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East Carolina (1-1) at (24) North Carolina (2-0)
Saturday, September 19th, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 24th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will attempt to earn their third victory of the year when they host the East Carolina Pirates this Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium.
The Pirates opened their new campaign with a thrilling, 29-24 decision over Appalachian State. However, East Carolina could not continue its winning ways last weekend, as the team was trounced by West Virginia, 35-20. Since Skip Holtz took over as head coach, the Pirates are 5-5 against the ACC, but all- time East Carolina has struggled against that conference posting a meager 28-61-1 ledger.
As for the Tar Heels, they are looking to open a season 3-0 for the first time since 1997. Butch Davis' squad opened the year with an easy, 40-6 decision over The Citadel, but last week the team needed a fourth quarter comeback to upend Connecticut, 12-10. North Carolina has enjoyed some success against teams currently in the Conference-USA, posting a 21-13-3 ledger.
In terms of the all-time series between the two schools, the Tar Heels own an 8-2-1 edge over ECU. However the last time they met the Pirates were the victors, grabbing a 34-31 win.
The Pirates did very little against West Virginia last Saturday, posting just 237 total yards in a 15-point loss. The ground game struggled, with just 62 yards on just 2.3 yards per attempt. Brandon Jackson led the way with 37 yards, while Dominique Lindsay added 28 yards and one score. After two games, Lindsay and Jackson have combined for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
The passing attack was not much better in the loss, as Patrick Pinkney completed just 16-of-39 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown. Pinkney was also sacked four times and intercepted once.
"Offensively, I think we ran the ball decently at times," said coach Holtz. "I think the passing game was a little bit out of whack. It's never just one guy. I know Patrick Pinkney is going to take the brunt of it being the quarterback. As a quarterback, you probably get too much credit when we win and too much blame when we lose."
Pinkney has struggled out of the gate, throwing for just 306 yards and two scores against three interceptions, while completing only 42.4 percent of his throws.
The Pirates also struggled defensively against the Mountaineers, surrendering 509 total yards, including 334 yards through the air.
"The negative with what we did in zone coverage was let the ball behind us resulting in four big plays," said coach Holtz. "That defeats everything you're trying to do. That's why we played zone defense instead of man, to prevent the big, deep play. Looking back and knowing that we were going to give up four big plays, I probably would have been much more aggressive and not given Brown the space to run around."
Stopping the pass has been a problem in the early stages of the season, as East Carolina is surrendering 239.0 yards per game through the air. Overall this unit is allowing 377.5 total yards per game, and that has led to 29.5 ppg. Jeremy Chambliss has been the best defensive player for the Pirates thus far, and is leading the team with 19 tackles and three TFLs.
The Tar Heels are averaging 26.0 ppg, but the unit has been a tad inconsistent, averaging just 321.5 total yards per matchup. Against UConn the Tar Heels went scoreless through the first three quarters, but posted 12 points in the final frame to grab a thrilling win over the Huskies.
T.J. Yates led a long drive that finished with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zack Pianalto, tying the game at 10 apiece. However, the tight end dislocated his right foot during the celebration and will be out indefinitely. As for Yates, it was an inconsistent showing for the signal caller, as he finished the game with 233 yards and one touchdown, but was also intercepted twice and sacked six times.
"We were just making adjustments on the run, throwing formations we hadn't even practiced all week," Yates said. "(We'd) pick things up, draw something in the dirt, see if that works, try something new out and see if that works. Once that was working, we just kept at it and kept at it and moved the ball down the field."
Although UNC is 2-0, the leader of this offense has not been very sharp despite completing 61.5 percent of his throws. The senior heads into this weekend with just 347 yards and three scores against three interceptions. Another surprising turn of events in matchup with UConn, was the lack of production out of the backfield, as the Tar Heels finished with just 35 yards on 38 carries, just a week after rushing for 261 yards against The Citadel.
If there are any questions on why North Carolina is 2-0 just take a look at a ferocious defensive unit. Even though UNC was unable to post many points on Saturday, the defense did more than enough to keep the Tar Heels in contention for the win. In fact, it was the hustle of defensive end Robert Quinn, who was held in the end zone with under two minutes to play in regulation, prompting the official to throw a flag for holding, which led to a safety and a win for UNC.
"I had him beat around the corner," Quinn said. "I was just out there trying to make a play, and then I saw the flag."
Overall the Tar Heels limited the Huskies to just 196 total yards, and held their dangerous ground attack to just 72 yards on 2.1 yards per attempt. Although it is early in the year this defensive unit has proven to be one of the best in the nation and is currently allowing only 8.0 ppg. The defense has done a terrific job against the run, holding teams to just 51.0 ypg on 1.9 yards per attempt. North Carolina has also forced six turnovers, and has recorded six sacks, but the most impressive thing could be its ability to step up its play when needed most. Coming into this weekend, the Tar Heels have limited opponents to just 4-of-29 on third down conversions.
It has been over a decade since North Carolina began a season with a 3-0 ledger, but look for that to change this weekend. The Tar Heels should score just enough points, while the defensive unit will likely dominate a weaker East Carolina squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 27, East Carolina 10
09/16 10:33:41 ET