The No. 25 UNC football team is busy preparing for the in-state showdown at East Carolina Saturday afternoon in Greenville. In particular, the veteran Tar Heels are mentally preparing the underclassmen for the hostility that awaits them in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
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It’s hard to forget the resounding ECU triumph over UNC in Chapel Hill a season ago.
The defense, especially took the loss hard, surrendering 55 points to the Pirate offense in ugly fashion for the fans in attendance at Kenan Stadium.
But senior safety Tim Scott says for his teammates, the slate is clean.
“As players, we already know what happened. There’s no need to keep on talking about it. It’s a new year, new team and new players. We’re just ready to play,” Scott says.
Senior leader and defensive tackle Ethan Farmer, who is tasked with anchoring a defensive line riddled with inexperience, says he expects a rowdy atmosphere in a few days’ time, but believes the Tar Heels will be up to the challenge.
“It’s a big-time game for us. We know it’s going to be extremely loud with their fans. It’s a good environment for us. We know it’s going to be a rivalry and a tough game. We’re ready for it,” Farmer says.
One of those underclassmen who will get his first taste of a road game environment will be freshman defensive lineman Tyler Powell.
Powell, a 285-pound Virginia native, says he was thrilled to find his name atop the depth chart in week one.
“It felt good to know that all the hard work I put in over training camp and even before I got here, paid off,” Powell says.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora, for one, has been impressed with Powell’s performance. Coach Fedora says he’s confident in Powell’s ability to hold his own up front.
“The first week [vs. Liberty], he graded out the highest of the defensive linemen – that was his first college game. I think the kid is doing a really good job. He is really coming on. You’re talking about a young kid that’s playing in the interior, that’s a tough thing at this level,” Coach Fedora says.
Powell and the rest of the young starters will soak in a new experience Saturday afternoon in Greenville.
Scott says he’s been explaining to the guys what the sold-out stadium at ECU will feel like, but it’s important for the team to take care of what they can control – how they perform.
“We already heard this week that it’s a sold-out game. We told the younger guys to just be ready and don’t let the crowd get to them. It’s going to be a big game, and they’re going to play really good at home. As long as we play our game, we should be fine,” Scott says.
However, there’s only so much Scott and Farmer can tell teammates who have never actually waged battle on the road in an unfriendly venue.
At some point, these Tar Heels have to just jump out there and hear what it’s like to be booed. It’s a scary and unpredictable situation, but sometimes, trial by fire can turn out to be the best learning tool.