Secondary Struggles

Inside Carolina
Posted Sep 8, 2012


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Despite the first shutout by North Carolina since 1999 one week ago, a record-breaking passing performance by Wake Forest and the coinciding 28-27 loss on Saturday signals this UNC defense is not yet comfortable with the new attacking style.

The 4-2-5 defense implemented by co-defensive coordinators Vic Koenning and Dan Disch allows for more speed on the field. A fifth defensive back, known as the Ram, makes the defense quicker when compared to the traditional three linebacker set. The unique scheme is supposed to make it difficult for the quarterback to read the defense as well as find open receivers.

Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price had no such problems on Saturday afternoon. The junior threw for a career high 327 yards on 27-of-38 passing. Price was exceptionally effective in the first half, missing on only four of his 20 attempts for 194 yards.

“As a defense we didn’t completely do our assignments right,” cornerback Tim Scott said. “We were messing up on little things and that was really hurting us in the first half.” Price’s favorite target was junior wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who, for the second week in a row, set a career high in receptions. After a 10-catch, 96-yard performance against Liberty last week, the Clarksville, Md. native hauled in 13 balls for 164 yards, also a career high, on Saturday. The 13 catches by Campanaro and 327 yards from Price represent the most receptions and passing yards ever by Wake Forest players against North Carolina.

“They run a lot of motions and they have a little different formations than you usually see in the offense,” Scott said. “We just had to get our mental part of the game down, which we didn’t in the first half.”

In fairness to Scott and the secondary, it is hard for defensive backs to defend the pass if the line and linebackers are unable to generate a pass rush capable of disrupting the timing and flow of the quarterback. While the Tar Heels did limit the Demon Deacons to just 64 yards rushing on 34 carries, North Carolina rarely got to Price on Saturday. Defensive end Kareem Martin and tackle Sylvester Williams split the lone Tar Heels sack of the day.

The lack of production from the defensive line was surprising considering Wake Forest entered Saturday’s game with four offensive linemen who started their first career game last weekend. The Deacons also lost right tackle Colin Summers to a high ankle sprain during the game.

“They max-protected us inside a lot and it was hard trying to beat double teams,” Williams told reporters following the game. “They had a plan and they executed the plan very well and that was to keep us off of the quarterback and they did a great job of that tonight.”

Another characteristic of the Koenning and Disch defense is aggressiveness. Following the 62-0 win over Elon last Saturday linebacker Kevin Reddick said the defense blitzed more than they did in any game under the previous coaching staff. That trend continued against Wake Forest, but even with extra men attacking the backfield against an inexperienced offensive line, North Carolina was unable to get to Price. This left plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Campanaro and company.

“I felt like as a defense we did not live up to our ability," Williams said. "I felt like we did not get enough pressure on Price at all. We might’ve had one sack on him and that’s it. As a defense we want more than that… Tonight we just didn’t get the job done, but I can promise you one thing. North Carolina will work as hard as they can this week and do our job and come out next week fighting.”

Throughout fall practice head coach Larry Fedora preached that his team is a work in progress. He stressed it takes time to install new schemes and to expect some growing pains. However, after last week’s demolition of Elon some believed similar performances would be the norm. Saturday proved such success does not come overnight.


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