Close Encounters At Wake Forest
UNC should be pleased with the game against Elon. A convincing win must feel good to the Carolina community amid all the press about academic scandal. However, I’m sure everyone in the Kenan Center realizes the schedule gets tougher.
Wake Forest’s BB&T Stadium is a tough place to play for a couple of reasons. The locker rooms are unusually small. The fans are extremely close to the bench area, which is tiny, too. In 2007, I coached the offense from the field at Wake Forest. I found sideline and halftime adjustments to be more difficult because of the limited space. And Wake is the type of defense that will necessitate adjustments.
Last year, UNC played Wake at home and as we prepared I remember marveling at the volume of their defense. The Deacs are one of those teams that give coordinators headaches with a blitzing 3-4 defense that schematically looks a lot like Dick LeBeau’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because of the variety of looks, we went into the game with a small but tight game plan. The primary ingredient in last year’s plan was to give the ball to Gio Bernard. If Gio gets 30 touches in this game, UNC will be tough to beat. Behind a massive and experienced offensive line, UNC should be able to keep the ball from the Deacons.
Wake’s offense goes through Michael Campanaro who caught nine of quarterback Tanner Price’s 16 completions. When so much of an offense goes through one person, it clearly indicates who you have to stop and makes game planning a lot easier. In comparison, UNC’s 20 completions versus Elon went to 14 different people. If UNC stops Campanaro, Wake will struggle running behind a green offensive line.
Duke v. Stanford
Duke’s win last week over FIU was impressive. I thought Duke would do well, but the convincing fashion of the win served notice to teams in the ACC that Duke is going to be tough to beat.
Kurt Roper called the game fearlessly. Heck, the second play of the game was a halfback pass. Duke was creative on offense, and the Blue Devils stressed FIU’s defense with tough conflicts of assignment using mis-directions and play action passes. They seemed to increase their confidence in one another as the game went on and they got really hot in the second quarter.
Duke will need that confidence against Stanford in Palo Alto. One advantage Duke has is the staff’s relationship with Mike MacIntyre, the Head Coach of San Jose State, Stanford’s previous opponent. Mike was Duke’s Defensive Coordinator prior to going out west. It always helped me prepare for a team when a friend recently had success against a common opponent. Colleagues can confirm feelings you have, enhance your confidence in the plan, or re-direct your thoughts, especially regarding personnel, for a better assessment of the opponent.
Although Stanford lost Andrew Luck to the NFL, preparing for the schemes David Shaw throws at a defense is tough. Stanford will use lots of motions and shifts to try to create mismatches with teams playing man to man. Duke uses more of a zone defense. A lot of their defenses are called to the field or boundary as opposed to formations or personnel. Therefore, many of the pre-snap bells and whistles Stanford uses will be useless.
Josh Nunes, the QB replacing Luck, is a good athlete. About the only thing Duke struggled with last week was pass defense against a scrambler. I bet Coach Knowles covered that this week, and Duke will cover on movements by the QB.
I think it is easier to travel west for a game than it is east. Unfortunately, they won’t kick off until what seems like Sunday morning, which could have more of an effect on the following week’s game. I’m sure Duke is confident and excited to make this trip. I think I will stay up through Sunday morning and catch it.
NC State v. UConn
UConn and NC State both have remarkably experienced staffs. George DeLeone, UConn’s OC, is well respected and Don Brown, the DC, may blitz every single down.
Last week, UConn’s defense allowed only 59 yards in the 37-0 win over UMass. Often stats can be misleading. I know coaches who blitz the heck out of a team in the fourth quarter, when way ahead, so the lost yardage goes into the negative rushing column. This manipulation of stats is really just whipping up on an inferior opponent.
UConn had only 2 sacks for -16 yards, so they weren’t just trying to cushion stats. They had a remarkable 10 TFL’s (thrown for losses) for -46 yards on run plays. When you couple a punishing defense with an offense that held the ball for over 36 minutes, NC State is going to have to make each series count. The Pack may have fewer of them if UConn is able to hold the ball as much as last week.
State is going to have to use the quick game and run the ball effectively on first and second downs. UConn has a strong blitz package which becomes exotic on third down. Rentscheler Field, where UConn plays, is surprisingly loud and makes it even tougher to use cadences to smoke out disguises. Sometimes the best third down game plan is to convert on first or second down. That’s how I feel when going against guys like Don Brown.
State will recover from the disappointing loss to Tennessee. UConn’s offense won’t be nearly as explosive as Tennessee’s was, but State will have to fit in a myriad of runs and cause a turnover or two giving their offense an extra possession.