South Bend, IN (SportsNetwork.com) – The sixth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting
Irish put their unblemished record on the line on Saturday afternoon, as they
play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Brian Kelly’s Irish fought the Stanford Cardinal and the weather last weekend
in South Bend, edging out the visiting Cardinal with a come-from-behind 17-14
victory. With the win, Notre Dame moved to a perfect 5-0 on the season. The
Tar Heels will be the second of four ACC foes for the Irish this season, with
a trip to Tallahassee and top-ranked Florida State on the docket next.
Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels would love to send the Irish into next week’s
showdown with the Seminoles with a loss. North Carolina opened 2014 with a
pair of wins over Liberty and San Diego State, but has dropped three straight
since, including a 34-17 loss to Virginia Tech last weekend.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series, 16-2. UNC’s only victories came in 1960
and 2008, both coming in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels have had plenty of success offensively this season, averaging an
impressive 415.4 yards of total offense, with a solid 276.8 coming via the
Quarterback Marquise Williams is a dual threat signal caller who has the
ability to take advantage with his arm and legs. He has completed 61 percent
of his throws this season, for 1,083 yards and nine TDs against four INTs. He
is also tops on the team in rushing with 243 yards and two more scores.
The receiving corps is led by wideout Ryan Switzer (24 rec, 269 yds, 1 TD),
although Quinshad Davis (16 rec, 196 yds, 3 TDs), Bug Howard (16 rec, 139 yds,
1 TD) and Mack Hollins (15 rec, 305 yds, 3 TDs) are threats down the field as
Despite the recent skein, Williams is looking to close out strong the rest of
“There’s still a lot of ballgames left, still half of the season,” said
Williams following the loss to Virginia Tech. “We got to keep picking each
other up. We got to come together as one.”
The Tar Heels have had far more success offensively than defensively this
year. Although the team has recorded an interception in every game thus far,
the overall numbers are concerning. UNC is giving up a generous 42.0 ppg, with
opponents having tons of success both on the ground (186.2 ypg) and through
the air (319.6 ypg).
Junior middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer leads the team with 36 total tackles.
Sophomore cornerback Des Lawrence is a close second with 34 stops. Fellow
sophomore Brian Walker (13 tackles) has been opportunistic with a team-best
Notre Dame has its own dual threat under center in junior Everett Golson. He
has returned from a one-year hiatus to lead an Irish offense that has ripped
off large chunks of real estate, averaging 429.4 yards per game.
For his part, Golson has completed 64 percent of his passes, for 1,383 yards
and 13 TDs against three INTs. He is also dangerous when pulling the ball down
and running with it, posting a team-best four rushing TDs.
Wide receiver Will Fuller has emerged as the top threat in the passing game,
pacing the Irish in receptions (28), receiving yards (371) and TD catches (5).
The Irish backfield doesn’t have a marquee name in it, but tailbacks Greg
Bryant, Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston are getting the job done collectively.
While perhaps not the dynamic, playmaking unit from 2012, Notre Dame’s defense
this year has once again been a difference maker. The Irish rank among the
nation’s best in scoring defense (12.0 ppg), while limiting foes to just
316.0 yards per outing.
Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith is the unit’s best athlete, making plays all
over the field. He leads the team in tackles (45) and TFL (6.5), with two
sacks to his credit. Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt is a former walk-on that
has been productive, ranking second on the team with 37 tackles.
Kelly admits this game could be a shootout.
“We have to play well. As we’ve talked about each and every week, we’ve got to
get better. Offensively, we are going to have to score points, because this is
going to be a game where there’s going to be points put on the scoreboard, and
we’ve got to hold up our end offensively and take care of the football.”