I was really intrigued by this matchup coming into the game because each team has played really well on one side of the ball but struggled on the other—and it was strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness. And make no mistake: that is a good Virginia defense, particularly on the front seven. That the Carolina offensive line was able to give Marquise Williams adequate time to throw through most of this game served to illustrate just how far the Tar Heel offensive line has come this year.
More Yards To Be Had On The Ground
The running game was not as successful as Fedora and the staff would like to see (2.9 YPC including Williams’s 52 yard score), but the offensive staff did a good job sticking with the run, continuing to use Williams’s legs enough to keep the defense honest. That said, the lack of running game isn’t always on the offensive line. There were a few instances where I thought there were more yards to be had, but the Carolina backs needed to do a better job getting north-and-south.
Here’s an example from late in the fourth quarter as Carolina tried to salt the game away:
Logan left at least ten yards on the field here. Backs are coached to “press the line of scrimmage” on these plays, sticking their foot in the ground and getting north-south as soon as a seam shows. In this case, UNC sealed the end man on the line, meaning Logan could have started to cut upfield by the hash mark, which would have given him plenty of space to make a move while moving forward. Logan had another opportunity to cut upfield inside the receiver and still ran almost straight to the sideline. I’d like to see the UNC backs—particularly Logan—do a better job turning their shoulders and pressing the line of scrimmage on these inverted veer plays and zone stretch plays rather than running horizontally five yards in the backfield.
Nice Setup in the Passing Game
Mitch Trubisky obviously deserves credit for coming into the game and throwing a key touchdown after Williams had to go off the field due to his helmet coming off on the prior play, but the offensive staff deserves a lot of credit for setting that play up earlier in the drive.
Three plays earlier on a similar third-and-long situation, Carolina had run a smash route combination with the outside two receivers on the left side, with the outside receiver running a five yard stop and the inside receiver (Ryan Switzer) running a corner route.
Williams recognized man-free coverage and made an excellent throw to Switzer for the first down.
When Carolina found themselves in another third-and-long situation, they ran what initially looked like the same route combination, only this time the outside receiver ran a delayed slant that initially looks like the stop from a smash concept but then comes sharply inside, finding the space in front of the safety on the hash and outside/behind the linebacker.
Trubisky needs to find the safety first (circled) and then the linebacker (boxed), who steps forward to cover Logan of the backfield. Trubisky identifies the linebacker’s location and makes a routine throw for the key score.
This was good design and an even better wrinkle off the smash concept they had run with success only three plays earlier. Part of good offensive coordination involves setting up later plays with earlier ones, and that was clearly done here.