UNC defense refocuses for Cardinals
Last week, the crosshairs were on Michael Campanaro.
Even before the North Carolina football team set foot on BB&T Field, he was the man the Tar Heels had their eyes on, the force they would have to stop in order to come away with a victory.
But, as it turned out, he couldn’t be stopped.
The Wake Forest flanker eviscerated the Tar Heel defense, tallying 164 receiving yards on 13 catches — the second-most receptions of all time in a game against UNC.
In the 28-27 UNC loss, Campanaro broke through despite the target on his back, and, as junior safety Tre Boston sees it, the Tar Heels helped him do it.
“It’s not even so much what he did,” Boston said. “It’s what we did. Just some busts in the back. I hold myself accountable with everybody back there.”
Now, as the Tar Heels head to Louisville, Ky., to take on the No. 19 Cardinals on Saturday, they’ll be faced with a new target — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The sophomore signal caller is 14th in the nation with 576 passing yards, has completed 82 percent of his passes and has run for 23 yards on the ground.
If the Tar Heels can’t contain him, they could end up in the losing column for the second straight week.
“It’s a scary thought after what we did last week,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “We’re working hard on our pass-rush lanes making sure that we contain, we sit in there with him.”
Bridgewater is no stranger to the Tar Heels. They faced him last season when he was making just his second career start.
UNC might have defeated Louisville 14-7 that day, but the Tar Heels won’t be dealing with the same quarterback.
“I’m going to tell you right now: Teddy Bridgewater looks like a new man this year,” Boston said. “He’s matured going into his sophomore season.”
And because Bridgewater is also a threat in the running game, the UNC defense will have to adjust accordingly.
“You gotta know that the ball can remain in his hands as long as he wants. He can run around,” Boston said. “So as a defense and defensive backs, we have to plaster, meaning just get on our man and hold on as long as we can.”
Learning defensive assignments has been emphasized in practice this week, Boston said — and for good reason.
The Tar Heels struggled with missed assignments at times in the loss to Wake Forest, especially when it came to Campanaro.
“Obviously, we had set up the game plan to double (Campanaro) over the middle a bunch of times,” associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning said. “And it doesn’t look like we ever did it. So I’m just sitting there going, ‘Holy smokes. That’s what we called that for.’”
Koenning said he was disconcerted by the Tar Heels’ apparent regression after pitching a shutout against Elon in week one.
And Boston agreed that the defense was inconsistent. But he said the Tar Heels have refocused in practice this week.
“We had to keep everything serious,” Boston said.
“We had to be serious and know that these Tuesdays and Wednesdays are very important. I think last week we kind of became lackadaisical … And this week we made sure that we weren’t that.”
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.