Tar Heel Fan blog is here to answer some questions about North Carolina to help us prepare for Thursday's game.
GC: When he was healthy last season, T.J. Yates had a passer rating of over 150. This year he's toward the bottom of the league in passer rating. What factors have contributed to that this year?
THF: Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate left. It has become increasingly clear that Yates was a by-product of great receivers. That, more than anything, explains why we never saw much of a drop off when Cam Sexton spelled Yates. This season Yates cannot hit the broadside of a barn with a sawed off shotgun and when he does happen to get it right, like the 81 yard TD pass against FSU, someone commits a hold.
GC: Tell us a little bit about Greg Little, who had a whale of a game against FSU. Do you think Butch Davis will continue to invent ways to get the ball in his hands as often as possible?
THF: Most UNC fans are saying "About time!" Little has been a bit of an enigma. He came in with some hype that was partly derived from the fact he first committed to Notre Dame. Prior to the FSU game he had not been that effective to the point I called ESPN.com's Heather Dinich out for naming him the offensive MVP. Little then comes up with a huge game which might be more about the FSU defense than Little. At any rate, it would be nice to see Little get the ball more especially on the reverse or even a direct snap here and there. Given the state of the offensive line, UNC's best bet is to hope their athletes can simply get the corner at the edges since running up the middle is like driving through northern Virginia at 5 PM on a Friday.
GC: Were your rushing numbers against FSU the product of facing a bad defense or the result of an improving offensive line and running back?
THF: I am inclined to believe the bad defense theory. All of the major rushing yards UNC accumulated came from running around the ends using either Shaun Draughn or Johnny White. This is why Ryan Houston saw limited touches since they were looking to get the ball in the hands of backs who could turn the corner with speed. Draughn did this quite well and White also had an outstanding game. This won't happen against Bud Foster's defense and since the offensive line is still atrocious(giving up sacks against only three defensive linemen) I am expecting the offense to look about like Boston College's did when they went to Lane Stadium.
GC: The Tar Heel defense had only allowed one passing touchdown going into the second half against FSU. What changed in that 30 minutes for your secondary?
THF: I am not sure it was so much the secondary as much as it was the lack of pressure on Christian Ponder. FSU made the choice to stop running the ball except for spots and established better protection in the pocket. The result was Ponder getting plenty of time to find a receiver and he usually did. FSU also had Ponder make quicker passes which negated any hope of actually getting pressure on him. The secondary played a decent game with the big glaring excepting being Charles Brown biting on a hitch and go that resulted in the disastrous 98 yard touchdown pass from Ponder.
GC: What do the Heels need to do well to come away with a win Thursday?
THF: Channeling Jim Mora: Win on Thursday? You talking about winning on Thursday? Are you kidding me?
UNC's only hope is they shutdown the Hokie offense in totality, force a turnover, get a defensive score. In other words, play Beamer Ball better than the guys who invented it. Not sure if that will happen but we can always hope right?