***Listen to the preview***
At least outside the locker room, this weekend’s tilt is hard to mention without first referencing the 55-31 runaway victory for the Pirates in Chapel Hill last year.
Coach Fedora says he hasn’t needed to remind his players of what happened on that somber Saturday a season ago.
“I haven’t brought it up once. I don’t plan on it. If they have forgotten that, they’re probably playing the wrong sport,” Coach Fedora says.
With that painful memory still emblazoned in their minds, the Tar Heels are hungry for revenge. But the task won’t be easy.
The Pirates are coming off an impressive 28-21 upset win over the then-No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies on the road in Blacksburg, VA.
Coach Fedora says he watched every minute of last week’s game and knows the UNC defense will have its hands full against an ECU offense led by senior quarterback Shane Carden.
“We knew they were a good football team. It didn’t surprise me. They were hot, especially in that first half [vs. VT], offensively. Their receivers made some incredible plays. That quarterback [Carden] took some hits. They blitzed him and got after him. He completed them and did a heck of a job,” Coach Fedora says.
On the flip side, ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill, who has a long history coaching against Coach Fedora, says he understands his Pirates will have their work cut out for them trying to keep up with the warp-speed offensive pace of the Tar Heels.
“You got to make routine plays, and you got to be able to play the next play. They’re a tall task for everyone. Not just because of their fast-paced offense, but because they can distribute the ball. Larry [Fedora] is getting his philosophy within the team. He has a quarterback who can run his philosophy and do what he wants. It’s a tall task for any defense. We’re up next, so it’s a tall task for us,” Coach McNeill says.
In close games, turnovers usually make the difference. And thus far this season, the UNC defense has created a promising number of turnovers – tied for fifth in the nation in turnovers gained through three weeks.
Coach Fedora says if the trend continues, Carolina’s weaknesses will be more easily overcome.
“One of the things that we spent a lot of time talking about is creating takeaways. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve done a great job of that. We have to continue doing that. When you do that, it makes up for a lot of other problems,” Coach Fedora says.
Saturday’s game is a sell-out. But Coach Fedora says his team should be prepared for the loud environment. The team practices with loud music pumping every day.
“We practice with a lot of loud music all the time. The reason for that is our guys have to be able to think, concentrate and communicate throughout that chaos all the time. Therefore, when we go on the road and in a hostile environment and it’s loud, you hope your guys aren’t going to affected by it as much,” Coach Fedora says.
UNC leads the all-time series with ECU 12-3-1, but the 17th meeting in the rivalry, and the fourth contested in Greenville, promises to be an entertaining matchup.