A lot of good to great players decided to skip the bowl game on Wednesday night, either due to the fact they are heading to a new school or they are heading on to the NFL. One of those stars on defense was Cedric Gray, and he can hardly be blamed for opting out and instead focusing on hearing his name called at the draft, but his line-mate Echols stuck around, and in doing so tried to replicate the efforts of both players in Carolina’s 30-10 loss to West Virginia.
Echols led the whole defense with eleven tackles, five solo, and helped an extraordinary effort that mostly bottled up the power WVU offense. While the offense for the Mountaineers racked up 175 yards on the ground, they had very few explosive runs, and despite getting multiple attempts at starting possessions in deep UNC territory, they were only responsible for two touchdowns. It was a heart-filled effort by the side of the ball that a full squad on offense likely would have rewarded.
From all three fronts, the defense far outshone everyone else. West Virginia had a game plan to limit Conner Harrell in his first start, and mostly succeeded as no one on the offensive side of the ball stood out.
Echols was but one of the players on defense to stand out. After faking everyone out last week thinking that he was going to go pro, Kaimon Rucker had several strong players and one of the few tackles for loss the defense acquired. Also, Kaleb Cost likely added to the fourth quarter intro reel with a jarring hit in the second quarter. The defense looked closer to the level it played at during the beginning of the season, and it was a true shame the offense just wasn’t able to match the production.
It’ll be interesting to see what, if any changes are about to happen on that side of the ball. It’s clear there is talent on the defense and with rest the squad can handle the job. It’s also clear that more of the depth needs to be used so that efforts like the last five games will be fewer and far between.