Heels' Run Defense Ready And Waiting

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While North Carolina searches for a combination of defensive ends that can rush the passer effectively, its run defense has nothing to hang its head about coming off the performance at Georgia Tech. However, with the arrival of "Bludgeon Football," as John Bunting calls it, this weekend's home opener with high-scoring Wisconsin will go a long ways in determining if the Tar Heels can now truly stop the run.

  • Wednesday: John Bunting Quotes + Audio

    So what exactly is "Bludgeon Football?"

    "It's button your chinstrap and get after somebody's butt," John Bunting told Inside Carolina following Wednesday's practice. "It's mowing them down. It's telling you we're going to run and we're going to run right at you. And when we're done, we're coming back again."

    Wisconsin will try and pound it and pound it all night long primarily with Brian Calhoun, who like UNC's Barrington Edwards had to sit out last year after transferring (Colorado). He's averaged 150 yards per game in two contests and scored six touchdowns.

    A speedster at 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, Calhoun leads the nation in scoring (18.0 points per game). In addition, he helped lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten track championship in the 4x100m relay.

    "They want to beat you up, wear you down and let that running back make plays," Bunting said.

    And Booker Stanley, whom Carolina fans remember from the Tar Heels' loss at Camp Randall Stadium two years ago, is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and 63 yards per game. Jamil Walker has also gotten some carries, rushing for 83 yards on 13 carries.

    Wisconsin received 88 votes in this week's AP poll and 137 votes in the USA Today rankings – the equivalent of being No. 29 and No. 26, respectively.

    In two lopsided wins over Bowling Green (56-42) and Temple (65-0), Wisconsin has only thrown the ball 23 percent of the time. When they do, the Badgers have been successful.

    Wisconsin has what UNC doesn't right now, the ability to really sell play action.

    UW quarterback John Stocco has been efficient completing 20 of his 29 passing attempts for 296 yards and four touchdowns. His rating is an enviable 193.32, but he's not his team's first option.

    "You've got to be ready for anything," said Kenny Browning, UNC interior defensive line coach. "I think if you can make them one-dimensional, it always improves your chances. If they're throwing because they've got to throw, as opposed to when they want to throw, it's a big difference."

    Outside of giving up a 42-yard run to Georgia Tech's P.J. Daniels last week, which led to the game's first touchdown, Carolina held the Yellow Jackets to just 80 yards rushing while playing catch-up most of the game.

    "We're making progress," Browning said. "We're not where we want to be, but they're working hard."

    So from a preparation standpoint, which is better? Having just walked all over two substandard opponents, or having just barely lost to a Top 20 team on its home turf?

    "It's hard to say," Bunting said. "Wisconsin has two wins and we have none. It's always better to have won two football games. We know we played hard and we know we had chances to win in Atlanta. And we know we could have won, but we did not. They have two wins and that puts the onus on us to prepare even better."

    While the Tar Heels' defensive perimeter has struggled to apply adequate pressure in its pass defense, the increased speed of the UNC linebackers, along with its defensive ends, might be able to make the Badgers' rushing offense "one-dimensional."

    "They have been running a lot of stretch plays sideline to sideline," UNC defensive tackle Chase Page said. "But once they see our speed, I think they'll try to run up the gut a lot."

    Having a better idea of what's coming may assist the Carolina defense versus the Badgers, unlike with the Yellow Jackets' multi-faceted attack. Apparently, no one in the Tar Heels' locker room is looking for much in the way of a surprise from the Wisconsin offense.

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