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UNC Football vs. Duke: Three Things Learned

Life is better with a 42-10 halftime lead.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

In response to Duke Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe describing this game as the “Grocery Store Rivalry,” this is what UNC football head coach Mack Brown recognized before the game Saturday:

With State, Wake, and Duke, we have a lot of players from the state of North Carolina. They have to live here when they get through [with college and the games] —or get to live here, let’s say, when they are through. Rivalries are about your fans and boosters and families. A lot of these families are split when you start looking at these three or four schools. David’s right. You see them at church. You see them at grocery stores. You see them at work. It’s bragging rights for your fans and families. And these [games] don’t go away. You lose some games and people might remember it, like Art [Chansky] remembering Virginia from 27 years ago or something. And for some people they never go away. But usually when people ask players from one of these schools, they’ll say, “What was your record against Duke? What was your record against NC State when you played? What was your record against Wake?” And those hold a little bit more weight than some of the others.

In the two games this season against the top in-state rivals of the North Carolina Tar Heels, the flagship university has taken care of business. Brown, with his philosophy on recruiting in-state talent, makes these games a priority.

What are three things that Tar Heel fans learned in the 56-24 win to retain the Victory Bell.

Scoring on the Second Drive Matters, Too

With the exception of one game, the Tar Heels have scored a touchdown on the opening offensive drive of each game this season.

No one can say that the Tar Heels have not started on time (as was one of my critiques during the Fedora era). But the lull after that initial effort has been disappointing.

Yesterday, Carolina put in a full first half of work. And it was more than enough to put the game out of reach.

The Tar Heels provided one of the, if not the best, efforts of the season on both sides of the ball this season.

Offensive Play Calling

  • 4th and goal: Sam Howell pass complete to Javonte Williams for 2 yards for a TD
  • 4th and two: Williams run for 5 yards
  • 4th and two: Williams run for 32 yards for a TD
  • 4th and three: Howell pass complete to Michael Carter for 14 yards

Say what you will about the UNC special teams this season (and I have said a lot!), the third phase was not a factor this week.

If you look at every fourth down attempt from Carolina against Duke, you’ll see it was the perfect blend of pass and run from both of UNC’s dynamic running backs.

These plays were not on the seventh page of your preferred football video game playbook, nor something that your high school varsity football coach draws up after an inadvertent stop near midfield.

Each of these fourth down conversions are simply, yet effective plays that will work with the talent on offensive and the defensive shown in the field.

Each of the three Tar Heels in those plays made easy pickins’ of the soft Blue Devils defense and showed how the right plays can make defenses suffer.

Defensive Adjustments

Maybe it is a nooner situation, but the UNC defense was ready to play yesterday.

The Blue Devils were down 21-0 before they tallied anything on the scoreboard, and the defense was a big part in controlling the play in the first quarter.

Three down linemen was the base formation for the Tar Heels. and this scheme helped to snuff out the Duke rush attempts.

It looked as though the depleted secondary made great adjustments based on down and distance, and played situational football rather than reactional football.

Tar Heel Blog will check the numbers for you, but it does not seem as though Jay Bateman blitzed as much this game, allowing the UNC defenders to handle things at the line.

Maybe this is all because the game was under the sun rather than the lights, but the Tar Heel defense looked like a unit that is the perfect compliment to Howell and the boys.