The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

There isn't much that can stir up more groans and grumblings from fans than the switch to the prevent defense by their favorite team in the closing minutes of a close football game.

A team's once-stout defense can appear to transform into a completion-allowing machine and most people wonder why the opposing offense can pile up so much yardage so effortlessly with the game hanging in the balance.

That strategy drew skepticism this week after Virginia's offense sliced through UNC's version of the prevent last Saturday to tie the game at 10 with less than a minute to go in the game.

North Carolina used a cover-two at the end of the game and dropped eight defenders into coverage for the drive. The downside of the increased amount of bodies in the secondary was a lack of pressure on the quarterback.

Coach Butch Davis a man with plenty of football experience" defended the defensive call.

""After 34 years I could sit here and tell you that we won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys doing a lot of the same things" he said.

Davis said sending several blitzers creates greater potential for the big play because it leads to one-on-one situations between defensive backs and receivers.

They hit one play for 87 yards and the fans are like" ‘Are you crazy? Why would you put it all on one guy?'""

Cornerback Jordan Hemby said his job in the scheme is to jam or ""re-route"" the receiver at the line and force him to run a pattern toward the middle of the field" where UNC's safeties lurk.

The safeties set up deep between the hash marks where they can break up or intercept passes that sail over a receiver's head.

And with a Tar Heel cornerback barely trailing the receiver after forcing him inward" the opposing quarterback must make a near-perfect throw on long pass to keep the defense from making a play on the ball.

Hemby said he is also supposed to ""sink"" or position himself in front of the receiver if possible to create a more difficult throw. That way, a quarterback would have to throw it over the cornerback but still underneath the safety.

Short routes are easier to complete on this defense, but long passes should be nearly impossible. And at the end of games, long passes are what a prevent defense is trying to stop.

We do it a lot more than you think" safety Deunta Williams said. It just so happens we got hurt this time. Everybody critiques it" but in some situations it has worked.""

Hemby said one problem that led to Virginia's success was that he didn't always properly position himself to force his man to the middle.

""I didn't do as good of a re-route as I should have" so I didn't force the receiver to where I needed him to go" he said.

In breaking Hemby's jam, Viriginia also exploited a hole in the cover-two ­— the soft spot on the side of the field behind the cornerback and just out of reach of the safety.

Since Williams is set up in the middle of the field, he can't speed to the sidelines quickly enough to break up a pass to that area.

Hemby said he's been working on his positioning this week so there won't be a repeat performance of last Saturday.

I'm just focusing on the receiver more when I get my jam" looking at their outside hip so they don't get outside of me and I can jam him inside" he said.

Williams said the entire defense can do better at tightening up the soft spots in the cover-two by being more aggressive, using better technique and disguising the coverage before the play.

He said that the team worked  hard on the cover-two in practice this week after the loss and that it will be better prepared the next time it has a chance to close out a game.

I don't think that they're going to complete deep balls like they have in the past" Williams said.

I'm thinking our corners are going to do a much better job of staying outside and sinking" and I'll do a much better job of reading the quarterback and playing technique.""

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