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October 26, 2013
Heels Put it All Together
After North Carolina secured its first ACC win Saturday afternoon by beating Boston College 34-10, coach Larry Fedora said that the feeling in the locker room was a much different one than it had been in previous weeks.
But for UNC, the feeling was not the only thing different about the game. Schematically, North Carolina had ran plays that were new against Boston College and the team also had players execute on plays that had not done so this season that gave the game a look unlike other recent ones.
Aside from continuing to use both quarterbacks - Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams - like it did against Miami, North Carolina's offense did not exactly look the same against Boston College as it did against the Hurricanes.
A.J. Blue was announced the starting tailback before kickoff, as opposed to T.J. Logan, who had been listed by UNC as the starter before Miami and on Monday before Boston College.
Blue carried the ball eight times for 25 yards - including a one-yard push into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.
"I didn't even know what to do when I got in (the end zone)," Blue said. "I haven't been in all year but it felt good. I'm looking forward to more, to keep(ing) pushing and doing it more to help my team win."
Eric Ebron led all UNC receivers on the day with 67 yards, but made his different mark in rushing for seven yards on two carries and contributing to UNC's committee of backs which went netted a total of 110 yards against the Eagles.
And although Ebron was effective, gaining yards on each of the times he was handed the ball, it was not by initial design.
"It's a little bit about what (Boston College was) doing defensively but we put him back in that turbo set with (Logan) and (Blue) back there and our plans were to go a certain way, but what they were doing defensively was dictating that we go the other way," Fedora said. "We don't mind handing the ball to Eric Ebron, he can run the ball, he's very capable as a runner. I have no problem with it, it looks a little bit different - you hand it to the 240 pounder and you've got the 180 pounder doing the lead blocking."
North Carolina wide receiver Johnathan Howard also talked about size after the win. After his first two-touchdown game, Howard said he got receptions on plays where he expected to be targeted.
"With my size, being able to go up on top of people to get balls, being a bigger target for the quarterbacks, I felt like I was going to be able to be a big part of the red zone," he said.
Howard caught for a touchdown from both Renner and Williams, doubling the two touchdowns he had this season coming into the game, and fellow freshman Ryan Switzer added his name to the list of Tar Heel scorers this fall by getting into the end zone first for UNC against BC, catching a 13-yard pass from Renner in the end zone in the first quarter.
T.J. Thorpe contributed in a way he has not typically in catching a 33-yard pass from Renner - recording his longest career reception - as part of his 40 receiving yards.
On the eleventh UNC drive of the game, Williams faked a handoff to Logan before walking four yards into the end zone to put UNC up 34-7 in the fourth quarter, but the drive reflected the capabilities of UNC's two quarterbacks that each is least known for.
Renner out-rushed Williams with his 17-yard quarterback keeper on the second snap of the drive, while Williams carried the ball for 11 yards on the drive.
Meanwhile Williams out-threw Renner in completing a 16-yard pass to Logan in a drive in which Renner did not pass the ball.
The one thing that carried over as the same from North Carolina's last game was the consistent support for running the offense with two quarterbacks, though, and it's a method that will continue to be effective as long as the offense doesn't break rhythm.
"Anytime you're moving the chains you're going to have a better rhythm," Fedora said. "I've got to give both of those quarterbacks some praise as far as how they're handling that transition between the two. A lot of people are going to tell you that you can't do that, that it's going to mess with the flow of the game - but they really are doing a great job. It's a seamless transition between the two."
On the defensive side of the ball freshman Mikey Bart got his first career start at the bandit position.
Bart recorded his first sack for a loss of one yard as Boston College went for it on fourth down during the (fourth) quarter.
"He struggled with the play book back in training camp, (Norkeithus) Otis helped him out with that," Jabari Price said. "But I think he played lights out. We didn't miss a beat as far as Darius Lipford being out, he was out, guys had concerns, but Mikey Bart played well at practice Mikey Bart knew his assignments on Friday, Mikey Bart played well today so I have a lot of confidence in Mikey and I feel like now with Otis, Darius and Mikey, that's the most rich position on this team."
But for Price, and for all of the players, the biggest on-field difference in the win was not the effect of new personnel or a level of energy at any one point during the game - it was the entire team's ability to play well through every minute of the game."
For the game, UNC held Boston College to only 59 net passing yards---the fewest amount a team has gotten against a Tar Heel defense since the memorable 1997 squad that went 11-1 and finished in the top five nationally.
For a team that needed every bit of good luck it could muster, Saturday's performance was that moment when things finally clicked all at once.
"The story of our team this whole year is we haven't played 60 minutes," "I think today we went out and finished. (The) defense played really well, they finished, offense finished, we came up with a 'W,'" said Price.