Letterman Analysis: Red Zone Play, Defensive Amnesia, Focus – 247Sports
North Carolina’s 36-34 win over Wake Forest clinched the ACC’s Coastal division for Mack Brown’s Tar Heels, setting up a showdown in Charlotte against Clemson. With two regular season games remaining, the Heels still have all of their preseason goals on the table and focus will be an important piece of reaching them over the next two weeks.
As part of Inside Carolina’s coverage each week, lettermen Mike Ingersoll, E.J. Wilson and Jeff Schoettmer share their takes on the the previous game and beyond. Today, it’s the big win over Wake Forest, the standouts from the win, and how clinching the Coastal division with two games left in the season will affect how this team plays.
Scroll down for their comments…..
Mike Ingersoll: “Both Wake and Carolina are known for their offenses, and for good reason. What isn’t often talked about are both offenses are also very streaky. They’re incredibly efficient and methodical as many times as they are explosive as many times as they sputter out on random drives. I think failing to recognize that, a lot of folks cliche-labeled this a ‘shootout,’ but that oversimplifies it.
“This was the kind of game that would boil down to which defense got one more stop than the other. Carolina’s defense made enough stops in the first few possessions that it became clear that factor would likely cut in Carolina’s favor. They also made enough stops throughout the game to negate the partially blocked punt, which normally can spell disaster for the outcome of a game for the team giving up the block.
“Overall, this was yet another example of Carolina grinding out a win on the road and making enough plays when it absolutely had to in order to bleed out a win. That is very encouraging and will pay off somewhere in the next few games. We can’t know where, but we can be confident that we know it will.”
Jeff Schoettmer: “I still feel like we haven’t played our best game yet. Which is exciting to see. There have been games where our offense has completely carried us and there have been games where our defense has played a lot better. But it’s just timely plays that our team keeps making and obviously we’re led by Heisman candidate Drake Maye. With him in the game, we always have a chance to win.
“And our defense, while they’re criticized heavily, they give up a lot of yards and they’ve been giving up points, the second half of games this year they’ve really helped us win games. Honestly, it is just a team effort. To go 6-0 on the road is pretty incredible, especially for a program that went over a calendar year without having a road win. The coaching staff has done a great job so much props to all those guys.”
Ingersoll: “The tight red zone always benefits the defense. The field is compressed and any vertical threat by the opposing offense is neutralized. It has held true this season that Carolina’s offense and its skill players have benefitted from space, evidenced by the number of scores coming from behind the 50 and the green zone (roughly the 35 to the 10).
“Carolina’s offense is built on efficient runs leading to explosive runs leading to taking the top off of defenses. The red zone allows for the former but not necessarily the latter as a natural function of available real estate. Things also happen much faster in the red and tight red, and where the shotgun is a huge advantage between the 20s, it creates some timing and handoff issues down in the red zone (i.e. the mesh point requires, on average, an additional half-yard to full yard for the ball carrier to reach the line of scrimmage, and when time is at a premium, that can create issues if a play takes slightly longer to develop).
“Where Carolina has greatly improved in the red zone, however, is pass protection. The combination of that improvement in red zone pass pro and a deceptively mobile quarterback has directly correlated to more rushing touchdowns in the red zone (from the quarterback position).”
Ingersoll: “Kamari Morales could go here most weeks because he’s developed from an early-season red zone magnet to now a reliable receiver and blocker out in the field. But John Copenhaver and Bryson Nesbit against Wake illustrate why we have gushed over the tight end room all year. Copenhaver has always been a reliable pass catcher, but he showed a different gear against Wake (which I’m certain was no surprise to him).
“Nesbit has always been a mismatch nightmare in the pass game, but he gets a gold sticker for his resiliency in the Wake game. Nesbit took a massive hit that led to him lying on his back on the sideline in pain immediately after. Many players might have been done for the game, and with a tight end room as stacked as Carolina’s, most teams would shut him down for the rest of the game knowing they had two other fantastic tight ends to carry the workload. But Nesbit not only came back in the game, but came up huge when needed. And for that, he deserves all the praise he gets this week.”
Jeff Schoettmer: “He’s not only having the most prolific single season in UNC history together, he’s putting together one of the most special seasons in ACC history, and even college football history. He’s just so efficient with the ball, he can run, he can throw, he’s not turning the ball over. That’s the biggest thing that you look for in a young quarterback is they can make those great plays, but he’s limiting the negative plays. He’s not giving the ball back to the other team. He’s taking care of the ball. He’s obviously moving the ball at will. And he’s putting the ball in the endzone.
“He’s doing everything. And if you look at the Heisman, I think part of it is obviously statistics. Another factor is your team’s record and your team’s ranking. And I think another thing that’s underrated is the ‘wow’ factor of the play. And if you watch Drake, he has that ‘wow’ factor. Obviously, he makes things look so easy, but he makes some plays very few people in college football can make.”
