Air ECU poses totally different challenge for Tar Heel defenders
There’s no greater discrepancy in offensive systems than the one between the run-oriented triple option of Georgia Tech and the “air raid” passing attack at East Carolina.
Which means this week doesn’t get any better for North Carolina pass rusher Kareem Martin.
After two weeks of preparing to stop the Yellow Jackets, which ended in a 28-20 loss last Saturday, UNC is now getting ready to face the Pirates this Saturday at Kenan Stadium (12:30 p.m., WRAL).
“It’s just transitioning to playing real football again,” said Martin, a senior defensive end. “When you play Georgia Tech, you’re always ready to get past that game (and go back to) practicing the technique you’ve been playing your whole life.”
Out of 125 teams in the FBS, Georgia Tech is second in rushes per game and second-to-last in passes per game — behind only Navy in both categories. East Carolina is 121st in rushes and 23rd in passes.
“It’s one end of the spectrum to the other and so the defense has to make a quick turnaround,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “They have to put everything out of their head that they’ve been working on the past two weeks and go back to what we’ve done from the beginning – all the work that we’ve done in fall camp.”
It’s a welcome adjustment for Martin, who goes from worrying about triple-option responsibilities to focusing on rushing the passer.
“It makes it a lot more fun,” Martin said. “You still have to focus but it’s not as much thinking as against Georgia Tech. You can just play what you see at that point. It gives you a lot more freedom going against this type of offense.”
The similarities between the up-tempo spread schemes of ECU and UNC should help the Tar Heels defense with the transition, since the unit has been preparing against the same style of offense all offseason. Middle Tennessee, who UNC beat 40-20 in Week 2, also uses an offense similar to the Tar Heels and the Pirates.
UNC shut down ECU last season, holding the Pirates to a season-low six points and just 233 yards. The key was getting to the quarterback — the Tar Heels had seven sacks, their most in a game since 2000, which resulted in a loss of 49 yards. ECU quarterback Shane Carden completed 17 of 30 passes for just 124 yards.
“We have to recreate that type of pressure,” said Martin, who was one of eight Tar Heels who got to Carden last year. “I think we’re going to be able to. After watching film, I see a lot of things I like.”