CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – No. 22 North Carolina held Virginia to a season-low 253 total yards of offense in winning its fourth straight game at Scott Stadium on Saturday.
The Cavaliers had recently established an offensive rhythm entering the 121st edition of the South’s Oldest Rivalry, averaging 32.5 points per game in ACC play. The Tar Heels abruptly stopped that momentum, holding Virginia scoreless on 13 of 15 drives, forcing five three-and-outs and allowing just three drives of 20 yards or more.
Virginia’s 3.0 yards per play is a season-low and the program’s lowest mark since September 2013. The Cavaliers averaged 5.7 yards per play through their first six games.
The Cavaliers’ 253 yards were the fewest UNC has allowed since holding Idaho to 189 yards on Sept. 29, 2012.
Ground Game Finds Traction
Elijah Hood rushed for a season-high 107 yards and a touchdown, and T.J. Logan added 61 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries behind a banged up UNC offensive line. Without two starters up front – left guard Caleb Peterson and right tackle Jon Heck – Larry Fedora utilized his 22 and 21 personnel packages to provide extra blocking. Tight ends Carl Tucker and Brandon Fritts also served the role as a lead blocker in UNC’s base 11 personnel set at times.
Junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky provided plenty of air support in completing 24 of 31 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. UNC averaged 7.3 yards per play in accumulating 488 yards of offense.
After a relatively lackluster start, Bronco Mendenhall and Larry Fedora woke up the crowd with trick plays for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions. On 4th-and-3 from UNC’s 11, Virginia lined up for a field goal but quickly shifted into a swinging gate formation. Tight end Evan Butts snapped the ball behind the wall to former starting quarterback Matt Johns, who connected with Butts for an 11-yard touchdown pass play.
On UNC’s ensuing possession, T.J. Logan lined up in the shotgun with Trubisky set out to the left sideline as a wide receiver. At the snap, Logan handed off to Ryan Switzer, who pitched back to Trubisky on the reverse for a 40-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard.
Howard Stepping Up
One week after delivering a career performance against Miami, Bug Howard caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Cavaliers. The senior wide receiver wore No. 13 in honor of Mack Hollins, who suffered a season-ending broken collarbone last week.
Through eight games, Howard has 36 receptions for a career-high 538 yard and four touchdowns.
Second Half Start Woes
For the fifth game in a row, UNC won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. And for the fifth game in a row, UNC failed to score on its opening possession of the second half.
After picking up first downs on their first two plays to move inside Virginia territory, Ryan Switzer fumbled after taking a toss on a sweep from Trubisky. Virginia’s Micah Kiser forced and recovered the fumble.
A well-deserved bye week. After eight straight games to open the 2016 season, UNC will finally have the opportunity for much-needed rest and recovery next Saturday. Right tackle Jon Heck and defensive ends Dajaun Drennon and Tomon Fox did not play at Scott Stadium despite being listed as questionable on the injury report, so an extra week off may improve their standing.
ACC Coastal Race
The Tar Heels moved back into the lead for the Coastal Division with its 4-1 ACC record. Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1 ACC) holds the tiebreaker over UNC and has its toughest challenge remaining next Thursday night at Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-1 ACC).