Game week is back for the Carolina football team. And with a trip down to Greenville to face East Carolina in Pirate country on tap for Saturday, head coach Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels know they will have to be at their best to emerge with a victory and improve to 3-0 on the season.
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The open bye week gave the UNC coaching staff the opportunity to go back to the basics and preach the fundamentals. The Tar Heels were sloppy with penalties, defensive assignments and tackles for large portions of their wins in the opening two contests.
Coach Fedora says he thought his team, loaded with an infusion of freshmen and sophomores, profited greatly from the refresher courses in practice at Navy Field.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get more reps and hopefully, become more comfortable. When it will slow down for them, I don’t know. Last year, it took a while for all those young kids. I don’t know when that will take place for them. But I thought it was good to have the open week at this point. It gave us some time to get back to the fundamentals,” Coach Fedora says.
But the tune-up time is over. Game week is in full swing for the Tar Heels.
The Pirates are coming off an impressive 28-21 upset over the then-No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies at Blacksburg – a place few opponents walk out of on the right side of the scoreboard.
So with an in-state rivalry contest against an in-form opponent upcoming in a hostile environment, Carolina will no doubt face a stern test. Coach Fedora says the regional matchups featuring ravenous fan bases only add to the excitement.
“When you’re talking about an in-state team, the good part about it is the regional rivalry. The fans love it – both sides. They don’t like the other side,” Coach Fedora says.
Coach Fedora says game weeks like these are what make college football so special.
“That’s good for college football. I think it’s good. It gives your fans something to talk about all year. It’s something to talk about up to the game and after the game. I think it’s a good thing,” Coach Fedora says.
Saturday will offer a chance at some sweet revenge for the Tar Heels. A season ago, Carolina suffered a humiliating 55-31 home loss in Chapel Hill.
Coach Fedora says he doesn’t have to remind his team about last year’s debacle in Kenan Stadium.
“You really don’t have to say anything. These guys don’t forget things like that. I’m sure in a lot of their minds; it will be a factor for them. It will be something that internally motivates them. But then you have other guys who are playing that had nothing to do with the game. It’s a game to them,” Coach Fedora says.
After opening their season in the cozy comforts of home, the schedule turns tough for the Tar Heels, with five of their next seven games coming on the road.
As Coach Fedora always says, UNC will be taking it one step at time, just trying to go 1-0 each week. But given last year, if Carolina is somehow able to go 1-0 at the end of play on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, it may feel more like two wins for the price of one.