Every day (well, every weekday), we’ll bring you a Hurricanes top five list at lunchtime. It’s something to look forward in the morning.
Mondays: Answers to Top 5 Questions from Friday
Tuesdays: Top 5 ACC Teams
Wednesdays: Unique Top 5 List
Thursdays: Unique Top 5 List
Fridays: Top 5 Questions for Upcoming Game
So here we go…
Answers to the Top 5 Questions for the Carolina Game:
1. Run defense. Will it work?
Not really. 141 rushing yards is the fewest surrendered by the Hurricanes this year, but the run defense was porous at times and Carolina running back Giovani Bernard came up with some key runs in the fourth quarter that helped the Tar Heels get back in it. The defensive front is depleted due to injuries, but as the Canes get more reps in the new defense things should start to click more and more. I’m optimistic.
2. Pass defense. Will it work?
Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner completed 20 of his 22 pass attempts in the second half against the Hurricanes. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Dwight Jones, Erik Highsmith and Bernard each had at least five catches for more than 70 yards, and Renner spread it around to eight different receivers. The problems stopping the run have received the most attention this year, but the Canes continue to struggle against the pass, too.
3. Will the Canes offense keep working?
It sure did in the first half. Lamar Miller and the running game was shut down by the Carolina D, who zeroed in on stopping the run to force Jacory Harris to beat them through the air. Harris capitalized on the attention paid to Miller, leading the Canes to scoring drives on the first five Miami possessions. Then things sort of came to a halt. The Canes punted on their first five possessions of the second half before hitting a field goal late in the game. Things are clicking with Harris finding his receivers and avoiding turnovers, and with Miller a dynamic runner in the backfield; but the next step is sustaining an effective offense from whistle to whistle.
4. Are the tight ends going to be more involved?
Clive Walford caught two passes for four yards. One of those receptions went for a first down, but overall the tight ends continue to struggle to get involved in the passing attack. Harris has stated previously that the tight ends are a part of this offense, but they’ve been covered by opposing linebackers who have done a good job of keeping them from getting open. Miami’s had a string of all-star caliber tight ends come through over the last decade. There’s a lot of talent at the position this year, and sooner or later they’ll start getting open and catching passes. We hope.
5. Can the Canes start strong this week?
They did, and that was the reason for the victory. Miami scored the first 17 points of the game, and a 27-10 halftime lead was a welcomed sight after playing catch-up the last few weeks. The call to go for it on fourth down on the opening drive set the tone for the first half. After last week’s failed fake field goal proved the difference in the score, I’m betting a lot of fans were a bit confused to see the Canes going for it again this week. But with a struggling defense and a team that’s played catch-up most of the season, it made perfect sense to go for it. I go further into this in my post-game recap and analysis.