CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s offense rallied for a 74-70 victory over the defense using an unorthodox scoring approach in Saturday’s Spring Game.
The scoring system, which UNC borrowed from the Seattle Seahawks, provides points based on down-and-distance situations. It’s a method designed to create a competitive on each and every play, not only in practice, but also in scrimmages such as the spring game.
Despite the offense’s win, UNC head coach Larry Fedora wasn’t willing to give either side of the ball an edge.
“I don’t want to stand here and say one side was better than the other,” Fedora said after the game. “I think that both sides benefited from what we did today. That’s the tough thing about a spring game: there were good things in some situations, and I thought there were bad things on both sides of the ball. We know as a team we’ve got a lot to work on, and we’re going to be a lot better because of what we did today.”
The offense managed five scoring drives – three touchdowns and two field goals – and tossed four interceptions in the 142 plays run.
“When you create four turnovers on defense, I like that,” Fedora said. “We had four picks. But then, I don’t like it on the other side, so there were some good things.”
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky took all of the snaps with the first-team offense and led two of the touchdown drives. The junior signal caller completed 13 of his 22 passes for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Freshman running back Jordon Brown led all rushers with 85 yards on 11 carries, while senior wide receiver Mack Hollins caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
“I think today was tough because we’ve been going against our defense for so long so they kind of know what’s coming sometimes,” Trubisky said. “And we don’t want to show everything we have in the offense. We had good tempo. I think the tempo could obviously be better, but we can move the ball. We want to run the ball strong and then spread it out in the pass game. I think we showed some of that, but we definitely have a lot more that we saved.”
UNC’s defense was nowhere near as vanilla, despite playing with only one scholarship defensive end due to injuries. That’s due primarily to the defense’s progression in Gene Chizik’s second spring in Chapel Hill.
“For one thing, if you go all the way back to the spring of last year, we did nothing but base and didn’t do anything else, and that’s all they did for 15 days,” Fedora said. “This year, because of where we left off, these guys were able to expand everything and get into seven-man fronts, eight-man fronts, different blitz packages, a lot of things we weren’t able to do with last year’s team.”
As a result, UNC’s defense tallied six sacks and nine pass breakups to go along with the four picks. Junior linebacker Cole Holcomb led the defense with 10 tackles, while cornerback Des Lawrence had nine tackles and an interception. Sophomore safety Cam Albright intercepted backup quarterback Caleb Henderson twice.
“We were only able to come out here with two calls last year because they just wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing,” Lawrence said. “And this year we were able to put a lot of things in. Everybody knows where the next man is going to be, so it allows them to play faster. It also allows us not to think. When you’re not thinking, you’re just playing out there on God-given ability, you’re going to make plays.”
Placekicker Nick Weiler connected both of his field goal attempts (34, 52), while punter Joey Mangili averaged 38.3 yards over four kicks.