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Monday March 27th

Tar Heels look to establish ground game against Blue Hens

Elijah Hood scores a touchdown on a 28 yard run on Saturday Sept. 19
Buy Photos Elijah Hood scores a touchdown on a 28 yard run on Saturday Sept. 19

In its past three games, the North Carolina football team (2-1) has rushed for more than 200 yards per game — much more than its average of 161.3 yards over its first three games of the 2014 season. 

And for its past three games, Delaware (1-2, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Association) has allowed an average of 71.7 rushing yards per game. 

“We know what kind of opponent we’re facing,” said sophomore tailback Elijah Hood. “We’re gonna do what we’re supposed to do; we’re going to execute what we need to do; they’re not gonna stop us. I definitely acknowledge them as an opponent, but I feel like as a football player, they haven’t faced us yet, so we’ll see.”

Delaware faces only its fourth ever ACC opponent on Saturday — besides facing former ACC member Maryland 10 times, the Blue Hens have only played Pittsburgh and Wake Forest — and has gotten off to a shaky start, especially after a late-game loss to Villanova this past Saturday. 

While UNC recognizes it has No. 20 Georgia Tech on the horizon, fifth-year senior quarterback Marquise Williams pointed out any team can lose or struggle regardless of the opponent, citing how No. 1 Ohio State struggled against unranked Northern Illinois this past week, winning by just one touchdown. 

After Wednesday’s practice, Coach Larry Fedora noted Delaware’s unique offensive scheme, which often includes having six offensive linemen on the field. 

“They’ll be in two tight-end sets, three tight-end sets. They’re going to have big personnel on the field a lot,” he said. “Most of the time, if they have two receivers out there, that’s a big deal. They’re going to run the football.”

Delaware has averaged 208.3 rushing yards per game this season but has only passed for an average of 95.3 yards. 

“It's old fashioned — you know, gap schemes and zone schemes,” Fedora said. “What that does for our guys is they have to start from scratch and make sure their gap integrity is there. They have to be where they're supposed to be, and they've got to hold up.”

Redshirt senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said defensively, this week’s practices went well. 

“We’re happy with where we are, and we’ve just got to take that next step,” he said.

With a 90 percent chance of rain in Chapel Hill on Saturday, both teams will likely have to rely on their running game even more than usual — giving UNC a chance to keep up its streak of 200 rushing yards per game, but also forcing both defenses to step up against already-strong running teams in less-than-ideal conditions. 

But the Tar Heels do not intend to let Delaware’s defense hinder their play, regardless of conditions.

“We want 200 yards rushing every game. If we don’t get that, I feel like we don’t ran as hard as we needed to,” Hood said. “That gives us a lot of balance and opens up a lot of things, and just it embodies who we want to be.”


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