in the middle of the field and Garrett Walston heading upfield on the right, he follows him. Emery Simmons has begun engaging the nickelback as well.
The corner, Shyheim Battle, who began the play about 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, is coming downhill fast. Unfortunately for Battle, instead of meeting Carter he gets his buddy Walston, who promptly puts Battle on his behind, humiliated. Carter squirts around the outside of Simmons and only has the safety, Jakeen Harris to beat.
Carter does a great job keeping his balance tip-toeing the sideline and shooting his left foot inside of the pylon, even after taking contact from Battle that would have put most college running backs out of bounds. This may have been the most impressive battle between a running back and safety on the right sideline since Greg Jennings and Darren Sharper.
3rd Quarter, 7:04, 1st & 10 (inside UNC’s 1-yard line): NC State’s best play of the day, quarterback Ben Finley pooch punts the ball, gets a friendly roll, and the Wolfpack pin Carolina inside their own 1-yard line. This is a chance to put some serious pressure on the Tar Heels and claw back from a 24-7 deficet.
Instead, on the very first play of the drive Javonte Williams turns the field position into a touchback, essentially.
The Heels line up with wideouts split wide on either side, two tight ends a step behind each tackle, and Javonte Williams off Sam Howell’s right side. On the snap, the wide receivers release and the line all push left. There they seal off Payton Wilson who is once again ineffective when his team needs him the most. Javonte takes the handoff from Howell’s right side but goes directly across his face to the left, but sees space on the right and cuts.
Joshua Pierre-Louis is the nickelback on the left side, and he has rushed into the backfield on the snap. He is in the endzone when Javonte makes his cut. If he makes the hit, right on the bottom-middle of the “L” in Carolina, he gets the Wolfpack a safety. Instead, he badly overshoots his angle, and Javonte is safe on green grass.
The safety had moved towards the LOS after the snap, and could have made a play at the two-yard line, but Javonte hit the “spin” button and puts the defender on his hand after a slip, and is off the races. Payton Wilson and Tyler Baker-Williams combine for the tackle. This is stat-padding at its finest. The NCSU defenders know that this was the time to rise up and show Carolina what they’re made of. They were weighed, measured, and found wanting.
4th Quarter, 14:20, 1st & 10: It has been a long day for the NC State defense. They’ve been on the field for a long time on an unseasonably hot October afternoon. Their offense has let them down over and over, failing to conduct long drives to give them rest. They’ve turned the ball over, giving Carolina short fields to pound them more. It’s just about time to quit.
The Heels line up in the same spread formation as the 1st Quarter play I diagramed earlier, only Javonte Williams is in and on Howell’s right side instead of left. Quiron Johnson pulls from the right guard spot to the left. Ed Montilus, Brian Anderson, and Jordan Tucker seal off the right side of the field so that Javonte can slice through unmolested. At one point, the three UNC linemen are all in a row on the right hash-mark, it’s kind of amazing.
Meanwhile, on the right side, tight end Kamari Morales and Joshua Edzeudu seal off the left side of the line. With the nickelback covering Dazz Newsome in the slot, Javonte has a 45-degree angle line from where he’s handed the ball into clear space in the second level. He does not need to cut, so he can gather speed like a freight train.
Safety Jakeen Harris could’ve had the first shot on Javonte, but bails. Cornerback Cecil Powell is at a bad angle and has to start running towards the endzone to get an angle on Javonte, a futile effort. In fairness to Powell, he probably assumed that Harris would hit Javonte and he would just come down to help clean up. For his troubles, he gets a Dazz Newsome shoulder right in his chest (some blue collar football from one of UNC’s fanciest players), and Javonte scores his third touchdown of the day untouched.
There’s a lesson here for NC State. Don’t talk tough until you can hang with the Heels running the football.