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November 8, 2013

Inside the Numbers: Virginia

The North Carolina Tar Heels are on a two game winning streak, after defeating their rivals N.C. State last week 27-19 and pushing their record to 3-5 (2-3), keeping their goal of going to a bowl game intact.

Now, the Tar Heels head back to Chapel Hill, in one of the oldest match ups in the ACC, as the Virginia Cavaliers head into town, looking to end their six game losing streak and to get their first ACC win on the year.

The Tar Heels learned some devastating news earlier this week, as starting quarterback Bryn Renner suffered a season ending shoulder injury, ending his career at North Carolina.

However, head coach Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels have a more than capable quarterback in Marquise Williams, who has split time with Renner the past few weeks at signal caller.

This will be the chance for Williams to make his name in North Carolina football history, as he will be the starting quarterback the rest of the way for the Tar Heels.

Let's take a look at the numbers between these two teams, as Virginia has some dangerous weapons coming into Chapel Hill, which could pose a problem for the Tar Heels.

Furthermore, this is a team that has nothing to lose and is behind their head coach in Mike London, making this a team that North Carolina shouldn't overlook.

On the other hand, there shouldn't be any opponent that the Tar Heels should overlook, as one slip up could be detrimental to their end goal.

Even though this is a team that is 2-7 on the season, expect the Cavaliers to give all their effort in Chapel Hill, in what has been a battle between these teams the past few years.

Tar Heel Illustrated goes inside each team and breaks down the numbers for this week's match up, as the Cavaliers take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon. Kickoff will be at 12:30pm.

When looking at the stats, the Cavaliers don't necessarily blow you away with outstanding numbers but they do have some key parts that could make some noise Saturday afternoon.

Remember, this is the same team that had narrow losses against Maryland, Duke, and Georgia Tech early in the season, while defeating a very good BYU in the first game of the season and VMI.

So, this is a team that might fool one when looking at their record; but that could have been said about North Carolina all year long.

When talking about the Cavaliers, one can look at their scheme on offense as a row of dominoes. The first domino being the run game, with Kevin Parks, who has 696 yards on the season rushing and nine touchdowns.

When Parks gets going and reaches the endzone, it's usually when Virginia is in the game. In games that Virginia has won or has been competitive, Parks has scored seven touchdowns and produced well in the ground game.

If the Cavaliers can get the run game, that helps out with the other parts in their offense, as the passing game opens up a little more and quarterback David Watford is able to also get into the endzone.

In those same games that Parks has reached the endzone, Watford has been able to throw touchdown passes, scoring all seven of his touchdowns in those games (BYU, VMI, Maryland, Duke, and Georgia Tech).

So when one falls, the other falls, something that Fedora has to notice coming into Saturday. If the Tar Heels look to come away with a win, the defense will have to step up again like they have in the past few games, limiting the opponent's chances and getting key three and outs.

Last week, even though the Tar Heels struggled in the run game, they limited the passing game and forced the Wolfpack into two key turnovers in the passing game and allowing only 176 yards total passing.

Watford does have the mobility to run with the ball, as he has carried 82 times on the season, but the Tar Heels should look to limit at least one, if not both, phases of the Cavaliers offense.

If they are able to force Virginia into just a passing game or just a running game, the Tar Heels increase their chances to even their record in the ACC Saturday afternoon.

For the Tar Heels, it will be key to see how Williams plays at quarterback, getting his second start on the season, but knowing that he is the guy going forward.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Tar Heels could see an increase in rushing yards in the near future with the legs of Williams also providing help with T.J. Logan, A.J. Blue, and Romar Morris.

What will be interesting to see is if the passing game becomes more dynamic, with the opponents defense stacking the box more with the Tar Heels rushing attack.

Players such as Eric Ebron, Quinshad Davis, Ryan Switzer, Sean Tapley, and even Bug Howard, could all see one on one mismatches against the Cavaliers defense, a team that has given up over 2,100 yards through the air on the season.

For the Tar Heel offense, they have to limit the third down and long situations, as the Cavaliers have 67 tackles for loss and 20 sacks on the season. If North Carolina can stay ahead of the chains, it will be another advantage for the Tar Heels.

The Tar Heel defense could and should be hungry coming into this game, as the Cavaliers haven't fared well on the road, having less than 400 yards in both passing and rushing, showing that if the defense can attack and apply pressure, it could be another dominating performance like the one against Boston College earlier in the season.

No matter what is said though, this is a team that Fedora isn't looking at easily and is still taking their "1-0" motto each and every week. The Cavaliers have provided some true tests in the past against the Tar Heels and is a team that has nothing to loss, making their team and coach a dangerous combination.

With a win though, North Carolina can improve to 4-5 on the season and even their ACC record at 3-3, something that wasn't thought of a few weeks ago. Even though their goal of repeating as division champs is out the window, UNC still has a chance to finish the season strong.

And these players and coaches would like nothing more than to finish out the season in a strong fashion for their lost quarterback in Renner, something that he wants his team to do.


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