CHAPEL HILL– The 5-5 Tar Heels will face 8-3 Old Dominion in a fight for bowl eligibility Saturday at noon inside the cozy confines of Kenan Stadium.
With a win, Carolina would earn their first five-game winning streak since way back in 2001. But how have these embattled Tar Heels turned things around so quickly in a season that was deemed lost by most outside observers?
Head Coach Larry Fedora says a lot of the turnaround comes from players eliminating the mental lapses and realizing their roles on the team.
“I would say just eliminating mental mistakes and guys doing their job. Understanding what their job is and just doing their job, not trying to do any more or anything extra, just doing their job,” Coach Fedora says.
Sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams has made a seamless transition to the starting position. Coach Fedora credits Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson and his teammates for the success.
“I think he’s really comfortable back there. I give Blake credit for preparing him throughout the year. Marquise did a nice job preparing himself every week knowing that he was going to go in the games and play in some situations and packages. The team, it really hasn’t mattered to them who’s back there. We haven’t changed anything, so they’ve done a really nice job with that,” Coach Fedora says.
ODU Quarterback Tyler Heinicke is a dynamic playmaker who distributes the ball to perfection to his receivers. Just ask Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning how he feels about him. Koenning says he compares him to a pretty successful NFL signal caller.
“He’s as good as there is. He’s Drew Brees good, if not better. He is fantastic. We don’t see too many bad decisions or bad balls. He’s as good as there is,” Coach Koenning says.
Coach Koenning says he sees a lot of similarities between the Monarch attack and the East Carolina offense Carolina failed to stop earlier in the season. Koenning says he’s hopeful the guys are able to overcome the “scar” of that game and get retribution.
“Anytime that you get spurned or get hurt, it scars you. You have that scar. We have that scar from that game. I hope our players learned from that and don’t want to go back to that. You never know. I think our guys are feeling some pressure and intensity. We know there’s a great offense coming in here,” Coach Koenning says.
This late in the season, Coach Koenning says the wear and tear of the season starts to build up on the guys. He says the key against Old Dominion will be whether the Tar Heels can summon the energy to play at the high speed necessary to take down the Monarchs.
“The ACC the last four games has been physical pounding. If our guys can get it up for another and play at the speed, you know. That’s going to be the key for us is if we can get up and play at that speed it’s going to take for us to win the game,” Coach Koenning says.
Will Carolina’s late season magic continue? We’ll find out Saturday.