Last year, the North Carolina football team’s hopes of an ACC Championship run disappeared after the Tar Heels lost in a 38-31 shootout to Virginia in front of a home crowd in Kenan Memorial Stadium.
The Cavaliers would go on to represent the Coastal Division in last year’s ACC title game, with UNC falling 2 games back from the Division lead. This year — with Clemson and Notre Dame sitting undefeated atop the ACC — the South’s Oldest Rivalry will again serve as a must-win for North Carolina. Here are three keys for the No. 15 Tar Heels (4-1, 4-1 ACC) to come away with a victory against the Cavaliers (1-4, 1-4).
Contain the quarterback
Through the first two games of the season, North Carolina’s defense allowed opposing offenses the fewest rushing yards per game in the nation. After struggling to contain the ground game since then — most notably allowing Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis 107 yards on the ground — the Tar Heels have fallen to the 36th nationally.
Even with an improved defense since Jay Bateman began his tenure as co-defensive coordinator, UNC has struggled to contain dual-threat quarterbacks. Last year against the Cavaliers, the Tar Heels allowed quarterback Bryce Perkins to rush for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Virginia was able to cut short a second half comeback attempt from UNC utilizing Perkins’ legs.