UNC emerges from off week looking for more offense
By PATRICK MASON
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
North Carolina had big plans for Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
The Tar Heels junior showed he was capable of being one of the nation’s top return men in a successful season a year ago, in which he earned All-ACC First Team honors as a specialist after a season in which he recorded two kick return touchdowns.
He also emerged as the team’s No. 1 receiver and playmaker, a dependable resource UNC could count on heading into 2018.
Through four games this season Ratliff-Williams has shown flashes of that game-breaking ability, though those highlights haven’t been a weekly occurrence. The inconsistency isn’t entirely his fault; the Tar Heels just haven’t found ways to get him the ball enough.
Ratliff-Williams is averaging 20.2 yards per reception, and leads UNC with 263 receiving yards. But with just one touchdown and 13 catches, the Tar Heels need to find a way to utilize their top talents as ACC play continues.
“That would be one thing,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said on Wednesday when asked if his team needed to do a better job of getting Ratliff-Williams the ball more often. “We've got to get the ball to him more often, and we've got to — when you get the ball there, he's got to make the plays that are presented before him.”
Ratliff-Williams’ season is part of a larger issue. UNC has the 90th ranked offense in the country, averaging 378 yards per game, but hasn’t been able to turn those yards into consistent points. UNC has scored just 21 points per game, which ranks them 119th out of 129 FBS teams.
The Heels (1-3, 1-1) hope to have solved some of those issues as they emerge from the bye week to play Virginia Tech in a 7 p.m. start in Chapel HIll on Saturday. The Hokies are coming off a loss to Notre Dame, which earned a spot at No. 5 after the win in the weekly AP Top 25 poll.
The Hokies (3-2, 2-0) had trouble in short-yardage situations against the Irish and their 40th ranked run defense, including three consecutive rushing plays from the Notre Dame 1-yard-line that didn’t crack the goal line.
But UNC, 112th in run defense, is giving up 209 yards per game on the ground. And with their struggles offensively, the Tar Heels can’t afford to lose the time of possession and be forced to score quickly should they fall behind.
“Yeah, we're going to have to do a great job,” Fedora said of the run defense. “I mean, Virginia Tech does a nice job of scheming up runs and running the ball physically. Our guys are going to have to do a great job of being where they're supposed to be, having their eyes where they need to be, and then fitting those gaps and being physical throughout the entire game.”
Surratt out for the season
As first reported by TarHeelIllustrated.com on Wednesday night, sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt will have surgery next Wednesday, and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
The procedure is to repair torn ligaments in his right wrist. Having played just one game — UNC’s last contest against Miami on Sept. 27 — following his suspension, Surratt is eligible for a medical redshirt season.