E.J. Wilson: “Once again our defense showed that they are the definition of a bend but don’t break defense. There were times in this game where the defense looked like everyone expected them to look and there were times where we looked like the defense that gave up 61 to App State. The good thing is that we were a good defense for 75% of the game.
“I think our game plan of pressuring Sam Hartman in his face were very effective in the beginning but for some reason we let off the gas for a few drives and allowed them to get comfortable. One thing I am worried about is how we react to tempo. For two weeks in a row teams were able to gain momentum by picking up the pace and tiring out our big bodies up front.
“I think we should expect that for our last few games and especially from Clemson. Overall I couldn’t be more excited to be playing for an ACC championship. This team has exceeded my expectations in a very good way.”
Schoettmer: “The first thing I want to talk about is I want to give them credit. They are a resilient bunch. They have amnesia, and here’s what I mean by that. They’re a team that forgets bad things happen. So they let up all these yards and all these points but once the second half comes, they make corrections, they make adjustments and they find ways to make stops when they need it.
“Looking at the fourth quarter, we go in there and we don’t allow a single point. We get a giant turnover from Cam Kelly. Most teams and defenses in that scenario, they lose confidence in themselves, but our team just forgets all the bad that happens and goes out there and plays the next series.”
Schoettmer: “We got a taste of our own medicine. Wake was going for it on fourth down and converting a bunch, they were 4-of-6 on fourth down. And those fourth down conversions, they turned into 21 points.
“So I think our numbers and our statistics get skewed a little bit because with a normal opponent maybe we’re off the field, Wake Forest is punting. But they were aggressive in that they went for it and anytime an offense gets four downs to get 10 yards, it’s way harder on a defense. So give Wake Forest a bunch of credit because they took advantage of those fourth downs and they converted like our offense has been doing all year.”
Wilson: “The player that stood out to me was Myles Murphy. Myles is really getting back into the swing of things after battling injuries all season. He did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and shedding blocks. You won’t see his name all over the stat sheet but he brought a level of physicality and attitude that we haven’t seen since we lost Ray Vohasek for the season. I think his play and more importantly his leadership will be integral to our success over the last couple of games and the ACC Championship.”
Schoettmer: “Watching the game or watching the game tape, we did bring more pressure, more five- and six-man pressures and even brought a seven-man pressure cover zero that I don’t think we had earlier this year. We had mixed results. The majority of time we brought pressure, it wasn’t successful for us.
“And on two of those instances, they throw a quick pass and our DB misses the tackle and they take it 40-plus yards. So you know pressure is very fickle. When you hit home it’s great, but when a quarterback is able to see it and get the ball out it puts our DBs in a tough situation because if they don’t get the receiver on the ground right away, it’s a very explosive play because there’s no other help.”
Schoettmer: “He describes our whole defense perfectly. Misses a tackle on a pressure earlier in the game, they get a 48-yard gain out of it. But he’s unfazed. His confidence is still sky high and if you talk to Cam, nothing will phase that kid and he’s a very confident kid. He has the ability to forget all the bad stuff that happened earlier in the game and then go make the biggest play the game.
“Wake Forest is driving down the field and then as Sam Hartman was going through his progressions, (Kelly) followed the quarterback’s eyes and moves 10 to 12 yards to the boundary and with beautiful timing made the right play and caught the ball. It’s a hard catch. Like we talk about all the time, most DBs drop those and Cam caught it and gained 20-plus yards on it. So give him a bunch of credit for that.”
Ingersoll: “Carolina has reached two goals: a bowl and the ACC Championship Game. But at 9-1, I think it is probably safe to guess that they have loftier goals ahead. This is a team that came into 2022 with virtually no national buzz or expectations and now find themselves with an outside shot at the Playoff. Incredible.
“They should also have a chip on their shoulder, because they have a quarterback who should be in the top three of Heisman hopefuls, and instead, right now, he’s not even getting an invite to New York. Finishing 11-1, or even 12-1 and/or the Playoff, likely changes that. A rising tide raises all ships, and Heisman-level exposure for your quarterback benefits everyone’s personal goals, as well as the team’s.
“Focusing on the task at hand — their next opponent, their next drive, and their next play, and looking no farther than that — should ensure their names are etched on the list of all-time great teams in Chapel Hill.”
Wilson: “I think staying focused is something that we don’t have to worry about with this team. That is because of the leadership and expertise of Mack Brown as well as the overall maturity of this team. This team has had its bumps and bruises this year but none of that came from being undisciplined.
“I see a hungry bunch of players who have a huge chip on their shoulder who will be focused on making sure that they are playing their best football leading up to the matchup in Charlotte with Clemson. We have a lot of guys on both sides of the ball who have played a lot of football for the Tar Heels and I trust that they will have themselves and their teammates focused on the task at hand — which still is taking this season one game at a time and not looking past Georgia Tech or NC State, neither of which will be easy games.”
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