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UNC's big first play sets tone for Virginia defeat

Saturday's game did not get off to a great start for the Virginia defense. North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates completed a short pass to Dwight Jones across the middle. Jones broke a tackle, turned up the sideline and raced 81 yards for a touchdown. The contest was 17 seconds old, and already the Cavaliers trailed by seven.

North Carolina went on to win, 44-10, and Virginia allowed 339 passing yards in the process.

Of that first play from scrimmage, Coach Mike London said Sunday "it ultimately came down to the missed tackle." If that sounds familiar, it should. Two weeks earlier, missed tackles led to 172 rushing yards for Florida State in a 20-point Cavaliers defeat. This time around, the missed tackles caught up to Virginia while attempting to defend the pass.

On that first play, Jones ran a wheel route across the middle of the field, not too far in front of the line of scrimmage. Virginia was in zone coverage, and linebacker Ausar Walcott picked up Jones as he came into Walcott's area. But Walcott made one crucial mistake, according to London. Walcott did not keep Jones to his inside, which would have enabled him to keep an eye on the ball as it was thrown. Instead, Walcott let Jones run on his outside, which meant his back was to the ball as it sailed through the air.

With Walcott beat, Jones made the catch, evaded a lunging Chase Minnifield and went on his way.

"We've got to force a guy to the inside to the pursuit of the defense, to the rest of the defense, and we didn't get that done," London said. "So you end up having to rely on, if you make a tackle right there, then it's here we go, live to see another down. But he broke the tackle, and, first play, they got the touchdown there. It's unfortunate. Guys feel bad about that situation, but we've got to make the tackle and still keep on playing."

Jones finished with seven receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns to lead all Tar Heel receivers. His effort on the first play of the game from scrimmage set the tone for the rest of the offensive success North Carolina would have that night.

"When you're playing zone, a linebacker and a defensive back have to zone that particular side of the field off," London said. "They brought the guy from the back side of the formation. He caught it between the linebacker and the corner, which, worse-case scenario, he should have been viced in between the two, and for whatever reason he out-flanked the linebacker and then we weren't in position to turn him back to the inside, and they got the big play off of that."

By Steve Yanda  | October 18, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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