Three Things: Carolina 27, ECU 6
1. After entering the game with just six sacks, Carolina picked up seven sacks against East Carolina. The Tar Heel defensive line was in the backfield most of the day, helped along by inexperienced ECU quarterback Shane Carden’s proclivity for holding the ball a split second too long. The pressure came from numerous different sources, as six different Tar Heels picked up a full sack, and Kareem Martin and Devonte Brown each had a half-sack. Carden finished 17-for-30 for just 124 yards. The Carolina pass defense also did a solid job against leading ECU receiver Justin Hardy, who grabbed just four catches for 25 yards.
2. The Tar Heels didn’t have a blocked punt (as they did against Louisville) or a punt return for a touchdown (as they did against Elon). But they did have flawless kickoff and punt coverage that kept East Carolina deep in its own territory for most of the second half—the Pirates had six second-half drives, and they started on their own 20, own 17, own 1, own 10, own 13 and own 25. The highlight was a second-half kickoff that was handled poorly by ECU, and the Tar Heel coverage unit nearly picked up a safety before forcing the Pirates to start on their own 1-yard line. “On the kickoff team, when you get them down on the one-yard-line, that’s a game-changing play,” head coach Larry Fedora told Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network after the game. “Our kickoff team did a great job in coverage and Casey (Barth) pounded the ball well on kickoffs. Our coverage was really good today.” Tommy Hibbard also punted well, averaging 44.2 yards on four punts.
3. After struggling to melt clock with a lead at Wake Forest, Carolina performed much better in its four-minute offense on Saturday. After taking over midway through the fourth quarter with a 24-6 lead, the Tar Heels ran 5:16 off the clock by mixing running plays with safe, short passes in the middle of the field as they went on a 38-yard drive over 10 plays. The drive highlighted the excellent day by Bryn Renner, who made good decisions and threw for 321 yards—a total that could have been more if his receivers had held on to some potential big plays. Renner’s 684 passing yards in the last two games are the most ever for a Carolina quarterback in back-to-back performances.
What were your biggest storylines from the win? At 2-2, do you have a good sense for this Tar Heel team yet?