Red Zone TDs Elusive

Logan

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina currently ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference and T-22nd nationally in red zone efficiency. Those statistics, however, disguise a continued troubling trend near the goal line for Larry Fedora's Tar Heels.

UNC has converted 89.5 percent of its red zone trips into points, trailing only No. 2 Florida State (97.1, 1st nationally) and Boston College (92.9, 9th) in conference play.

Two different statistics embedded within effectively strip away the shining gloss from that ranking.

A longstanding issue with Fedora's spread offense during his tenure as head coach is a difficulty to turn red zone trips into touchdowns. During his first five seasons ('08-12) as head coach, his offenses scored on 82.6 percent of its red zone trips (82.6) and converted those opportunities into touchdowns 61.2 percent of the time (183). Those percentages rank near the middle of the pack nationally over that five-year span.

In 2012, UNC ranked 70th nationally in red zone efficiency (81.0 percent) and 58th in red zone touchdown percentage (61.9).

Through the first six games of 2013, UNC has scored 10 touchdowns in 19 red zone trips (52.6). Four of those touchdowns came in the Tar Heels' win over Middle Tennessee, which highlights UNC's mere six red zone touchdowns in its five losses.

The Tar Heels reached the red zone five times in its 27-23 loss to No. 7 Miami on Thursday, yet only scored a touchdown on one possession. UNC settled for field goals on three of the other four trips.

With UNC leading 17-13 on its first possession of the third quarter, running back T.J. Logan reached Miami's four-yard line only to have a chop block penalty push the Tar Heels back to the 26. UNC settled for a field goal and a seven-point lead.

"If we could pinpoint just one thing, we could get that one thing corrected," Fedora said of the red zone struggles. "But it's a breakdown here, it's a breakdown there. It's a combination of a lot of things.

"It's just that we don't have that where everybody's clicking on the same page yet. We still don't and that's unfortunate because you've got some opportunities to put the ball in the end zone there and we didn't get it done. There were a variety of things, from a chop block to a dropped ball to a missed block. There were a lot of things."

Tight end Eric Ebron points to a lack of execution for the red zone troubles.

"We really have to execute running the ball and passing the ball in the red zone because we can't keep trading three points in for six," Ebron said. "That's just the bottom line. Touchdowns score more points than field goals, so we have to keep scoring touchdowns and quit kicking all of these field goals."

The mediocre touchdown percentage could possibly be overlooked if the total number of touchdowns being scored in the red zone was significant – as was the case in 2012 – but that's not even happening.

UNC ranks T-100th in red zone attempts and T-102nd in touchdowns scored in the red zone this season. The Tar Heels scored 39 touchdowns in 2012 and barely have a fourth of that total midway through 2013.

UNC's offense as a whole has been unable to find any sort of rhythm or consistency this season, which explains its No. 70 ranking in total offense (410.7 ypg). The struggles to score touchdowns in limited trips to the red zone explains why UNC's scoring offense is ranked even worse (93rd, 23.5 ppg).

 

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