Following a disappointing 17-13 loss at home to Marshall, the Cards will try to turn their luck around on the road this weekend at North Carolina. Oddly enough, the Cards have played better on the road than at home under Charlie Strong. To this point, they are 4-2 on the road, and just 4-6 at home. Saturday’s game will be a tough one, as North Carolina is 4-1 overall with their only loss being at #25 Georgia Tech 35-28. They are averaging 31.4 points per game, while the Cards are only averaging 18.8.
It will be interesting to see who Charlie Strong goes with at Quarterback. If Will Stein is healthy, does the junior get the start on the road over the true freshman? Teddy Bridgewater has already proven that he can play on the road in a hostile environment. Although UNC is a better team than UK, it was still huge for him to get that game experience on the road. I feel good with either quarterback playing, and I will easily put my trust in what Charlie Strong decides is best for this team.
For the most part, the defense has been solid. They have been able to get good pressure on the QB and stop the run. Through the first 4 games, the Cards lead the nation in tackles for loss per game at 9, which is huge. Other than the FIU game, the defense has not given up the big play very often, as people expected coming into the season with the inexperience at cornerback. They will need to step up again this week because UNC has a 6’4 225 lb receiver in Dwight Jones. He has 514 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. He has to be a focal point of the secondary this week, or we could see the FIU game all over again as far as big plays go.
We also have to establish some kind of running game. I don’t think we can expect this team to sling the ball all over the field and have success. On the road, you need to be able to run the ball and control the clock and keep the crowd out of it. That should set up some big plays. I feel like we didn’t take a lot of deep chances against Marshall like we did at UK.
It will probably be up and down for the rest of the season for this team. We will lose games we probably shouldn’t, like we just did. But we can also win games that maybe we shouldn’t, like one of these next two games. I’d expect the coaching staff to be all over the players this week and not let them forget how flat they were in the embarassing loss to Marshall. I really do expect us to come out and be ready and play well. I don’t think UNC will look at this as a tough game, and with an early kickoff, maybe we can sneak up on them and get off to a good start. Here’s to hoping we can pull off the upset and get to 3-2.
Justin Renck will be a consistent contributor with 1450 The Sports Buzz. You can also see he work at http://www.uoflcardsnews.webs.com/