Defensive Adjustment Pays Off

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon only needed three quarters to churn out 509 offensive yards. North Carolina's defense, however, responded over the final 15 minutes by holding the Wolfpack scoreless and allowing just 25 yards.

Glennon, the fifth-year senior quarterback, made a mockery of UNC's pass defense for a majority of the game. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible's plan was to max protect and let his quarterback slice and dice the Tar Heels' zone coverage.

The plan worked. Glennon completed 28 of his 45 passes for 459 yards and a school-record five touchdown passes in the first three quarters. His passing yardage at that point of the game moved him into third place all-time in opponent passing yards against UNC.

"It took us some time to get adjusted to it, " defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said of the max protect scheme. "Once we were able to get adjusted to it, we were able to break down the protection and get back into the backfield to him."

Once the fourth quarter started, the defensive change was dramatic. After averaging 7.7 yards per play through the first 45 minutes, N.C. State was limited to 1.5 yards per play over the final 15 minutes.

UNC forced a pair of three-and-outs, including a critical one with 1:10 remaining that only took 13 seconds off the clock, as well as a game-ending fumble on N.C. State's final kickoff return.

The difference?

"Coach was just dialing it up for us and letting us go," middle linebacker Kevin Reddick said.

With Shakeel Rashad suspended for the game, UNC's defensive staff moved backup linebacker Travis Hughes to the bandit position to get extra speed on the edge for a number of plays.

Glennon completed one of his final eight passes for eight yards in the final period, due in large part to UNC's increased pressure. Reddick registered a hurry on the Wolfpack's first third down situation, setting a tone for the rest of the quarter.

North Carolina totaled two sacks and three quarterback hurries in the fourth.

There was more to the switch than pressure from the front seven, however. Glennon has struggled against man coverage all season long, but associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning told earlier this week that the times his secondary had played man this year had been "a fiasco."

With UNC forced to play zone coverage, Glennon was able to find vast swatches of open field through the opening three quarters. That's when Koenning and defensive coordinator Dan Disch decided to roll the dice with man coverage.

"Coach said, ‘Hey, can you lock these guys down?'" safety Tre Boston said. "And we said, ‘Without a problem.' Glennon was getting a little bit of time back there, so we said ‘Let's lock these guys up man-to-man. You don't let your man score, I won't let mine score.'"

Nobody's man scored in the fourth quarter. All three phases of UNC's game stepped up late in the game, but the resiliency of the defense to elevate its play after being embarrassed so long allowed for Gio Bernard and Co. to gain the needed traction to secure the 43-35 victory.

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