Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
UNC is making a trip north for a suddenly important ACC showdown between the
Tar Heels and the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Panthers, along with Syracuse
and soon to be Louisville, are a part of the ACC's expansion into the
This is a chance for UNC to gain some traction in an area that may
not be as familiar with the Tar Heels. Winning games in a talent rich
state like Pennsylvania can only help a school like UNC, which is
clearly trying to become a more national brand under coach Larry
Changing uniforms, playing at a fast pace and winning games outside
of the normal recruiting territories go a long way towards attracting
the kind of talent that helps build a yearly conference contender.
Along with opening new doors, here are some other storylines to watch
heading into Saturday's game.
UNC's once stagnant running attack has increased its rushing totals
in each game for the past six contests. After bursting out for 201 yards
in the win over Virginia, the Tar Heels are now averaging 154 yards
rushing per game over their three-game winning streak.
Clearly, pounding the rock has allowed UNC to unleash other elements
of their offense. The key component, however, has been Marquise
Williams ability to extend plays and break off decent chunks of
yardage on designed runs.
Williams is UNC's third leading rusher with 247 yards on the year.
He's their second leading carrier with 67 carries and it stands to
reason he might lead UNC in both those categories if he wasn't heading
into just his third game as a starter.
In short, Williams is the most consistent rushing threat UNC has
right now. He's being asked to carry a large portion of the offense
(he's even caught a touchdown pass now) and that's something that needs
to be monitored as the season goes along. His backup, Kanler
Coker, took his first snaps of the year last week and while I'm
sure he's a nice guy, isn't the man UNC fans want to see under center if
Williams breaks down against a defense looking to take him out.
The stable of running backs that line up beside him need to find
their rhythm this week and in the colder weeks ahead as the games become
more physical and teams begin fighting for every yard on their way to
postseason bowl games.
Pittsburgh's defensive terror Aaron Donald has been a
one-man wrecking crew this season.
He's already racked up 9 sacks, made 19.5 tackles behind the line of
scrimmage and has forced three fumbles this season.
UNC's offensive line has made improvements over the past several
weeks, especially considering where they were at near the beginning of
the year, but this still has to be an area of concern for Fedora.
"The guy is all over the place. Paul (Chryst) and his staff have done
a great job with him. They'll have him lined up at the left tackle. He's
played at right tackle. He's played at the right end, left end. They
move him all over the place," said Fedora during his weekly press
conference. "They put him in position to make plays. And the guy comes
through. For a big guy like that he's quick as a cat now. He can move.
He's like a skilled athlete but in a big body. And he's just got a
knack and he plays hard. What a great player."
Fedora also compared Donald to another superstar defensive lineman
North Carolina saw earlier in the year---Jadeveon Clowney.
"Yeah, it really is. The only difference is he usually starts out on
the inside and then moves outside. But they still move him around quite
a bit," said Fedora. "And I do, I think he's that same kind of player.
He has that same kind of impact on a game."
This will be a big test for the youngsters on the offensive line to
see just how far they've come and how far they'll be able to take this
team in the future.
Line: Pittsbugh by 1
November 16 Time: 12:30 pm Stadium:
Heinz Field (65,050) TV:ACC Network (Click
Link To Watch
THSN; SIRIUSXM (S 132,XM 203) Weather:
Pittsburg Forecast Series: North Carolina leads the all-time
series with Pittsburgh, 4-3 Last Meeting: Pittsburgh won the last meeting
with UNC, 19-17, in 2009.
Pittsburgh at a glance
Colors: Blue & Gold
Heinz Field (65,050)
Surface: Natural Grass
Record: 6-7 (3-4) Head
Coach: Paul Chryst
(11-11 at Pitt, 11-11 overall) Last Game: Pitt beat #23 Notre Dame, 28-21, at
Heinz Field on November 9. Official Site |
Rivals Site Roster |
Passing: Tom Savage
(155-254, 2022 yds, 16 TD)
Rushing: Isaac Bennett
601 yds, 4.9 avg, 5 TD)
(44 rec, 766 yds, 17.4 avg, 6 TD)
When a team goes through the type of difficult stretch that UNC went
through when they were 1-5 to begin the year, it can make everyone
affiliated with the team panic.
Fedora and his staff have always had a strong belief in the types of
players they have in this locker room and it's been evident over the
past couple weeks that the players and coaches haven't given up on this
season or their ability to do something special with it.
If you've been paying attention, you've no doubt heard that UNC wants
to go "1-0" every week and aren't thinking ahead to anything in the
That remained evident Wednesday when Fedora addressed the media.
Well, first of all, we have a very sound philosophy. As a coaching
staff and as a team. So when things aren't going well, what you do is
you don't just make changes," said Fedora. "That's what everybody on the
outside wants is you need to do this, you need to do that. And all we
did was stay the course. We kept doing the same things. We kept the kids
One of the biggest areas of improvement has been the defense. They've
put themselves in positions to win games and have seen guys like
Kareem Martin and Dominique Green have a meaningful
impact on the outcomes.
Fedora also credited his staff and commended them for keeping
everyone focused on the task at hand.
"Our staff did a great job of
keeping these kids believing in each other and what was going on and
what we were doing," said Fedora. "And if you keep doing that and the
kids see, from the leadership, with the staff and the team leaders, that
we're doing the right things, we've just got to make more plays,
eventually the light comes on and it starts happening. So then you're
able to say, hey, you see, you see what we're talking about and they
realize that and your team gets stronger and stronger from that point."