Oct 5, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora shakes hands with Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Frank Beamer after the game. The Hokies defeated the Tar Heels 27-17 at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Virginia Tech Hokies have a big game Saturday against the North Carolina Tar Heels who have had some struggles the last couple of weeks. This week, we are joined by John Bauman of Keeping It Heel for a Q&A on the Tar Heels as we get you ready for the showdown in Chapel Hill.
Q: North Carolina has had a rough start but do you think the Tar Heels can still be contenders in the ACC Coastal?
A: I really do believe that the Tar Heels can still be contenders in the ACC Coastal. For one, the Coastal is a real mess with no clear leader or favorite in the division emerging so far this season. Five wins might be enough to win the Coastal and the Tar Heels can still reach that mark with wins in a few key games against the likes of Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami and Georgia Tech in the ACC.
Plus, the Tar Heels are improving on both sides of the ball. The offense had much more spunk in the second half against a good Clemson defense than it had shown at any point in the season before. The explosive plays that Coach Fedora hangs his hat on offensively were also there. The defense, a week after looking awfully weak against East Carolina, looked much better against the Tigers.
The defense kept the Tigers rush defense in check and even the secondary showed improvement against the Tigers. Granted, giving up 50 points compared to 70 points against ECU isn’t a great accomplishment, but it is a starting point for the Carolina defense.
Sep 27, 2014; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams (12) looks to pass the ball during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Q: Do you think Marquise Williams can handle a solid Virginia Tech secondary that is starting to make some progress?
A: Marquise Williams has never been a great passing quarterback. His strengths as a quarterback lie in his decision making, his ability to extend plays and his ability to run and scramble for yards and touchdowns. He has struggled ever since he started his first game against Virginia Tech last season in throwing the ball deep down the field.
You could count on more than one hand the number of touchdown passes he has missed to Ryan Switzer alone over the course of his career. Mack Hollins has emerged as a downfield threat, and Ryan Switzer is still and explosive threat in the slot, but I think I give the upper hand to the VT secondary over UNC’s passing attack.
Q: After giving up 120 points in the last two games, do you think the Tar Heels’ defense will be able to play better against the Hokies?
Like I mentioned earlier, there were lots of positive signs coming from the East Carolina game even though the Tar Heels gave up 50 points. Against the East Carolina Pirates, UNC gave up 7.5 yards per rush and 343 total yards on the ground. One week later, things looked much better against Clemson. The Tigers could only muster 92 rushing yards and 2.2 yards per rush. That can be attributed to much better tackling from the Tar Heels overall and better play from linebackers Travis Hughes.
Deshaun Watson and Shane Carden are also much better quarterbacks than Michael Brewer is. Carden torched UNC with his great accuracy and experience and Watson with his strong arm and playmaking ability.
Brewer might have the arm, but he doesn’t have the accuracy, experience of playmaking ability that the past two QBs that UNC has faced. Brewer played very well against Ohio State, but has struggled against Western Carolina and Georgia Tech. I think the Heels will play much better against Tech on defense.
Dec 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer (3) returns a punt for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina defeated Cincinnati 39-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Q: How much damage do you think Ryan Switzer will do on offense and special teams?
A: Switzer is a big threat on special teams and a smaller threat in the passing game. But there is a difference between threat and impact against a defense. Against Liberty, UNC came out and tried to target him a lot. I counted nine targets in the first half of that game alone. His targets have gone down a bit since that first game, but he is still making an impact in the passing game.
He has caught 19 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, granted that most of those yards came in a 75 yard strike against Clemson. He is still averaging over 10 yards per catch, so UNC will keep feeding him the ball as long as he keeps attacking the defense with his quick moves and good hands.
He hasn’t made an impact yet in the punt return game yet, but the threat remains. Kenan Stadium buzzes every time Switz lines up to catch a punt, and the student section holds up three fingers to represent the number three that Switzer wears for the Tar Heels. One of these games, Switzer will take a punt back, but I’m not sure it will happen against Frank Beamer, the king of special teams.
Q: Who do you think will win? Hokies or Tar Heels and why?
A: I am picking the Tar Heels to win this game. There is a lot at stake for the Tar Heels if they win this game. A 3-2 record and a 1-1 record in the ACC is loads better than a 2-3 record and a 0-2 start to ACC play. The Heels will come out motivated to play and Kenan Stadium will be rocking, as the game was announced as a sellout earlier this week. I think the Carolina defense plays much better and the offense does enough to win a close game, 31-27.
We would like to thank John Bauman of Keeping It Heel for joining our coverage this week.