Logan: Heels need strong response against Hokies
Posted October 4, 2013
Updated October 5, 2013
A week after an embarrassing home loss to East Carolina, the North Carolina Tar Heels will be in "response" mode Saturday when they heard north to take on improving Virginia Tech, former ECU and NFL coach Steve Logan said.
That response, whether it's positive or negative, could be the tipping point in the Coastal Division race and the Tar Heels' season.
"It was a catastrophic loss, but now the Tar Heels, and this includes the coaching staff, have to decide what they're going to do about it," Logan said of Saturday's 12:30 p.m. kickoff (WRAL-TV) in Blacksburg.
Logan said he would have made practice tough on UNC's players in response to the ECU game.
"I would have told the team I was starting spring practice over, and we'd have been in full pads," he said. "I would be interested in finding out who loves the game."
In terms of the matchup with the defensive-minded Hokies, Logan said the key for the Heels will be whether UNC's receivers can get open against tight man-to-man coverage and whether quarterback Bryn Renner can fit the ball into tight windows. Both things are tough for average college players, he said.
"Beamer has done a good job of stocking their roster with good corners, and this will be the issue for UNC this week," he said. "Is Bryn Renner good enough to throw a BB through a key hole? We're going to find out a lot about him and his receivers on Saturday."
The positive in that regard for the Heels is that they were able to put up points against the Pirates despite a slow start. UNC's offense scored 21 points in the second half, and Renner threw all of his touchdowns in the final two quarters.
Defensively, UNC will be looking to rebound from its worst effort of the season. The Tar Heels gave up 55 points and 603 total yards to the Pirates, and they'll be facing a Logan Thomas-led Hokies offense that has shown signs of life. Thomas threw for 221 yards and ran for 58 more in Virginia Tech's 17-10 win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 26.
Defensive line play a key for NC Stave vs Wake Forest
In Winston-Salem, the Wolfpack will be looking for a second consecutive win against a Wake Forest squad that has dropped three of four. The Demon Deacons were drubbed 56-7 by No. 3-ranked Clemson a week ago, and quarterback Tanner Price has struggled all season to successfully generate offensive rhythm.
Logan said the Wolfpack defense has been impressive early in the season and will be an important factor in NC State's ability to break a long losing streak to the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem. Saturday's game kicks at 3:30 p.m. on RSN and Mix 101.5 FM.
"They can pressure with four, and that front four has been pretty good, especially in the Clemson game," Logan said. "That ripples throughout the whole defense. You have more people available to cover, and you can switch up your looks more often. I know defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable is loving that right now."
Offensively, Saturday may end up being quarterback Pete Thomas' last chance to make an impression on his coaches before original starter Brandon Mitchell returns to practice.
Mitchell broke his foot during the season opener against Louisiana Tech, and Doeren said Monday he could be back to practice next week ahead of the Oct. 12 game against Syracuse.
Thomas was efficient in NC State's 48-14 win over Central Michigan a week ago, throwing for 244 yards and his first touchdown of the season – an 80-yard pass to Bryan Underwood.
'Responsibility of winning' on Pirates after UNC game
While Logan admitted there were plenty of reasons to celebrate in Greenville following ECU's 55-31 win over the Tar Heels, he said there will be added pressure on the Pirates moving forward into Conference USA play.
"There is a lot of back slapping going on," Logan said. "But looking up and down their schedule for the next few weeks, the one game that worried me is Saturday's matchup with Middle Tennessee State."
Logan said head coach Ruffin McNeill will have a unique challenge to make sure his team is ready to play.
"It's called the responsibility of winning. When you phrase it that way it grabs their attention," Logan said. "ECU has a responsibility to go win now with what they accomplished against North Carolina."
If quarterback Shane Carden continues to replicate his performance against the Tar Heels, the Pirates shouldn't have trouble navigating the majority of their schedule. He accounted for six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) against UNC, leading an ECU offense which scored almost at will against the Tar Heels.
"Carden is a very effective college football player," Logan said. "I don't know if there is an NFL future in that, but that's OK. It doesn't matter. He's performing at a really high level, and he's in a really good offense for him."