Quincy Monk: The Tar Heels definitely improved from their mistakes the past couple of weeks, and it showed against Virginia. I think what the staff has done from this point in the season, is to continuously work on the little things, which are protecting the football, and emphasize the importance in playing disciplined football. I believe that the coaching staff will reemphasize these key components and we will continue to see our Tar Heels improve in these areas.
Mark Paschal: Very rarely does a team lose the turnover battle and win the game. Carolina will continue emphasizing turnovers in practice and hope that it will translate to Saturdays. It will be tough to overcome turnovers this week with a team like Georgia Tech, protecting the football will be vital.
Deems May: It certainly was a positive. It showed that the coaching staff addressed the problem and the players listened and adjusted. Coaching staffs can handle some aggressive penalties; it's the mental lapses that are frustrating (i.e. false starts, substitution penalties, illegal shifts/formations). We have done a good job of eliminating those in the first three games. We can't have fumbled snaps and we have had two of those in the last two weeks. Last week's fumbled snap cost us the opportunity to put the game away.
Does it seem like interim head coach Everett Withers is allowing offensive coordinator Shoop more freedom in playcalling? Is that why we're seeing a more efficient offense, or does Shoop simply have more weapons and better personnel to work with?
Scott: I'm fairly certain that Coach Shoop has more or less had free reign on calling plays since being there. He's a fantastic coach and showcased that against Virginia with some great playcalling. Something that he does a great job of is painting a picture and getting everyone on the same page. I remember before games we always knew what the first play of the game was going to be. This would give us chance to mentally run that play over and over again. He'd explain everything, from how long you need to hold your block, to where the quarterback was setting, to what routes the wide receivers were running and who was the first, second and third read. I think with him being at Carolina for a few years now, he's been able to recruit the type of players that fit into his style of playcalling better. We've been off to a great start this year and the offensive line has been paving the way. (Hey, I had to give a shout out to the road hawgs).
Deems: I'm not privy to what Everett tells Shoop he can or can't call so I can't comment on that. However, there is no doubt that our running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers are giving Shoop many more options as we are as talented and deep at these positions as we have been in many, many years.
Quincy: I believe it's a combination of both freedom and better personnel to work with. We have a very potent offense, with great talent both in the running game as well as in the air. I think when you have the confidence in your player's ability it allows the coaching staff to be more creative with their playbook options, and that's what you're seeing out there. Shoop has the weapons to keep the opposing defense guessing on what plays we're going to run next.
Mark: Coach Shoop has done an outstanding job this year with the offense. No question, we have a talented young quarterback, Dwight Jones has come into his own and Gio has played well. However, I think we might be overlooking the improved offensive line play. Our running backs have had holes to run through and Bryn has had time to throw. The big boys up front are doing a great job of allowing Shoop to feel comfortable using the whole playbook.
Many fans were disappointed in the performance of the defense against Virginia, even though the Tar Heels limited the ‘Hoos to 17 points. Did giving up 468 yards to Virginia cause you to reevaluate your opinion of UNC's defense?
Quincy: I think there's going to be some points in the season when the defense will have to rely on the offense to win, and vice versa. Even though we gave up close to 500 yard to Virginia, we still came out victorious. We have some tremendous playmakers on defense, and I have no doubt that we will continue to get better on that side of the ball.
Deems: Two things disappointed me Saturday. We got blocked up front (running game and blitz pick-up by UVa) and the 3-minute, 80-yard drive to let them back in the game. That really was upsetting. We were a fumbled snap away from going up 35-10 and getting our back-ups some work, to 80 yards in 3 minutes and Virginia being back in the game. A veteran defense can't relax like that; we have to finish them off. However, on the positive side, we only gave up 17 points even with all the yardage. There were some breakdowns on keeping contain and keeping proper leverage in the running game that will have to get fixed quickly this week. Defense is Everett's specialty, he knows the challenge that lies ahead, but let's not forget that we are 3-0 and it's a nice feeling.
