Coming off an upset loss to Duke last week, it seems especially important for the North Carolina football team looking forward.
“You can’t let one loss become two losses,” senior cornerback Des Lawrence said.
But the best way for the Tar Heels to prepare for next week might be to look back two.
UNC (7-3, 5-2 ACC) is tasked with stopping the triple-option offense of The Citadel (10-0), a team that ranks No. 6 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). But the Tar Heels have seen this before.
Two weeks ago, they shut down Georgia Tech’s version of the same style of offense en route to a 48-20 win.
“If you’ve seen Georgia Tech enough, it’ll resemble that offense quite a bit,” defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said. “There are a little bit of intricate differences here and there that the naked eye really won’t see, but we do.”
Heading into the second-to-last game of the regular season, senior defensive end Mikey Bart wants to stick to the game plan that worked for the team before.
“It helps that we already played Georgia Tech,” Bart said. “We did a pretty good job against their offense and we aren’t doing too much new. They do about 95 percent of the same stuff.”
It’s that five percent — the imperceptible difference to the naked eye — that the team will be focusing on in practice this week.
“(The) Citadel is going to run the ball a lot more where Georgia Tech was going to pass it,” Bart said. “On third downs, Georgia Tech would pass it. But (The) Citadel, 3rd-and-7 plus, they’re still running the ball.
“They are really confident in their run game.”
With 359.9 rushing yards per game, the Bulldogs feature the top rushing offense in the FCS. By contrast, the Tar Heels rank 106th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in rushing defense, an area where they have often been criticized.
But Bart believes UNC is up for the challenge.
“They can beat anybody just because of their offense and the way it’s structured,” he said. “If we are structured well though, too — which we are — then we will be fine.”
The Tar Heels look to avoid falling into a potential trap game, which can happen when playing an FCS team between two conference matchups.
Lawrence said the Tar Heels need to remember they are facing off against a top-ranked FCS team. Bart agreed, saying UNC’s defense is not looking past this game.
“We know they’re really good for their conference,” Bart said. “They’re a good team.”
“Just what we did against Georgia Tech, we have a lot of confidence that we are pretty decent against the triple-option. If we do what is right, then everything should go well.”