Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
The North Carolina football team is riding a two-game winning streak
and is in a decent position to close out the season on a hot streak and
get into a decent bowl game.
That's not to say that the Tar Heels don't have a fairly tough road
ahead. With a game on the road against Pittsburgh and a season finale
showdown with archrival Duke, the Heels have tough matchups against
opponents with something to prove.
This week's game against Virginia would appear to be a really
winnable game for the Tar Heels. But at just 3-5 and a plethora of young
players leading the way, the Cavaliers are likely looking at this game
as a winnable one for themselves as well.
Without further ado, let's take a look at some storylines to pay
attention to this weekend.
While there is certainly reason to believe this is a game that can
allow UNC to continue their winning ways of recent weeks, this game also
has all the makings of a trap game.
Larry Fedora has been preaching a "1-0" approach to each
week as UNC looks to end the season strong and recuperate from their
weak start. That means remaining focused against opponents like Virginia
the same way they were for a big rivalry game like N.C. State.
Many players have been echoing the sentiments of the head coach by
constantly repeating the "1-0" quote Fedora has been pushing in
the media. That means the message is getting through and it's not
something they can use as an excuse if they trip up. They've been warned
by the leadership that they don't have any margin for error.
But these are college aged athletes we're talking about and it's a
team coming off a big rivalry game victory, while also dealing with the
loss of their star senior quarterback Bryn Renner to a possible
career ending shoulder injury.
"FIrst of all, offensively they're really quite a bit different than
they were from the other years I faced them. They're doing much more
with the quarterback. They've got a kid (David Watford) that can run and
throw," said Fedora at his Wednesday press conference. "They've got a
very talented running back (Kevin Parks), and they're finding a lot of
different ways. There are a lot of different formations, a lot of motion
shifts, a lot of movement, to get you out of position and create
problems for you."
This is the kind of game that can truly define UNC as a team. Will
they remain focused and take care of a team their supposed to beat or
will they falter like a young team that can't fully focus on the task at
hand like they've done earlier in the year?
That's a big question that needs to get answered on Saturday.
Obviously it's a big deal that Renner isn't available, likely for the
rest of his college career. It's also quite fortunate for UNC that
they've been giving Marquise Williams an increased role the
last few weeks.
Fedora and the coaching staff have a great amount of trust in
Williams after unleashing him a bit more than usual over the last month.
He hasn't just been a change of pace quarterback because when given the
chance he's shown he can run the entire playbook.
"First of all, I consider Marquise a dual-threat quarterback. He can
throw the ball. He throws it very well.
But in the situations that we were using Marquise in a lot of times,
to bring a compliment to the offense that we didn't necessarily have
with Bryn (Renner)--- we brought more of the quarterback runs into the
offense," said Fedora.
"That's not necessarily changing what we do---we're going to do what
we do---but I don't know that we will sit there and decide that we're
going to run the quarterback a majority of the game. We've got very good
running backs that we can put the ball in their hands and make plays,
but I'm sure there will be some opportunities where Marquise will run
the football and we'll take advantage of some things."
The difference now is that if he does run into a cold streak, the
staff can't just throw in their All-ACC alternative to bail him out or
get the offense back on track. It's likely all on Williams.
Line: North Carolina
November 9 Time: 12:30 pm Stadium:
Kenan Stadium (63,000) TV:ACC Network (Click
Link To Watch
THSN; SIRIUSXM (S 93,XM 195) Weather:
Chapel Hill Forecast Series: North Carolina leads the all-time
series with Virginia 60-53-4. Last Meeting: UNC won 37-13 on November 15,
2012 in Charlottesville
Virginia at a glance
Colors: Orange & Blue
Scott Stadium (61,500)
Surface: Athletic Turf
Record: 4-8 (2-6) Head
Coach: Mike London
(18-28 at UVA, 42-43 overall) Last Game: Lost 59-10 vs. #8 Clemson on
November 2 in Charlottesville Official Site |
Rivals Site Roster |
Passing: David Watford
(207-349, 1845 yds, 7 TD)
Rushing: Kevin Parks
696 yds, 4.4 avg, 9 TD)
Receiving: Tim Smith
(23 rec, 350 yds, 15.2 avg, 1 TD)
Passing: 213.6 YPG
Rushing: 157.2 YPG
Point For: 21.2 PPG
Points Against: 32.6
North Carolina Leaders Passing: Bryn Renner
(152-231, 1765 yds, 10 TD) Rushing: AJ Blue
(70 carries, 266 yds, 3.8 avg,
1 TD) Receiving: Eric Ebron
(44 rec, 669 yds, 15.2 avg, 3 TD)
Can he handle the full responsibility of being the starting
quarterback? He looked really good against Virginia Tech on the road
against a much stouter defense than the one he'll face Saturday.
But this is a different type of test. This could be the beginning of
the "Marquise Williams" era in Tar Heel history.
The UNC defense has looked light-years better the last few weeks than
they did at the beginning of the season.
The defensive secondary, while still prone to giving up big plays,
has been able to make plays of their own, something that Fedora has
stressed all the time.
The defense simply wasn't making enough big plays earlier in the year
and were allowing teams to push them around at will.
While they still aren't the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, guys like
Dominique Green have given Tar Heel fans hope for the future as
they look to continue developing into defensive ball hawks.
Guys like Mikey Bart and Junior Gnonkonde also
figure to get more playing time along the defensive line as their
youthful exuberance and athletic versatility still need nurturing and
now is as good a time as ever to get those valuable reps while still