Positives and negatives from UNC's 34-10 win over BC
I haven’t done one of these yet this season because, frankly, most North Carolina supporters I know haven’t wanted to look back at any game so far. But after UNC’s best performance of the season – a 34-10 blowout over Boston College – here’s a look back at the positives and negatives.
Pass defense – This was an easy choice to start with. Allow the fewest pass yards (59) of any UNC defense in 16 years, that’s a positive. Cornerback Jabari Price said a big key for the secondary discipline – BC tried a lot of double moves and had a lot of motion and different sets before the snap, but the Tar Heels stayed disciplined in their assignments.
But even more important was the play of the defensive line, who sacked QB Chase Rettig four times (two by Kareem Martin).
“I don’t care how good the secondary is, how good the linebacker corps is,” Price said. “It starts up front. If those guys don’t get to the quarterback, we’re doomed.”
Of course, the Eagles also helped.
“I think (Rettig) had some good balls that were put on the ground and then some ones that throughout college football are caught,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “They may not be perfect strikes, but they were there. They’ve got to get caught. You have to help the quarterback.”
Red zone offense – After scoring just 16 points and allowing seven (on a blocked field goal that was returned for a TD) in five red zone trips against Miami, the Tar Heels scored five touchdowns on five opportunities against the Eagles. A big reason was 6-4 freshman Bug Howard, a big target who caught TD passes from both Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams.
“Being able to go over top of people and get balls, being a bigger target for the quarterback, I feel like I’m a big part of the red zone (offense)” Howard said afterward.
Williams said that the 195-pound Howard is also gaining strength, which should help him be more of a weapon in the future.
“He’s finally getting some muscle,” Williams said. “He came in looking like a stick.”
The QB rotation – Bryn Renner (18-of-21) had his most accurate game of the season, while Marquise Williams had half of the team’s rushing yards (55 out of 110) – and the team didn’t have any delay-of-game penalties from players running on and off, either.
It can’t be easy for a senior third-year starter like Renner to watch from the sidelines, but it’s certainly a lot easier when he sees how effective the offense can be with two different looks.
“I've got to give both of those quarterbacks some praise as far as how they're handling that transition between the two,” Fedora said. “A lot of people are going to tell you that you can't do that, that it's going to mess with the flow of the game - but they really are doing a great job. It's a seamless transition between the two. They're very comfortable with it."
Mistake-free football – The most-penalized team in the ACC still had some dumb penalties, including roughing-the-passer calls on Justin Thomason and Jeff Schoettmer. But the Tar Heels still finished with fewer penalties (4) than BC (5), which was the least-penalized team in the league heading into Saturday.
UNC also finished without a turnover for the first time in 14 games, dating back to ECU last season.
Pass protection – UNC has allowed 17 sacks this season, six more than all of last season. Whether it’s Renner holding onto the ball too long, the receivers being unable to get open, or the line breaking down (and it’s probably some combination of all three), it’s costing them points.
UNC was at the BC 26 in the second quarter when Renner was sacked for a 17-yard loss on third down, pushing the Tar Heels out of field goal range. Renner was also sacked on third down last week, which led directly to the blocked field goal on the next play.
Run game – It’s great that tight end Eric Ebron got his first career carries. But it’s not great that with four running backs, UNC felt that a tight end gave it the best chance on those plays.
UNC tried everyone on its first four drives (the rotation went A.J. Blue on the first possession, then Romar Morris, then Khris Francis, and then Blue followed by T.J. Logan on the fourth possession).
The four backs all wound up with between 5 and 9 carries, but none were as effective as Marquise Williams, whose 55 yards on seven rushes were 22 more than the next-best total (Morris had 33 yards on nine carries).
On a day that the quarterback-by-committee worked, the running back-by-committee approach didn’t.