These two teams are polar opposites of each other. One, Notre Dame, brings in a defense that is among the best squads in the country while they struggle on offense. North Carolina trots out one of the best offenses nationally but their defense won’t help the cause much. There are ways for the Irish to get a much needed road victory and here are five keys for them to do so.
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Slowing the game down
Sep 17, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the California Bears at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest key in my eyes is slowing down the UNC offense and the best way to do that is play keep-away. The Irish have to churn out first-downs on the ground and after last weeks performance, there is a chance for them to do that. The emergence of both Audric Estime and Chris Tyree was a massive development from the win over Cal. Yes, the Tar Heels don’t defend much but limiting their possessions is a must.
Containing Drake Maye
Sep 10, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) drops back to pass against the Georgia State Panthers in the first half at Center Parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The redshirt-freshman had some big shoes to fill after Sam Howell left for the NFL. Maye has certainly done that. The numbers are video game stuff, 930-yards passing while completing 74.1% of his attempts with 11 touchdowns and just one interception. Maye is also a threat to run the ball, gaining 146-yards on 26 carries and a score. Yes, he’s light on experience, especially facing solid defenses but he’s shown that the skill-set is very impressive and formidable.
Not letting the game turn into a track meet
Sep 10, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Omarion Hampton (28) runs for a touchdown against the Georgia State Panthers in the second half at Center Parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
If the Irish are going to try and run with UNC, this could get ugly. As good as this Irish defense is, the offense hasn’t scored more than 24-points all season. Yes, the Tar Heel defense has holes like Swiss cheese, but it’s not like Cal had such an imposing defense that stopped the Irish offense. If Carolina gets hot on offense and the Irish play catch up, they might not have enough offensive plays in them to mount a comeback. Keeping this one close is in their best interest.
Win the turnover battle
Sep 10, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Georgia State Panthers tight end Kris Byrd (84) loses the ball out of bounds while being tackled by North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Raneiria Dillworth (11) and defensive back Tony Grimes (1) in the first half at Center Parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Both teams currently have a negative total turnover rate, UNC being -1 while the Irish are -4. This game will be important for Notre Dame to, checks the first point, play keep away from the hosts. The vaunted Irish secondary has no picks this year and actually the defense has no take-aways through three games. This needs to change in a big way, confusing Maye into bad throws and getting their hands in ball-carriers arms to cause fumbles. The more empty possessions for UNC, the better.
Quiet the crowd early
Nov 6, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels fans celebrate on the field after the game at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
For just the second time all year, the Tar Heels are at home and their crowd should be excited and rowdy. The goal for the Irish should be trying to get this crowd out of the game as soon as possible. This is a game that could easily go either way and what’s best for the Irish offense is to be able to communicate and not have to deal with the noise. Yes, Kenan Memorial Stadium isn’t know for being a loud venue, but anything to help a struggling Irish offense will be warmly welcomed.