Tar Heels' run defense leaky

ACC’s 3rd-ranked run defense leaky

CorrespondentOctober 25, 2012 


Miami Hurricanes' Maurice Hagens hauls in a first down as North Carolina Tar Heels Tommy Hefferna tackles in the third quarter at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Saturday, October 13, 2012. North Carolina defeated Miami, 18-14. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/MCT)


— After digesting North Carolina’s defensive effort in its 33-30 loss to Duke on Saturday, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning didn’t seem as surprised by the numbers as one might suspect.

The Blue Devils eclipsed their season average by 123 by rushing for 234 yards against the Tar Heels. One week earlier, Miami ran for 180 yards against a UNC defense that still ranks third in the ACC in rushing defense even after two subpar weeks.

In both games, Koenning said the defensive personnel has forced it to make schematic adjustments that left it vulnerable in other areas.

“Until we can get this thing where we can come out and dominate and we can attack the run and we can attack the pass and you have guys that you can put in one-on-one situations and they’re going to win consistently, we’re going to have to help our guys schematically,” Koenning said Wednesday as UNC (5-3, 2-2) prepares for Saturday’s game against N.C. State (5-2, 2-1) at Kenan Stadium.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to do. … We’re trying to say, ‘Here’s where we have a weakness, and here’s who we’re trying to protect.’ I don’t know another way of saying it. We’ll probably do less stunting and blitzing and that stuff whenever we can get four guys that can rush the passer consistently and get pressure.”

The Tar Heels made a concerted effort in their 18-14 win at Miami to take away the Hurricanes’ ability to connect on long passing plays by double-teaming Miami’s fastest wide receivers.

The ploy worked – two weeks after throwing for 566 yards against N.C. State, Miami’s quarterbacks managed 235 against the Tar Heels.

“We probably gave up a little more running yards, but we didn’t give up the 60-, 70-yard pass that everybody else had,” Koenning said.

Since the Blue Devils average 289 yards passing per game, UNC concentrated on the pass against Duke. That focus made UNC susceptible to draws and cut-back plays by the Blue Devils’ running backs.

“A lot of the run yards we gave up against Duke were on plays where guys just didn’t make plays or I could’ve probably called better plays on a couple of draws,” Koenning said. “But we had guys that just had to make plays.”

Even if UNC’s front four aren’t pressuring the quarterback as much as Koenning would like, the defensive players were still disappointed with their attention to assignments at Duke.

A couple of days later, there is still surprise Duke chose to run so frequently.

Or that the Blue Devils ran so effectively.

“We were not sleeping on them, but at the same time, we were not expecting the cutback,” said linebacker Kevin Reddick.

Added defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, “It definitely surprised me because it was one of those deals where I feel like we were the better team. I feel like a lot of guys on this team took that for granted and didn’t understand that they had won five games this year.”

N.C. State will come into Saturday’s game ranked sixth in the ACC with 130.3 yards rushing per game.

Even if the Wolfpack is probably most effective offensively when quarterback Mike Glennon is in rhythm, UNC’s defenders anticipate N.C. State could mimic some of Duke’s strategies.

“They don’t,” Reddick said of N.C. State favoring the run, “but the last two games, we’ve been getting run on. So I’m sure we’re going to get run on. Or at least they’ll attempt it.”

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