UNC-Auburn Preview

ATLANTA, GA -- Inside Carolina takes a look at how the UNC Tar Heels and Auburn Tigers match up when each team has the ball in a preview of the 2001 Peach Bowl on Monday night in the Georgia Dome.

When UNC has the ball

The first problem for the Auburn defensive staff is to solve the riddle of the two-headed quarterback. When senior Ronald Curry and red-shirt freshman Darian Durant have rotated at the QB spot, the Tar Heels are 7-0.

For more on the UNC-Auburn game read Two Teams Headed in Opposite Directions?
The Auburn coaching staff has studied the film and has concluded that the Tar Heel offense does not change significantly when the quarterbacks change. "They are pretty much the same offensively as far as the schemes go," says Tiger defensive coordinator John Lovett. "The style of the two is little bit different. The kids have a little bit different strengths."

Says Lovett, "The Durant kid, they run all the quarterback plays that they do with Curry, the draws, the wraps, the option, etcetera, but when he drops back to throw the ball, he tries to stay in the pocket more, step up and move around, and create some problems down field because he wants to throw the ball.

"With Ronald Curry, when he drops back he might pull it down a little quicker, and he has really got good foot speed and elusiveness. I was watching a North Carolina game the other day he just pulled the ball down and took off, broke two tackles and ran thirty-five yards for a touchdown"

Lovett continues, "He presents a problem like that. When he drops back and he is eight or ten yards deep and the linebackers are eight or ten yards deep -- now you got one of the best athletes on the field out in space on your linebackers and that is not a great match-up for us."

Ken Browning, assistant UNC coach [tight ends, recruiting coordinator] said of the two-quarterback system, "Both of them bring a lttle something different to the table. Preparing from a defensive standpoint, each one of those guys, even though to a large degree you are running the same offense, it changes the tempo a little bit. They are not completely different in what they can do, but Ronald runs a play a little different from how Darian runs it, it makes it a little harder to prepare for.

The Tar Heels will start Willie Parker at tailback. Most of the season, Andre' Williams has started at tailback, but for the Peach Bowl the Clinton High School product will get the nod. Parker's play at the end of the season against Duke and Southern Methodist, and the way he has been practicing, earned the starting slot.

The question is which Auburn Tiger rush defense will show up. Will it be the one that held the Florida Gators to negative yardage and yielded only 73 yards to Georgia, or will it be the one that gave up 328 yards rushing to Alabama and 188 yards to LSU? This will be a key to this contest.

At wide receiver, the Tar Heels will be without the services of speedster Bosley Allen, but still have a solid group of receivers. "It [Allen's absence] will hurt us more on special teams, " says Tar Heel assistant coach Ken Browning.

Dontarious Thomas, a sophomore linebacker, may be the star of the Tiger defense, making 122 tackles this season, the first time Auburn has had a 100-tackle defender since 1997.

When Auburn has the ball

Auburn offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone makes this assessment of the Tar Heel defense the Tigers will face Monday night: "They have the number one defense in the ACC. When you watch them on film...really sticks out their front seven . Peppers is obviously talked about as one of the possible top picks in the draft as well as Sims, I think they run real well, and on the other side they are just as stout. I think that front four, as a group, it will be as good a front four as probably we have played against all year.

"Both their corners are good cover guys, their linebackers run real well. They play in one of the better conferences in the country and they led that league in defense so obviously they have a pretty good defense."

Of the defensive schemes he will face, Mazzone says, "Jon [Tenuta] has done a great job. They don't do a lot of things, but what he does is get them lined up and play hard, get after you."

The Auburn Tigers will start red-shirt freshman Jason Campbell at quarterback. Of Campbell, Mazzone says, "I really think he has gotten a lot better. I have been coaching quarterbacks for nineteen years, the lights gone on at different times for every one I've had. Everyone I've had, there comes a point where, 'Bang!' they say, 'So that is what you've been telling me for the last three months.'

