OL Delivers for UNC

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s offensive line performance had limited Seth Littrell’s play calling throughout the first six games of the season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, however, as the line kept Marquise Williams’ jersey clean and opened holes for the Tar Heel running backs.

There were concerns up front even before the injuries started piling up in training camp. Starting left guard Caleb Peterson was hampered with an ankle sprain early, while right guard Landon Turner (knee) and right tackle Jon Heck (ankle) both sat out two games due to injury.

Saturday marked the second game this season that UNC’s preseason starting five actually started together and the results were telling.

Larry Fedora’s bread and butter play is the inside zone, which has fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. UNC’s running backs had combined for just 67 yards on 33 carries in their previous two games.

The zone play reemerged as a primary option against the Yellow Jackets as the Tar Heel running backs, despite not having Elijah Hood due to injury, churned out 116 rushing yards on 24 carries, good for a 4.8 yards-per-carry average.

The 116 rushing yards is a season-high for the running backs against FBS opponents. T.J. Logan led UNC with 75 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Romar Morris ran for 41 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

“The offensive line played great today,” Morris said following the game. “This is probably one of their best performances all season. They get better and better each week.”

Morris credited the offensive line with creating enough holes for the running backs and the quarterback to get to the second level of the defense.

In addition to Williams rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, the junior quarterback also set a variety of school records in completing 38 of his 47 passes for 390 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

“He was able to sit in there and throw the ball where he wanted to, and that’s why I think you saw him make really good decisions today,” Fedora said.

Look no further than UNC’s first score of the fourth quarter for a quality example. On 4th-and-6, Georgia Tech blitzed seven defenders, and not only did Williams have just enough time to make a clutch throw to Mack Hollins for a 36-yard touchdown pass, but the junior signal caller stayed on his feet.

“If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do out there,” Williams said.

Although Georgia Tech entered the weekend allowing an ACC-worst 6.31 yards per play, it should be noted that this Tar Heel offensive line struggled for stretches against the likes of Liberty and San Diego State. The line’s play on Saturday, however, was as consistent as its been all season long.

Continuing that trend will be critical in UNC getting back to .500 next weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

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