IC's Game Week Coverage Recap
While so much importance has been placed on stopping quarterback Marques Hagans and the Cavaliers' rushing attack, the Tar Heels' offense may be as much of a factor in determining if their season's postseason hopes can improve with a win on Saturday.
Quietly, Matt Baker has had a solid season thus far. He is ranked fourth in the ACC in total offense (244.6 yards per game), third in passing yards per game (245.8) and first in yards per completion (15.0). Through five games – the first the fifth-year senior ever started – Baker has carried the Tar Heels' offense.
He has thrown for more than 220 yards in four of five games this season. Baker has been on the delivering end of six touchdowns and ran for one, but he's also been intercepted eight times.
Bunting pointed to overall pass protection as an emphasis during the past two weeks of practice.
"We have to do a better job of that," he said. "When you get into first and long, second and long and third and very long, it's hard. But, we need to do a better job of pass protection."
Coming off the bye week, Bunting says his team is "completely healthy," which includes tailback Ronnie McGill, who is expected to get most of the carries this week.
In his first game back since undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle last June, McGill had a team-high 12 carries for 29 yards and scored on a 1-yard run in the Tar Heels' 69-14 loss at Louisville two weeks ago.
Other than a 129-yard, one touchdown rushing performance at NC State on Sept. 24 by Barrington Edwards, neither he nor Cooter Arnold have been able to emerge as a dominant rusher. However, Edwards will still see significant action against the Cavaliers, perhaps even in simultaneously with McGill.
"We've done that in the past and it has been effective for us," Bunting said. "But we are primarily thinking about Ronnie getting more reps. We want him to play more of a role this week."
Edwards has 299 yards on 72 carries for a 3.7-yards-per-carry average. Arnold is managing 4.0 yards per rush, on a little more than half the attempts of Edwards.
As a team, Carolina is averaging 91 rushing yards per contest.
"We need to do a better job of running the football," Bunting said. "We hope to be a better offensive team in the second half of the season."