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UNC Football: Notre Dame’s wide receiver injuries give Carolina’s secondary a sliver of hope

Battered at every turn, UNC’s maligned secondary could use a break to help keep the Heels undefeated.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Cal at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Carolina’s defense has come in for its fair share of criticism over the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Heels have given up tons of yards and plenty of points as the defense transitions from Jay Bateman’s complicated, blitz-heavy formations to Gene Chizik’s simplified scheme.

Notre Dame potentially offers a brief reprieve from the aerial assaults Carolina has withstood so far. The Tar Heels are surrendering 275.3 passing yards per game, at a nearly 12 yards-per-completion clip, leading to 11 touchdowns in just three games. That’s rough, rough stuff.

To compensate, Notre Dame has only thrown three touchdowns so far this year, two of them to stellar tight end Michael Mayer, the other to running back Chris Tyree. Irish wide outs have zero touchdowns. That’s a weird concept to Tar Heel fans, whose wide receivers have combined to catch six in three games (UNC’s tight ends have four touchdown catches, as well).

You have to feel for Notre Dame. Their leading wideout last season, Kevin Austin, is now at Jacksonville. Their second best receiver from last season, Avery Davis, is out with a torn ACL. Their two best receivers so far this season, Lorenzo Styles and Braden Lenzy, have 11 and 5 catches respectively. They haven’t proven their bonafides yet.

Storm Duck and Tony Grimes have shown that they have the potential to be top-tier cornerbacks in the ACC, but it’s been a tough season for the duo so far this season. Hopefully the bye week has given Grimes more time to recover from his Week Zero concussion against Florida A&M, and Duck feels more comfortable on his oft-injured foot.

If the corners can shut down Notre Dame’s paltry passing attack, it will allow Chizik and the defense to focus on the Irish run game, and target-man Michael Mayer. The Irish tight end stands 6’4” and weighs 250 pounds, so Cedric Gray and Power Echols will have to have an extra bowl of Wheaties on Saturday morning to make sure they can bring him down.

If this is the week that quarterback Drew Pyne—he of 5.9 yards per completion—goes supernova, we’ll know that Carolina’s defense just isn’t meant to stop anyone. They’re just there to give Drake Maye and the offense some rest between scoring drives. If the secondary can make the Irish one-dimensional, then Carolina has a decent chance on pulling off a big win in front of a national audience.