by Sharon Thorsland
It’s been an interesting start to the season for North Carolina. They won their opener in fairly easy fashion, but then fell to the wire in a shootout with App State last week, barely escaping Boone with a wild 63-61 victory. Obviously the offense was exceptional, but the defense – not so much.. I’m still trying to figure out how the Heels conceded six touchdowns in the 4e quarter to App – how? ! It will therefore be essential to get the defense back on track this week. But it won’t be easy against a dangerous Georgia State team on the road. Kickoff is given at noon in Atlanta.
The Tar Heels beat Georgia State last season 59-17, but this year’s Panthers team should be much better. They are coming off three straight bowl appearances and returning 17 of his 22 starters. The Panthers looked pretty impressive in their 35-14 season-opening loss to South Carolina last week. They led 14-12 in the third quarter before the Gamecocks blocked two punts and both returned for touchdowns. They knocked out Spencer Rattler twice and sacked him three times, and they kept USC’s rushing game in check, allowing just 79 rushing yards. Star cornerback Quavian White had both of those interceptions, while hard-hitting safety Antavious Lane led the team in tackles. Linebackers Jamil Muhammed and Blake Carroll are aggressive on the edge, they combined for 11.5 sacks last season.
The Panthers are a first attack, they ranked 8e at home in rushing last season, averaging more than 226 yards per game. They seemingly picked up where they left off, racking up 200 yards against the Gamecocks last week on 40 rushing attempts with just 29 plays through the air. Their top two runners from last season are back in seniors Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams. Quarterback Darren Grainger is a dual threat who rushed for 660 yards last season along with over 1,700 passing yards and 19 touchdowns last season. He wasn’t good against the Gamecock last week, however, going just 7 of 29 for 111 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Keeping Grainger bottled up on the ground will be key to a UNC defense that gave up 288 rushing yards to App last week.
It’s a very important game for North Carolina. After a pair of less than impressive defensive efforts, it’s time to get things back on track. The attack was stellar but can’t do much. The Tar Heels have a bye next week, but a highly anticipated game with Notre Dame is looming, and it will take a solid defensive effort to beat the Fighting Irish. But first, the Heels have to take care of Georgia State business. Look for the offense to keep rolling and the defense to tighten up – I say UNC wins a close one in Atlanta. Go heels!