Tar Heel Headaches On The Run

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Butch Davis has always placed an emphasis on running the ball well while stopping the opponents' ground game. North Carolina did neither in Saturday's 31-27 loss to N.C. State, and the first-year UNC head coach shared his opinions on the issues during his Sunday teleconference.

"In both phases of the running game, we didn't play particularly well," Davis said.

The most surprising development during Saturday's contest was the Wolfpack's ability to abuse the perimeter of the North Carolina defense. During the previous four games, the Tar Heels were limiting their opponents to an average of just 112.5 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per carry.

Third-string running back Jamelle Eugene followed a legion of offensive linemen on sweeps and counters outside UNC's tackles all afternoon, gaining 159 yards and three touchdowns on 32 rushing attempts.

"Certainly, defensively we did a very, very poor job of stopping the run," Davis said. "They were able to get the ball on the edges of the perimeter – certainly at the point of attack with the defensive ends, the safeties and the support schemes. We did a very poor job. It took way too long to get the adjustments made to give us a chance to stop the ball from getting on the perimeter."

N.C. State imposed their will on the Tar Heel defense early as Eugene totaled 52 yards on six carries in the Wolfpack's opening touchdown drive. Head coach Tom O'Brien even used his backup tailback Curtis Underwood effectively – the true freshman gained 35 yards on four carries in brief action to give Eugene a breather.

Davis was equally unimpressed with his own running game.

"We did a terrible job of running the football, and I think those things go hand-in-hand," Davis said.

Entering this heated rivalry clash, the Wolfpack were allowing 204.3 yards per game on the ground. The single truly performance the unit could feel good about was holding East Carolina's talented Chris Johnson to under 100 yards – until this weekend. Johnny White and Anthony Elzy combined for 20 yards on 12 carries against N.C. State, and Elzy gained nine of those yards on one run.

"I told the team this afternoon that that's one of the most important, critical phases for us over the next year [and] certainly for these next two ball games," Davis said. "It will be a crusade in the spring and it will be a crusade in training camp that we have got to be able to run the football. I think if you're a football team that can run the football, then vicariously, you're usually a defense that can stop the run… We've got to become considerably more consistent from that standpoint."

Davis was asked on Sunday if any of the tailbacks have proven that they could possibly be the running back of the future for this program.

"I don't see that – there's no evidence of that right now," Davis said. "This offseason there are several changes that we're going to make in all three phases of our football team, and certainly probably the one single biggest emphasis going into spring practice will be some kind of clarification and an emphasis on running the football and run defense, as well."


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