Keys to Victory: NC State

The Tar Heels are coming off a tough loss a face a surprising NC State team. How does UNC bounce back against their most bitter rival?
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North Carolina lost in a heartbreaker during their last outing and the team will need to shake off that disappoint heading into a huge game for both programs.

UNC (3-1) are squaring up against a relatively surprising outfit from Raleigh. The Wolfpack (4-1) came out with two close wins early in the year and have gathered momentum over the last two weeks. They come on a three game winning streak and looking to get revenge after losing to the Tar Heels in a second half blowout last year.

Third Downs

Phil Longo and the UNC offense simply weren’t good enough on third down against FSU. They finished 2-12 on third down, and also 0-3 on fourth down. That culminated on the team’s final possession where three consecutive dropped passes by Tar Heels lead to a turnover on downs and sealed North Carolina’s fate in Tallahassee.

Third down is important for every team, but even more so for the fast-past style that UNC like to run. Three-and-out’s in a ‘hair on fire’ scheme means that the defense could only have a few minutes break before they get back out there. When it works, it is one of the most efficient offenses in the country. But when it stalls it looks like what happened in the first half last weekend.

Defensive Line

NC State will be wanting to run the ball. It has been a focus of theirs since the offseason, and after reviewing the film of the last two games that won’t change. UNC’s opponents have had quite a bit of success on the ground, with Virginia Tech rushing for 260 yards and FSU for 241. The Wolfpack boast a strong pair running backs as well with Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. They have combined for 129 carries for 688 yards through five games.

This starts on the defensive line. They have been inconsistent this year, and a lot of that has to do with inexperience. Nose Tackle Ray Vohasek missed the game against the Hokies. The starters are still developing, and other younger players like Desmond Evans are beginning to gain more reps.

This unit needs to start getting more push and dominating their opponents. This cannot be undervalued. Owning the line of scrimmage means running the ball is extremely difficult. It means blitzes become much more effective and takes significant pressure off of UNC’s linebackers.

UNC Receivers vs the Secondary

The passing game hasn’t been as dominant as expected early on, but it would seem that several players are still getting into rhythm. Dazz Newsome has finally started to get more involved, hauling in 11 passes in the last two games. Beau Corrales had his biggest game yet with four catches, 141 yards, and a touchdown. The two seniors have been solid but also accounted for two of the three drops previously mentioned.

Dyami Brown continues to be a deep threat for the Tar Heels. His brother, Khafre, has also seen increased playing time in the first half of the season. Several others, such as Antoine Green, look to be fighting for catches, but haven’t found much consistency thus far.

Mack Brown pointed to his receivers, also stating that he has been impressed by the NC State secondary. He said that the deep ball will be important, as well as just who wins those individual deep ball match ups.