“Against N.C. State, we got them into a third-and-eight, we had exactly the route we thought we were going to get and we didn’t defend it very well,” co-defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said. “I think the bigger challenge for us right now is getting our kids to understand the importance of the last five minutes of the half.”
The oft-injured defense was without sophomore defensive back Storm Duck and senior defensive back Patrice Rene. Duck is expected to miss the game against Virginia, while Rene will be evaluated over the course of the week. Senior wideout Beau Corrales is also questionable for Saturday’s game.
Another topic of concern is containing the quarterback run. Although the Tar Heels held N.C. State to a mere 34 rushing yards, they have struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks in past games this season, namely FSU's Jordan Travis, who ran for over 100 yards against UNC.
Virginia starter Brennan Armstrong, who rushed for 91 yards against Miami on Saturday, matches that label.
“We are very well aware of our lack of success with rushing quarterbacks,” Bateman said. “Coach Brown has reminded us of that a few times, and we’re going to spend a lot of time this week preparing for that.”
As for the offense, coordinator Phil Longo continues to focus on developing his young group of linemen. The explosive UNC run game shined with 326 yards against the Wolfpack, which Longo partly attributes to an improving offensive line.
“There’s a lot of unity upfront right now. I think we’re more physical upfront this year than we were last year, and it certainly helps when your running backs, both of them, are elite this season,” he said.
In last season’s 38-31 loss to Virginia, UNC torched the Cavaliers through the air with 353 passing yards and four touchdowns. But fans shouldn't expect this year’s game plan to heavily favor the pass game, though, as both Brown and Longo are committed to the “balanced offense” that they have emphasized this season.
Although the Cavaliers carry a 1-4 record, Longo is by no means discounting the Virginia defense.
“They're probably the most multiple-schemed that we have seen this year,” Longo said. “So we certainly respect Virginia’s talent on defense, and you add with that just their multiplicity with regards to coverages and pressures, we’re going to have to be on the ball mentally this week.”
You can watch UNC play Virginia on Saturday at 8 p.m. on the ACC Network.
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