The UNC defensive staff was determined to force someone other than tailback Andre Williams or receiver Alex Amidon beat them, and the Eagles simply did not have any other weapons. Below, you can see just how Carolina managed to limit Amidon’s impact while also putting extra bodies in the box to stop the running game.
Boston College goes with an unbalanced look with strength to the left and Amidon isolated on the right side. Carolina matches with a cover-two look with an invert to the strong side, meaning that Jabari Price can play Amidon tight with help over the top, while Tim Scott takes the deep zone to his side with the safety dropping into the box at the snap, adding an eighth defender against the run, taking away the perimeter to the strong side.
Below, Boston College puts the strength to Amidon’s side, this time trying to set up a stop-and-go route off play action. Carolina again runs an inverted cover-two to the strong side and a more traditional cover-two look to the other side. The strong safety takes the tight end in man coverage while providing run support, while the strong side corner (this time Brian Walker) is responsible for the deep zone over Amidon, with the Ram position responsible for the flat underneath him. Essentially, this coverage look provides the benefits of cover three without dedicating an additional deep zone player, since Boston College was unable to challenge downfield with anyone other than Amidon or Spiffy Evans.
Walker and safety Tre Boston stayed over the top nicely on this play, leading to a quarterback pressure and a short gain, putting the Eagles into a long-yardage situation and setting up a defensive stop. With these mixed coverage looks, the Carolina defense was able to put an extra defender at the point of attack without the fear of the deep pass.
Offensively, the Heels still struggled to run the ball against a Boston College defense that had given up more than four yards per carry on the season. Despite putting up 34 points, the Carolina offense still only managed 5.37 yards per play against a Boston College team giving up 6.01 yards per play.
Some of that is the result of Carolina getting ahead early and choosing to run it 44 times on the day while playing with a lead, but the fact is that the UNC offense still lacks a big-play threat—the longest play from scrimmage on Saturday was a 35-yard screen pass to T.J. Logan.
The biggest offensive difference in this game compared to previous games, however, was success in the red zone, as the offense scored TDs on all five trips inside the Boston College 20-yard line. One of those scoring plays was a beautiful wrinkle off the standard UNC triple option look:
A-Back Ryan Switzer motions to the left for the usual bubble screen while the right side blocks for the run. If Boston College lacks the numbers to the right side, Renner hands the ball off here. Usually the second option is the bubble to Switzer, but the wrinkle here is that instead of blocking, Quinshad Davis and Bug Howard run a snag concept with a slant tag on the outside.
The design is to take advantage of Boston College reacting to Switzer moving to the flat with either the corner route (to Davis) if the cornerback attacks the bubble or the snag-slant to Howard if the nickel corner is caught expecting the block from the inside.
At the bottom of the screen, you can see that the right side is still blocking for a run play, but Renner has properly taken the pass option. Renner looks first at the outside corner (blue circle), who is still taking away the corner route, and then checks the nickel corner (red circle), who has overreacted to Switzer’s motion and is out of position against Howard’s slant.
From there, it’s simply a matter of putting an accurate throw just inside the hash and it’s an easy touchdown. This is excellent design with a subtle wrinkle off a basic concept within the Carolina offense.
Looking forward, the UNC offense still needs to run the football better and create more explosive plays if this team is to get bowl eligible. That said, the kind of efficiency in the red zone showed by the offense this week was a huge step forward and will need to be sustained for this team to reach its goals for the second half of the season.
Photos by J.B. Cissell