Mark: I was surprised how poorly our defense played from a statistical standpoint. UVa moved the ball well and had opportunities to put points on the board but did not capitalize. Give our defense credit for making plays when they needed to, but giving up that much yardage to UVa is cause for concern. They have to play better this week if they want to get out of Atlanta with a win.
Scott: No. I knew going in that Virginia had a good offensive line and some good players. I was surprised at some of the weaknesses they were able to exploit, but as the game went on, we were able to make the necessary adjustments and get pressure. We have an extremely talented defense and they alone will usually be the reason whether we win or lose games. It's hard for me to admit this, being an offensive guy and all, but defense wins championships. And right now, I'd take ours any day into battle.
North Carolina faces its first road test next week in Atlanta, and Georgia Tech's offense is playing like its hair is on fire. What will North Carolina have to do to keep its win streak alive in week four?
Mark: It will be a huge road test for Carolina. Our quarterback has never played on the road and that is always a bit uncomfortable, but he is not my key to the game. I have four keys this week: 1) Turnovers, 2) Defensive responsibility, 3) One-on-one tackling, and 4) Overcoming cut blocks. Turnovers speak for themselves. Defensive responsibility – play your assignment – know your assignment – do your job. Every play we should know who has the dive, who has the QB and who has the pitch. Tackling and overcoming cut blocks – we have to make the one-on-one tackle. Georgia Tech thrives on the one-on-one match-up - QB/DE, FB/LB, RB/DB, WR/DB - and if you cannot make the one-on-one tackle they will kill you. They get these matchups in different ways but surviving the cut blocks on the perimeter and inside will be a huge help in getting more than one guy to the ball carrier and help eliminate the one-on-one matchups in the open field.
Quincy: Georgia Tech is definitely playing some hot football right now, but so are the Heels. What we need to do as a team is continue to build on what we did during the first three games. As a defense we need to fly around and create turnovers, on offense we need to keep a good balance with a good running game, and a nice aerial attack, and on special teams we need to win with field position. If we play well and put all three aspects together, we will give ourselves a good opportunity to win.
Scott: Three words - STOP-THE-OPTION. That's it. Easier said than done though. If you can play sound assignment football on defense, you can shut their whole offense down. Conversely, if they are successful in the option it turns into a three-headed dog, and before you know it you've got over 60 points and 600 yards against you. This will truly be a great test for our defense, and if our defense shows up to play, I'm certain our offense will get us enough points to win.
Deems: Long, sustained, time-consuming touchdown drives on offense. Defensively, I think we need to take some chances. I'd like to see us put everybody up in the box, shoot gaps, slant, disrupt timing, cause havoc. Shoot, as a changeup, I would go so far as even stand all four guys up on the DL about 1 ½ yards off the ball, read and react with our speed. If we get beat deep, so be it. Allowing 10 play, 80 yard drives with 4-8 yards a chunk can be de-moralizing. (See Kansas last week, I haven't seen the tape but if Kansas gave up 66 points to a triple-option team, they flat-out quit, there just isn't enough time in a game to score that much running the ball without a team quitting). I am excited about having Charles Brown and Tre Boston on the corners for run support. Those guys are as good as there is against the run and I believe will be the keys to getting some big stops and beating the cut blocks by their wide receivers. Lastly, we can't get frustrated up front. Georgia Tech is the dirtiest team in college football. Their coach takes pride in it and they do too. Referees just can't call over 2-3 illegal blocks a game and they know this. They are willing to give up 2-3 illegal chop block penalties and get away with 20-25 more. They want you to take a swing at them and get thrown out. We have to be disciplined and poised. Many people have counted us out in this game, not me. I feel like I did two years ago when I couldn't get anyone to ride with me to Blacksburg on a Thursday night. If you see a white pickup with a Carolina football sticker on the back heading south on 85 early Saturday morning, honk!
Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.
Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Quincy Monk recorded 247 tackles at linebacker during his Tar Heel career from 1998-2001. He was drafted into the NFL and spent three seasons in the professional ranks.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point.