UVA-North Carolina Preview: Cavs D has to cut down on big plays

unc-uva2North Carolina gained 374 yards in total offense last October in Charlottesville, right at the season average for the UVA D, which ranked fourth in the ACC in total defense in 2014.

That should have been good news, right?

Not when you account for the big plays.

The Tar Heels scored three touchdowns on plays of 50+ yards in a 28-27 win. Overall, UNC gained 346 yards on 14 big plays – runs of eight or more yards, passes of 10 or more yards.

The other 49 plays from scrimmage for the Carolina offense netted 28 yards, meaning that for the most part the Virginia defense bottled up a high-powered attack.

Except for those big plays, which has senior quarterback Marquise Williams back at the controls.

“Marquise is a guy that you see, you look at his stats, his rushing stats, he’s got five rushing TDs, he’s a guy that will run the option, he’ll pull the ball on the read play, and he does present a threat that you have to make — be aware and alerted for. He’s a very dynamic player for them, and we’ll have to know where he’s at at all times because everything starts from him,” Virginia coach Mike London said Monday.

UNC (5-1, 2-0 ACC) is an 18-point favorite heading into Saturday with Williams putting up big numbers – 84-of-131 passing (64.1 percent) for 1,127 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions and a 149.9 passer rating, and 405 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, gaining 7.2 yards per rush.

The Heels lead the ACC in 2015 in scoring offense (40.5 points per game), total offense (482.2 yards per game) and yards per play (7.6 yards per play).

Virginia (2-4, 1-1 ACC) is on the other end of the ACC in terms of its defense – ranked dead last in scoring defense (36.2 points per game), total defense (413.0 yards per game) and pass-efficiency defense (161.7 opponent passer rating).

Big plays have continued to be an issue for the defense. In Saturday’s 44-38 triple-overtime win over Syracuse, the Orange had 241 yards on 15 big plays, with a mobile quarterback, Eric Dungey, providing the biggest challenge, going 16-for-22 passing with a 160.0 passer rating and gaining 85 yards on 18 rushes, including gains of 28, 15, 13, 26 and 14.

Williams is a much bigger threat with his feet, and is in a different world with what he can do with his arm.

“You look at them and they’ve got guys on the team that have, whether it’s a run with Hood or passes being thrown to the very talented group of receivers, whoever it may be, they’ve done a nice job with the explosive plays in creating those opportunities,” London said.

“They have a quarterback that’s mobile that can run the ball, as well, and has played well here lately in terms of his efficiency, completion percentages and all those things.”

– Story by Chris Graham


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