"I think that he is starting to really grasp things, he has gotten a lot more reps, we have kind of settled down a little bit on formations for him so he doesn't have a lot of different looks to look at. I think he is starting to feel comfortable so he can start playing instead of thinking."

Campbell completed 89 of 142 passes and threw seven touchdowns against four interceptions. Campbell started seven contests this season, the other four starts going to senior Daniel Cobb. Campbell is also a threat to run and had a 44-yard run against Syracuse.

Auburn, as every team UNC has faced this year, will have to face the pressure that All-American defensive end Julius Peppers can bring. "You take an athlete like him," says Tenuta, "That can do a lot of things, and try to move him around and confuse offensive blocking schemes. Based on the scheme and what we are trying to do, we can move him around a lot."

Mazzone says, "After our little experience with Freeney {Dwight Freeney, an All-American defensive end], at Syracuse, with Peppers we will have to do some things to try and contain him, slow him down, protection-wise."

[After the Syracuse game, in which Freeney recorded two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and three tackles for loss], Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell said of Freeney, "He was everything they said he was, he is extremely quick off the line. I was surprised to see him that much -- practically every play of the game."

Auburn will be without the services of Deandre Green, their second-leading receiver. Green had an eight-catch, 121-yard performance in the Tiger win over Louisiana Tech. Cobb quarterbacked that victory, throwing five touchdown passes along with 381 yards.

In Green's absence, the Tigers will line up with Tim Cobb [35 catches, 570 yards] and Casinious Moore at wide receiver, a position Moore has not played this year. Moore has lined up in the slot on occasions this season. Moore, ostensibly a tail back, rushed for 526 yards on 111 carries, for a 4.7 yards-per-game average.

"We have to be aware of where he [Moore] lines up and what he is going to do based on formations and the personnel groups they have on the field," said Coach Tenuta. "We don't want to get into a mismatch, where he is split wide and we have to put a linebacker on him."

The biggest news of the day was the announcement by Mazzone that freshman sensation running back, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, will miss Monday's contest. "He will not be able to go,"said Mazzone, "We don't want to risk the future he has at Auburn, or anywhere else, until that thing [Williams' clavicle] is 100 percent."

In his absence, the Tar Heels will face Ronnie Brown at tail back. Brown rushed for 358 yards this season on 84 carries, for a 3.9 yard per carry average.

How does that alter the offense for the Tigers? "It changes it," says Mazzone, "There's a kid on 120 carries had 620 yards and six touchdowns. All of the sudden, you take him out of the equation, and Dede [Deandre Green] is not going to be with us, and Robert Johnson is a little iffy on his leg."

Tight end Robert Johnson [17 catches, 225 yards], is also banged up and is still a questionable for Monday's game.

UNC defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta says of the Auburn offense, "They have a lot of weapons. I know they are young, but you don't beat Georgia and Florida unless you are really sound on the offensive side of the ball."

Game Keys

  • Turnovers all always huge, but perhaps even more so in this game than usual. The Tigers have 15 picks this season, including 5 by sophomore Karlos Dansby and 3 by junior Roderick Hood. Winning the turnover battle could be the deciding factor in the game for the victor. The Tigers have won 14 of 16 contests under head coach Tommy Tuberville when winning the turnover battle, but only won two of 11 in games when on the wrong end of the turnover stat. In close contests this season, twice Auburn has come up with an interception to preserve a win [Dontarious Thomas vs. Louisiana Tech, Roderick Hood vs. Mississippi State] and it was a Karlos Dansby pick against Florida that setup the game-winning drive. How will the two teams respond to personnel losses?
  • Auburn has been hit harder, losing their best running back and second-leading receiver. Will others step up in their place? The Tar Heels will only be without two key performers, Bosley Allen and Will Chapman who injured his knee against Clemson and was lost for the season.
  • Coming up big on defense is also a critical part of this game for the Tar Heels. If they can hold the Tigers under 20 points, they have a great chance to win the game. Auburn is 19-1 under Tuberville when they score 20 points or more. In all four loses this season, the Tigers scored less than 20 points.

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