Versatility is a plus for Heels' offense

UNC can run or pass, depending on situation

Staff WriterOctober 20, 2010 

— The North Carolina's football team's offense has been resourceful this season, especially during the current four-game winning streak.

The Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 ACC) beat Virginia (44-10) last Saturday with 339 passing yards. On Oct. 2, they beat East Carolina (42-17) with 263 rushing yards.

"It is important to win games in different ways," offensive coordinator John Shoop said Tuesday.

UNC has found a way to be more productive through the first six games of 2010 than it was in 2009, despite not having running back Ryan Houston (the team's leading rusher in 2009) or receiver Greg Little (the leading receiver in 2009).

Senior running back Johnny White, who leads the ACC in yards from scrimmage, and senior tight end Zack Pianalto had been the biggest reasons UNC's offense had been averaging about 70 more yards per game and about five more points per game than last season.

Shoop and the Tar Heels will have to continue to be resourceful without Pianalto, the team's leader in catches (30) and receiving yards (311), after he fractured his right fibula against Virginia and will miss the rest of the regular season.

H-back Ryan Taylor and reserve tight end Ed Barham step for Pianalto. Technically, Taylor and Pianalto play different positions, but they are similar players. A third or fourth receiver, depending on the personnel set, could also be used in Pianalto's absence.

"It's obviously a devastating loss because Zack's a great player," Taylor said. "But there's no reason that other players can't pick up the slack."

Taylor, a redshirt senior from Winston-Salem, has nine catches for 47 yards and one touchdown this season. Barham has three catches for 27 yards, all of which came in the second half of the Virginia game.

"We focus on what we do have," Shoop said. "Ryan is a strong pass receiver and an improving blocker. Ed is strong at the point of attack. They're going to rise to the occasion."

UNC accumulated a season-best 479 yards against Virginia, its third 400-plus game of the season -- one more than it had in all of 2009. Almost as important, UNC's season-low was 255 yards against Clemson. Last year, UNC had two games with less than 200 yards of total offense.

The Heels rank 63rd in total offense (376.8 yards per game), an improvement from their No. 108 ranking last season (307.7 ypg). They're also scoring more - 28.6 points per game, compared 23.7 ppg in '09.

Since rushing for just 24 yards against LSU in the season-opener, UNC has averaged 145.6 yards per game. White has rushed for 435 yards (5.5 per carry) in the past five games.

Senior quarterback T.J. Yates has already posted two games this season with more than 300 passing yards. He went the previous 29 games without breaking 300.

While the ECU win on Oct. 2 is the only game in which UNC threw for more than 150 yards and ran for more than 150 yards, the offense has shown an ability to do both.

"It just depends on the day, and that's good for our offense," senior guard Alan Pelc said.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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