Defensively, North Carolina is blitzing more and playing more man-to-man defense than the team the Horns faced in Austin last September, according to offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
The Tar Heels returned only three defensive starters from last years Peach Bowl champion team (losing six of their front seven), and their ranks were thinned even further last week when they lost senior DT Eric Davis for the season when he was injured in the home-opener. Even so, FS Dexter Reid would be a stud on any team. In fact, Davis said Reid is key.
The 6-0, 187-pound junior has 35 total tackles in two starts, and is North Carolinas top returning tackler (99 tackles, 67 unassisted). Reid was named the ACCs Defensive Back of the Week for his 21 tackles (13 solo) in the 'Heels loss to Miami, Ohio.
"Dexter Reid is a guy wholl play in a lot of different places," Davis said. "Hes really a good player. Their secondary is strong. (Michael) Waddell and (Kevin) Knight are cornerbacks who have both played a lot of ball. They got after Syracuse and really did a good job. But Dexter Reid is the key to what they do."
Reid plays nickel back when the Tar Heels drop into either a nickel or dime package.
"Hes involved in blitzing more than you think a free safety would be," Davis said. "In the nickel and dime, hes always close to the line of scrimmage. Hes very good at run support. Any time theres a player of his caliber, hes got to be involved in the game plan. Because he plays so many places, youre not going to game-plan him out of the game. You do have to be aware of where hes at."
Despite the fact that North Carolina is breaking in eight defensive starters, Davis added, "I dont see any marked drop-off (from last year)."
Last year, Texas rolled to an emotional 44-14 win (326 yards of total offense, scoring also on a Nathan Vasher punt return and a Cory Redding interception return) on a day dedicated to the memory of DL Cole Pittman.
ABC Sports will televise the game to approximately one-third of the nation, 7 p.m. (CST).
NO KICK TO PLAY CAROLINA
Despite Texas standout special teams play in the opener, Mack Brown is concerned about the kicking game -- North Carolinas kicking game, that is. After watching the Tar Heels 30-22 victory at Syracuse last weekend, Brown said Carolina field goal kicker Dan Orner's performance was the "most phenomenal thing" he had seen in years.
Orner connected from 51, 52 and a school-record 53 yards out. The total equaled the NCAA D-I record for most 50-yard field goals in a game, set 36 years ago. Heres the kicker: they were Orners first three career college field goal attempts. The Michigan State transfer sat out last season and did not attempt a FG in North Carolinas season-opening loss to Miami, Ohio.
"If they dont make a first down, they can make a field goal with the way that young guy was kicking," Brown said. "I mean, they line up for 50-yard field goals and hes kicking them through with a lot room."
(Its almost enough to actually give a scholarship to field goal kicker, huh, coach?)
Brown clearly wanted the Tar Heels to win, if for no other reason than that the impressive, come-from-behind win at the Carrier Dome would do wonders for holding his teams focus going into Saturdays 7 p.m. kickoff at sold-out Kenan Stadium. Still, Orners highlight reel was a little unsettling for the head coach who gets paid to worry about these things.
"It made my stomach hurt more on Saturday night and I was supposed to have a weekend off," Brown said.
Not a problem, according to Redding.
"As long as we stop them from scoring 6, Ill settle for 3," Redding said.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN?
First road trip of the season? Night game in a different time zone? National television? Home team all hyped up for a season-making statement against a highly ranked team with national championship aspirations? Home team looking to avenge a route from the previous season?
I am not the only media guy who thought the North Carolina game has an eerie Stanford aura about it. In 1999, Texas pummeled the Cardinal, 69-17, in Austin. But the Longhorns title hopes were quickly dimmed one year later when Stanford avenged the loss in Palo Alto, 27-24.
"Thats probably a good analogy," Brown said, "so well have to play real well to win. Well have to play better this Saturday than we did in the opener to win. Our defense wasnt tested and our offense played a half (against North Texas)."
It aint no thang, according to QB Chris Simms.
"Were a whole lot different team as a team than we were when we played at Stanford," Simms said. "Were a whole lot more mature. Its a much different story this time around. I think well handle the situation fine."
TIME CHANGE FOR HOUSTON GAME
Texas Sept. 21 game against the visiting Houston Cougars has been moved to 7 p.m., UT athletic officials announced. Originally scheduled for 6 p.m., the contest has been pushed back an hour to accommodate the Horns' second pay-per-view game of the season.