Jake over at Tar Heel Buckeye grew up an Ohio State fan, but wisely chose to go to an ACC school. In preparation for this weekend's game, I asked him a few questions about the Heels. His answer follow.
ATL_eagle: Sexton's numbers have been decent but not game changing. How much of that is him and how much is due to the scheme? Is there a chance Paulus will come off the bench this weekend?
Tar Heel Buckeye: The coaches don’t seem to be giving Sexton the same down field throwing opportunities that they allowed T.J. Yates. The few (and I mean two or three) chances he’s gone deep he’s overthrown wide open receivers. Sexton definitely can manage the game effectively as he had only thrown one interception heading into Virginia. It was obvious that Virginia’s defense was getting to him as he made two uncharacteristic throws—one on a screen pass where he completely ignored the defensive lineman (hello?).
Scheme wise, I think the coaches are trying their best to give Sexton easy throws like slants, hitch routes and halfback/fullback passes. This is where Elzy’s injury is key as he was one of those safe check down routes that churned out big yards. The Heels don’t have another fullback/halfback hybrid to be a huge receiving threat.
Another thing that has probably kept down Sexton’s numbers is the emergence of a running game. Shaun Draughn, a converted safety, had 138 yards on 30 carries against Virginia. This guy seems to be getting better each week and the 1-2 punch of Draughn and big Houston has taken the pressure off of Sexton.
A monumental collapse would have to take place for Paulus to come in. If it looks like Sexton is giving the Heels zero chance to win then I would expect to see Paulus. After Paulus’ debacle against Virginia Tech and Sexton’s Miami, UConn and Notre Dame victories, it will be tough to take his place.
One interesting thing is how personal Sexton took the Virginia loss. He was quoted as saying he felt like he let the whole state down and all of the fans with his turnovers. I don’t expect him to play that poorly against BC.
ATL_eagle: The defense has intercepted many passes but have also given up a lot of yardage. Is it a bend but don't break scheme and wait for mistakes or more risk taking? How do you think they will attack Chris Crane?
TB: Whatever you do, do not mention the “bend but don’t break” scheme to a Carolina message board. Good lord, I’ve never seen more people flip out over one loss.
The defense had success playing with 3 lineman and 8 men in coverage against Notre Dame. The Heels knew Notre Dame would be pass happy, but Notre Dame ended up running all over this scheme with 4 wide outs and a running back.
The Heels did not blitz for what seemed like the whole game, but Clausen made several mistakes and Notre Dame got behind so they couldn’t run the ball.
UNC used this same scheme in the late drive against Virginia. As the world saw, the Heels played not to lose. The philosophy is that the other team will make a mistake whether it’s a pick or a sack before you blow a coverage. It’s worked in some games and failed in others.
The Heels did blitz against UConn on running downs and some against Virginia in order to stop Peerman. I expect to see some blitzing maybe on first down, but Carolina will probably continue to try to force the other team to make mistakes.
Bottom line: Don’t expect the Heels to bring the house on third down and long. They haven’t shown it all year. With 300 pounder Marvin Austin at DT it seems to be working with the exclusion of the Virginia game.
ATL_eagle: The perception is that Tar Heel fans are passive about football even when times are good. How true is that stereotype that basketball is all that matters in Chapel Hill?
TB: I think it’s fair to say that Carolina fans have been passive about football in the past, especially the way the last two seasons have gone.
But even last year Butch Davis really started changing the culture and the home games were rocking. The home games are packed and the student section is being named up there with some of loudest in the country.
The atmosphere for the Notre Dame game was electric. Let’s just say Butch knows how to get the fans’ juices flowing with the pregame atmosphere.
No, it’s still not equal. How could it be at this point? But Carolina fans are beginning to take football seriously. The culture is changing and the potential for football at Carolina is sky high. I don’t think it’s a fair assessment to say that this year our fans are passive about football.
It’s a great balance, though, because our football crowds are much more electric than our basketball crowds. In basketball, we expect to win and we sit back and sip our wine and eat fine cheese, but in football we have that new, fond feeling of accomplishment, especially with the way this season is shaping up and based upon next season’s outlook.
ATL_eagle: What is your prediction for Saturday?
TB: Oh gosh, I haven’t gotten down and dirty with the number crunching yet.
My gut feeling is that Boston College will escape with a victory—maybe a three or four point game. BC is quietly looking like they could win the Atlantic even with the tough schedule.
After talking about basketball, I can’t help but recall three seasons ago when Hansbrough was a freshman and the Heels lost to BC in the ACC tournament by three points. The Heels were young and inexperienced, but their talent had begun to show and they were playing like they could beat anyone (they had just beaten #1 Duke at Redick’s senior night). Now, I know we just lost to UVA, but I feel like this game is along that same path.
I feel the same about this year’s team—next season the experience and depth of the team will allow them to compete for the ACC title, but not this year. The injuries are mounting and the Heels lack an explosive presence.
The lack of a big playmaker is beginning to show and Sexton’s inability to really carry the team down the field with his arm will be evident. Carolina’s secondary will likely make a big play or two, but the inconsistency on offense will plague the Heels.
I think Crane will throw an interception or two that will keep the game close, but BC should be able to move the ball more consistently than the Heels, especially with Harris turning out over 6 yards per carry on the ground.
Watch out for Shaun Draughn though—his play could be the difference in this game as neither team has the greatest rushing attack.
For more UNC talk check out Tar Heel Buckeye.