As discussed in a previous photo reel detailing UNC's bubble read play, Larry Fedora's offense is designed for the quarterback to count the box on perimeter screen plays in deciding whether to run or pass. If there are six defenders in the box, throw the screen pass. If there are five defenders in the box, run the ball.
Defenses learn to read offensive tendencies, however, which good offensive coordinators are often able to use against their opponents. Two first quarter plays in UNC's win over Old Dominion highlight offensive coordinator Blake Anderson's ability to do just that.
On 1st-and-10 on its own 35, UNC lined up in a 3x1 formation (trips) with a tailback beside quarterback Marquise Williams. Old Dominion lined up with six men in the box, making the play call an easy one, especially given UNC's numbers advantage to the right side of the field. Note the seven-yard cushion the ODU cornerback is giving split end Quinshad Davis at the bottom of the photo.
A-back Kendrick Singleton and tight end Eric Ebron are set off the line of scrimmage to the inside of Davis. As soon as the ball is snapped, Davis steps back for the bubble screen while Singleton and Ebron run to block ODU's defensive back duo.
The intent of the screen pass is to serve as an extension of the running game, meaning that a 4-5 yard gain is the primary goal. As you can see in the following photo, Davis has five yards of open space between him and his blockers out in front.
Ebron and Singleton are both effective in sealing off the sideline for Davis...
... leaving the safety as the last line of defense for ODU.
Davis makes a cut back to the inside to slide by the safety...
... which slows him down just enough for the Monarchs to tackle him for a 36-yard gain.
The effectiveness of the above play allowed UNC to hit another big gain out of the same set on its next possession. On 2nd-and-8 at ODU's 28, the Tar Heels once again lines up in a 3x1 formation, this time to the boundary side.
ODU places six defenders in the box, which brings the bubble screen back into play, or so the Monarchs believe. Note how both defensive backs on the right side of the field are pressing at the snap. The safety is a full 10 yards off the line of scrimmage (see arrow).
UNC once again has a numbers advantage on the right side of the field.
Both defensive backs see Davis step back for the bubble screen and immediately crash down. Anderson counters ODU's attempt to take away the screen pass by adding a wrinkle. Singleton and tight end Jack Tabb release down the field and run routes instead of blocking.
Singleton runs vertically down the sideline while Tabb turns toward the middle of the field. ODU's deep safety (not pictured) is the only defender between both Singleton and Tabb and the end zone. ODU's nickel back and cornerback are still on top of Davis at the line of scrimmage.
Williams connects with Singleton for a 16-yard pass play to set up UNC's third touchdown of the game.
Photos by J.B. Cissell