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Up Next: Notre Dame vs North Carolina

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, as Notre Dame seeks its second victory of the 2022 college football season. Notre Dame is coming off a rough game against Cal, but many believe that game provided the launch pad for the Irish to find their identity and desire to win. The defense will need to be prepared for North Carolina’s high-powered offense this coming Saturday and the Irish offense will need to find ways to score more points if it hopes to compete with the Tar Heels.

Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

Game Details

Date: Saturday, September 24

Time: 3:30 PM ET

Where to Watch: ABC

Breaking Down North Carolina

The Tar Heels (3-0) are led by hall of fame head coach Mack Brown, who previously coached at Tulane, Texas, and North Carolina. With quarterback Vince Young, Brown defeated USC in 2005, for one of the most memorable national championships at Texas. After retiring in 2013, Brown returned to coach the Tar Heels in 2019 and has led them to a bowl game each season. Coach Marcus Freeman had this to say about Brown at his press conference on Monday:

“As we prepare for North Carolina, I have the utmost respect for coach Brown, who I've gone against as a player three times and then last year was my first time going against him as a coach. Always respected the way his teams have played and I know this North Carolina team will be no different."

Later, he commented:

“I don't know if I can make up for that lack of experience. But again, coach Brown has been through a lot of different scenarios and situations that I haven't been through or are just starting to go through. I really just got to focus on our team and the preparation in terms of trying to give our team a chance to have success. But you're gonna go against a well-coached team.”

North Carolina has produced many NFL players through the years, including Natrone Means (Chargers), Dre Bly (Rams/Lions/Broncos/49ers), Jeff Saturday (Colts), Julius Peppers (Panthers/Bears), and Lawrence Taylor (Giants). The Tar Heels continue to produce NFL-caliber talent and have multiple players drafted every year. After watching this team play, North Carolina is very talented on offense but needs a lot of work on defense. The Tar Heels can score a lot of points, but also give up a lot of points. They rank at the top of every offensive category in the ACC but rank at the bottom defensively.

Stacking Up Notre Dame vs North Carolina

Offensive Players to Know

Drake Maye— QB #10

2022 Stats: 930 passing yards, 11 touchdowns; 146 rushing yards, 1 touchdown

Omarion Hampton — RB #28

2022 Stats: 228 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns

Josh Downs— WR #11

2022 Stats: 78 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

Defensive Players to Know

Cedric Gray — LB #33

2022 Stats: 33 tackles, 1 interception

Myles Murphy — DT #8

2022 Stats: 9 tackles

Cam’Ron Kelly — S #9

2022 Stats: 14 tackles

Photo Credit: @uncfootball on Instagram

Keys to an Irish Victory

1. The defensive line must dominate

Irish fans saw major improvements from the defensive line on Saturday against Cal. They will need to continue dominating in the trenches if they hope to be effective against a high-powered North Carolina offense. The best way to disrupt an effective offense is to pressure, sack, and make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. If the Irish defense is successful at making Drake Maye uncomfortable on Saturday, they will put the Notre Dame offense in a position to win the game.

2. The offense needs to score quickly

The Irish offense has looked appalling at times in the first half of the first three games, and last week was no different. They must find ways to generate points quickly and often if they are going to keep up with the Tar Heel’s offense. One bright spot from last week was how this offense seems to be finding an identity under quarterback Drew Pyne. Pyne did not play well in the first half, but found a rhythm in the second half and played much better. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had this to say about his quarterback:

“I think Drew is motivated. He didn't get off to the start he wanted. It was probably not how he envisioned it starting. He certainly rallied and bounced back. There are a lot of areas he wants to improve on and he's got the right demeanor."

3. The wide receivers must play better

Despite coming into the season with high expectations, the wide receivers have not played well through the first three games of the season. Many appear to be playing at positions they should not be playing, but others do not seem to be playing with the effort, intensity, or competitive drive that is required to play wide receiver at Notre Dame. This is one area that must improve against North Carolina this week and must improve quickly. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had this to say:

“We're gonna continue to try to put our players in the right spot and try to give them opportunities. But we have a very selfless group right now, very motivated group, that they understand through shared success we have the ability to create plays on offense. Yeah, Chris Tyree scored on the seam route, but if JT is not doing his job to the field and the other back's not doing his job then the play doesn't happen. We preach shared success to make sure those guys buy in as one of 11 and continue to own their role."

Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

Final Take

If the Fighting Irish are to win their second game of the season this coming Saturday, they must dominate on the defensive line, score quickly, and the wide receivers must play better. Irish fans should expect this to be a very competitive game, but hopefully, Notre Dame will come out on top. It is time for this football team to build on last week’s performance and go to battle against the Tar Heels on Saturday.

Go Irish!


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