Two weeks, three quarterbacks and one angry opponent.
The Tar Heels scrimmage Saturday for the last time before having two full weeks to prepare for opening day and South Carolina in Charlotte. This won’t be the last time they have extra prep for an upcoming foe with two open dates during the regular season. But this fortnight is needed to put in and hone a game plan that can stay with the veteran Gamecocks at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, August 31. South Carolina’s program hasn’t exactly hit rock bottom, but is already showing signs of a rebound.
Coming off a disappointing 7-6 record, the Cocks have already surpassed their 2018 season-ticket total with 47,000-plus, and last year they were coming off a nine-win season. Though the opener will be on a neutral field, South Carolina and its fans are anxious to get back in the Panthers’ home where they were whitewashed by Virginia 28-0 in the Belk Bowl in their last game.
UNC has three quarterbacks who could all start and play, and Mack Brown hasn’t decided on which one or two yet. Whether Cade Fortin, Sam Howell or Jace Ruder, they will be trying to outscore the South Carolina offense that will have three-year starter and school-record passer Jake Bentley and Clemson transfer running back Tavien Feaster testing the Heels’ suspect defense.
Anger is a great motivator, but Brown’s second stint as Carolina’s coach starts with a determined bunch that won only five games over the last two seasons. Surely, the won’t – they can’t – make the mistakes that gave them four or five more L’s last season. But Brown knows they will have to play a clean game that means Carter and the two Williams running backs must protect the ball and whoever starts at QB can’t throw it to a black and garnet uniform.
Despite breaking the single-game school passing record last season against Clemson and improved stats his first three years, Bentley still thinks he turns the ball over too much. He threw for 27 touchdowns as a junior but also had a career-high 14 interceptions.
If he tastes the turf against a completely new Tar Heel linebacking corps, Bentley literally won’t know who or what hit him. Two weeks for these virgin Tar Heels to practice pressuring him when and where it counts. Then let the blitzkrieg begin to shock the Cocks.