Last week the Tech defense had its best outing since the Presbyterian game, allowing just 259 yards to the Terrapins in the 33-13 win. They will need to have a similar performance in order to contain UNC running back Giovani Bernard and the Tar Heels’ rushing attack. However, although convention says to stack the box in order to stop the run, the Jackets will also have to cover the receivers on the perimeter in this spread offense to keep UNC quarterback Bryn Renner honest. It is a tough task for any defense and may result in a few big plays for the Tar Heels if the Jackets are not careful.
Senior quarterback Tevin Washington looks to start his penultimate conference game. He has rushed for 34 touchdowns in his career, just one shy of the school and ACC record for quarterbacks held by Josh Nesbitt. He will command the triple option attack that currently ranks No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards per game. His backup, redshirt freshman Vad Lee, showed some promise last week at Maryland, rushing twelve times for 60 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He has been seeing more and more action over time and should be on the field for at least a couple series.
The Jackets got their first road victory of the year last week at Maryland and hope to make it two in a row when they travel to Chapel Hill. This game is a must-win for Tech to have any shot at the Coastal Division crown, as they need to win out and have a few other pieces fall into place in order to play in the championship game. They will have to do it against a tough UNC team that is playing for pride.
UNC boasts one of the top running backs in the nation in sophomore Giovani Bernard. He averages over 130 rushing yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns on the ground this year. He can also be a game changer on special teams, having run back two punt returns for touchdowns this season. As a team, the Tar Heels rank No. 25 in the nation in rushing yards per game and are third in the ACC only to Tech and Florida State. Junior quarterback Bryn Renner is completing 63 percent of his passes and throws an average of two touchdowns per game.
The Tar Heels also feature an opportunistic, blitz-heavy defense that is a force against the run. Led by senior linebacker Kevin Reddick, the team notches an average of 2.5 sacks per game. Reddick and junior defensive linemen Kareem Martin and senior Sylvester Williams will be tough to block; look for at least one of them to get penetration on most of Tech’s offensive plays. The unit as a whole has forced 21 turnovers this year and leads the ACC in turnover margin. They also give up only 21 points per game, good for second in the ACC.
UNC will have an opportunity to have success utilizing play-action passes as Tech has had trouble stopping the run this season. On defense, UNC’s players will need to focus on maintaining assignments to stop Tech’s triple option attack, something they have struggled with in the last three contests, which all resulted in Tech victories.