Hoods expected return a timely boost for UNC offense

The Tar Heels felt Hoods absence a week ago in a game that put more of an emphasis than usual on the running game because of the of the adverse conditions caused by Hurricane Matthew

Bob Donnan—USA Today Sports
Sep 17

North Carolina’s normally high-powered offense, coming off its least-productive performance in five seasons under coach Larry Fedora, is expected to get a much-needed boost when it goes on the road to play Miami on Saturday. Leading rusher Elijah Hood, who missed last week’s 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech with what has been reported as a concussion, is listed as probable on the Tar Heels’ official injury report for this week’s game against the 10th-ranked Hurricanes. “He’s obviously a force to be reckoned with,” Fedora said of Hood. “I expect him to play.” The Tar Heels felt Hood’s absence a week ago in a game that put more of an emphasis than usual on the running game because of the of the adverse conditions caused by Hurricane Matthew. Although Hood’s replacement T.J. Logan had some moderate success with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries and another 30 yards on six receptions, UNC was only able to muster 73 yards on the ground as a team. Its total of just 131 yards for the game was its lowest since being held to the same number by Wake Forest in 1999. At 6-foot, 230-pounds, his physical running style and ability to gain yardage between the tackles figured to be a better fit for the elements than Logan’s speed and shiftiness. “You hope it would have helped,” Fedora said. ‘But if he was playing like everybody else, it wouldn’t have mattered.” UNC turned the ball over four times in the loss to the Hokies, including lost fumbles by reserve running back Khris Francis and quarterback Mitch Trubisky. “It all comes down to keeping the ball in our hands, finishing drives and putting points on the board,” Trubisky said. At the same time, he concedes that having Hood in the backfield will be as much of a plus to the Tar Heels’ chances for bouncing back as a clear weather forecast in what has become a must-win situation to have any shot at repeating as ACC Coastal Division champs. Hood has rushed for 338 yards on 67 carries with four touchdowns in the five games he’s played. Although his productivity is down significantly from a year ago when he earned first-team All-ACC honors with 1,463 yards and 17 scores, he’s still averaging five yards per carry. Hood was injured late in the first half of UNC’s dramatic win at Florida State two weeks ago. “We just have to pick up the slack for when he’s not there,” Trubisky said. “Elijah being there is just a bonus. Obviously, the way he runs is going to help our offense.” The Tar Heels will need all the weapons they can muster against a Miami defense that surprisingly leads the ACC in scoring defense at 12.8 points per game. Starting left guard Caleb Peterson, who also missed the Virginia Tech game with an injury, is listed as questionable for Miami. “I’m just happy to be back with my boys,” Hood told InsideCarolina earlier this week. “I’m back on the field. I’m looking forward to putting in this game plan against Miami. The coaches schemed up some good stuff for us.”