The Tar Heel-Mustang Matchup

Safrit takes a look at the North Carolina Tar Heels vs the Southern Methodist Mustangs matchup Saturday in Kenan Stadium...

UNC Offense vs. SMU Defense


Running Game


Coming off of a 200 yard effort against Duke two weeks ago, UNC comes up against an SMU defense that allows only 118 yards per game on the ground, which puts them second in the WAC and 26th nationally.  North Carolina's three ACC losses came to teams in the top four of rushing defenses in the ACC.  The only team that the Tar Heels beat was Florida State, and even then only rushed for 69 yards in the game.  Unless something major happened in the last three weeks to the offensive line, the same inability to run the ball could be expected to continue.  Led by linebackers Vic Viloria, Corey Riley, and Brian Bischoff, the Mustangs give up only 3.2 yards per rush (which would be second in the ACC).


Passing Game


While the running defense is superb, the passing defense could be even better.  Leading the pass-happy WAC, SMU has a pass-efficiency rating of 111.7 with cornerbacks Kevin Garnett and Jonas Rutledge garnering most of the coaching praise.  Last season, the Mustangs were last in the same category.


North Carolina will continue to rotate the quarterbacks this weekend with Ronald Curry playing in his last football game in Kenan Stadium and Durant ranked 12th nationally in passing efficiency.  The entire offense could play with a chip on their shoulder knowing that the only All-Conference player is gritty center Adam Metts, and even he was only an honorable mention selection.



Don't Crack – SMU will bring people from left and right.  They will pressure almost every down, and UNC must pick up the extra man.


Big play – Pressure defenses can give up the big plays.  There are certainly many big play wide receivers on North Carolina's roster, and they must get up for such a big game.  No matter if it is Durant picking the defense apart with quick hitches, or Curry throwing on a deep post, the ball cannot be dropped.  SMU is an opportunistic defense, so UNC cannot given them opportunities.


Don't give up on the run – The running game will probably be limited due to the excellent SMU defense.  However, running by the quarterbacks could be key to open up the inside running game for the Tailbacks.  Time of possession will keep the defense off the field, and the Tarheels in the lead.



SMU Offense vs. UNC Defense


Running Game


The running game is the staple of the SMU offense and the Mustangs have several stud horses in the backfield.  Beginning the season, Southern Methodist started the season with Kris Briggs (a second-team All-WAC in 2000), who has been hampered by injuries.  After the sixth game, true freshman ShanDerrick Charler has started each game and ran for 783 yards on 117 carries (in seven games) to break Craig James' mark (761 on 161 carres) for freshman at the university.  Last week, Charles was also bitten by the injury bug (turf toe) and split time with Sophomore Keylon Kincade, who ran for 169 yards on 27 carries.  Make no mistake, SMU will pound the ball down the throats of North Carolina's interior defense.


UNC still misses Will Chapman from his season-ending injury in Clemson, but the defensive tackle by committee seemed to prove worth-while in the Duke game.  Giving up just 59 yards on 36 rushes, the question is, "Which defense will show up?"  The problem for the Tar Heels in the two losses after Clemson stemmed from the inability of the interior defense to beat a double-team and keep the offensive line off the linebackers.  This is a major key if UNC wants to keep its bowl hopes kindled.


Passing Game


Again, the running game is the staple of the SMU offense.  The studs in the backfield do not include quarterbacks Kelan Luker and current starter David Page.  Last week, Page did throw for 245 yards and a touchdown, however most of the credit goes to junior wide receiver Chris Cunningham, who fell one touchdown short of the school record of four.  SMU ranks 106th nationally in passing yards per game (152) and actually has more yards rushing per game (162) while also placing last in passing efficiency for the WAC.  Going up against the best pass efficiency defense in the ACC, both Luker and Page have a long battle to fight for their out-going head coach.



Three turnovers equals a win.  In each of SMU's six losses, the Mustangs turned the ball over at least three times.  In the four wins, they turned the ball over one or two times.  All of this contributing to the 107th ranking nationally.


Rotate the defensive line.  The UNC defense will be worn out from the number of runs in the game, and an exploited interior does not help the Tar Heels.  Fresh men need to come in and out routinely, or SMU could grind it out in the fourth quarter – a nightmare for many North Carolina fans (Wake Forest/Georgia Tech).


Don't get beat deep.  While the SMU players are not gifted when compared to Errol Hood and Michael Waddell for UNC, they can still catch the deep ball.  If a long catch is given up, then the eighth man in the box may need to come out, and the run could prove more effective for the Mustangs.



Final Analysis


This game is for all the marbles in the eyes of all UNC football fans and players.  A bowl bid is on the line, and few teams have as much pressure on them.  However, with pressure comes diamonds, and this could be the breakout game for one or two players.


SMU is much better than their record indicates, but the lack of a passing game and finally finding a running back hindered them for the first part of the year.  In the second half of the season (since Charles took over as the number one running back in the San Jose State game), they are 4-2.


Final Score

Carolina 24 SMU 6


Players of the Game






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