clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UNC Football: Sacks from unexpected places

Let’s talk about sacks, bay-bee!

Grant Halverson

What does Duke quarterback Chase Brice NOT have in common with Jordan Travis, Brennan Armstrong, and Keytaon Thompson? He’s not a running quarterback. Carolina fans breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the lead-footed, interception-prone Clemson transfer on the schedule.

Running quarterbacks have been a consistent thorn in UNC’s side, dating back before the Return of the Mack. Without one to worry about, the Tar Heels were able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, stiffle the Blue Devil offense, and get their defense off the field. Let’s take a look at the five sacks Carolina recorded, all from people not named Surratt or Fox!

1st Quarter (12:35), 2nd & 10: On the line, Duke had tight end Noah Gray on the right side, off the line of scrimmage, with a single running back behind the quarterback. Chris Collins was split wide on the strong side with leverage over the right tackle. Gemmel and Surratt were both two steps behind the defensive line. On the snap, Collins rushed to the backfield and engaged Gray while Brice faked a handoff to Deon Jackson to the left, then spun out right looking to pass.

I assume the play was for Noah Gray to get a touch on the pass rusher, disengage and get open in the flat. I did not see any other open receivers on the play, so surely that was the design. If that’s the case, it was a bad design because Chris Collins 1.) threw off its timing and 2.) prevented Chase Brice from sidestepping the incoming Jeremiah Gemmel.

There’s not much to analyze on Gemmel’s part. Duke’s right tackle blocked down left to help sell the run-fake, so Gemmel essentially ran in a straight line to Chase Brice. Rather than using Goldberg’s or even Edge’s finishing Spear, he opted for the timeless JBL “Clothesline from Hell.”

The play was over two seconds after the ball was snapped.

2nd Quarter (13:06), 2nd & 8: I won’t break down the entire pre-snap set on this one, because this sack basically came down to Des Evans being a physical freak.

Duke right tackle Devery Hamilton had a one-on-one matchup with the freshman pass rusher. Evans was lined up wide, standing. When the ball was snapped, it only took Evans 1.5 steps to force Hamilton to open up his body to the sideline. Evans put his right hand on Hamilton’s right shoulder, and pushed him back into the pocket. When Brice felt pressure and tried to roll out to his right, Des disengaged his right hand, put it on Brice’s shoulder, then hugged him the way I hugged my mom when I got home from Iraq. The only difference was that immediately afterwards, I didn’t violently put her on the ground.

Devery Hamilton is a 6’9” 310-pound redshirt senior. Des Evans is a 6’6” 245-pound true freshman. Regardless of how good or bad either one of these players are, this sort of physical mismatch shouldn’t happen in a rookie’s favor. Imagine for a moment what a junior Desmond Evans will look like. He’s crazy scary. He’ll be like Jevon Kearse.

2nd Quarter (1:03), 2nd & 3: Nickelback Ja’Qurious Conley was lined up deeper than the linebackers in a pass fit. Pre-snap, Jeremiah Gemmel summoned the freshman and set him up over Duke’s right tight end Jake Marwede. Tyrone Hopper was standing in front of humiliated right tackle Devery Hamilton.

The defensive front did not immediately rush the passer, figuring that on 2nd & 3, a run play was coming. Hopper gave token pressure, really he just made sure to keep the offensive line from closing in on his body. Ja’Qurious floated on the outside, setting the edge, feet bouncing. Once Chase Brice completed his fake handoff and the defense recognized it was a pass, Ja’Qurious, Tyrone, and Chazz Surratt all converged on the quarterback.

Duke running back Jaylen Coleman and Marwede both got some hands on Hopper. With those two blockers occupied, Ja’Qurious rushed around the inside and nearly got to the quarterback eight yards behind the LOS, but juuust overshot and Chase stumbled forwards. Unfortunately, he stumbled into the path of Tyrone Hopper, who didn’t miss. Credit to Brice for turning an eight-yard sack into a two-yard one.

3rd Quarter (1:07), 2nd & 14: Carolina has put five defenders on the line of scrimmage on an obvious passing down. Duke’s line is already in pre-pass block posture, with a tight end on the left side of the line. There’s no guessing what is about to happen.

Chris Collins, lined up over the left tackle stunts inside on the snap. Gemmel rushes outside over the left tackle and is immediately engaged by the tight end and running back. The left tackle helped the left guard inside to block Kaimon Rucker, leaving Collins to, I dunno... the running back maybe? Duke will have to decide if left tackle Casey Holman or running back Deon Jackson made the crucial mistake there. A case could be made for tight end Jake Marwede, too, who looked a little surprised to see Gemmel shooting past his left, forcing Jackson to abandon his post inside to help.

In any event, no help was there, and Chris Collins twisted past Holman and looked back-up quarterback Gunnar Holmberg right in the eyes before wrapping him up and putting him on the ground. A good design and great burst by Gemmel set-up the confusion that helped Collins, who also made a great individual move to get past the left tackle, sack the quarterback.

4th Quarter (9:17), 1st & 10: I don’t know if any Tar Heel Blog readers actually pull the game up on ESPN+ to diagnose the plays with me. It does not hurt my feelings if you don’t. My hope is that these write-ups save you that time.

Trust me when I tell you that you’ll want to watch this play. Good news is that ACCN has condensed highlights, and this play is in the video.

Look at the future of the Tar Heel defense, ACC rivals, and tremble! Freshmen Des Evans, Myles Murphy, Clyde Pinder, and Kaimon Rucker, along with sophomore Chris Collins all manned the line of scrimmage. Poor Gunnar Holmberg was in the shotgun, knees shaking, with running back Mataeo Durant on his left. On the snap, right tackle John Gelotte shuffled right to get his hands on Chris Collins, who had excellent leverage and was huffing and puffing towards the quarterback. The right guard had immediately blocked down inside to support the center on Clyde Pinder, which meant that Kaimon Rucker did not have an offensive lineman to block him.

Only God knows if Rucker actually saw Mataeo Durant bravely step up to protect his quarterback, I have my doubts. But Rucker runs straight into Durant as if he wasn’t there and blows him up. This selfless act probably saved Holmberg’s life, as Myles Murphy half-tripped over the combined wreckage of Rucker and Durant. If they weren’t on the ground, Murphy had a clear lane to use his cast club to bash the Duke quarterback over the skull, killing him instantly! Instead, Collins, who had easily beaten the Duke right tackle with speed, got to Holmberg first, and dragged him with a non-lethal wrap-up.

====================

The good news for Carolina’s defense heading into their match-up with Wake Forest is that quarterback Sam Hartman is not a dangerous runner. If they can match the physicality they showed at Duke, the Tar Heels have a decent shot at putting some hits on the Demon Deacon signal caller. Turning those into sacks and potentially turnovers (something Wake has only done once this season) will be a big ask.