The No. 22 UNC football team saw its composure fall by the wayside late Saturday night, as it allowed No. 18 Georgia to rally from 10 points down in the second half to win the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta 33-24.
Old issues–like penalties and poor run defense–flared up at the worst possible time for the Tar Heels–who were hoping to make a loud statement about the state of their program against a traditional SEC powerhouse.
Following a stagnant first half that saw the high-flying UNC offense struggle to create any rhythm, UNC senior tailback TJ Logan single-handedly injected life into his team–which begins its season 0-1 for the second straight year.
The speedster from Greensboro put the Tar Heels ahead 17-14 with a 95-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
On the team’s next drive, Logan unleashed a 21-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs into the double-digit hole. The crowd in the Georgia Dome—which was mostly wearing red—even began “ACC” chants.
Then it all fell apart.
Shortly after Georgia cut the lead to 24-21, a flag was called on UNC for having an ineligible receiver downfield on what appeared to be a second down completion.
Head coach Larry Fedora, steaming with anger, protested with referees, earning himself a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
That led to the Tar Heels being pinned inside their own five-yard-line, ultimately resulting in a back-breaking safety that completely shifted all momentum to their opponents.
“I was questioning the call and the guy didn’t like what I said, so he threw a flag on me,” Fedora said. “That’s nobody’s fault but mine. It’s my fault. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in my life.”
By the time the game was over, UNC had amassed 13 penalties, giving up a staggering 101 yards in the process.
Truth be told, though, Georgia had the clear talent advantage in many areas.
Tailback Nick Chubb showed no rust in his return from a serious knee injury as he carved out 222 yards on 32 carries. The defense also used its speed to force UNC into many uncomfortable second-and-long situations.
The result was 40 pass plays for the Tar Heels compared to just 19 running plays, despite the success they found on the ground. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky struggled to complete anything downfield, however, and finished with just 156 passing yards in his first career start.
“From what I could tell, he took care of the football,” Fedora said of Trubisky. “That was the number one thing going into this game.
“I don’t know that we made any plays, or created any plays,” he added. “And that was unfortunate. We threw the ball too many times. Probably should have ran it more.”
Georgia, on the other hand, ran the ball 52 times for 289 yards while allowing its two quarterbacks—Greyson Lambert and Jacob Eason—to combine for just 185 yards on 20 throws.
It was the run defense that plagued the Tar Heels during their two losses to close out 2015—which isn’t exactly a great sign this early into 2016. To make things worse, it was a 55-yard touchdown by Chubb that put the game out of reach with just under four minutes to play.
As you might imagine, Fedora was less than pleased with his team’s effort in that department.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Fedora stated matter-of-factly about his team’s run-stopping presence. “It’s gonna be a tough road to hoe if we do that the entire season. We’re gonna have to do much better against the run.”
It was a night that brought Tar Heel fans’ worst fears to the forefront.
The talents of the running backs were put on the backburner while the inexperienced linebackers failed to stop Nick Chubb. Trubisky looked every bit like the first-time starter that he was, while mental mistakes erased potential game-changing plays.
You can be forgiven if you feel a sense of déjà vu after this one—with Georgia’s 19-0 second-half run taking the place of South Carolina’s game-sealing interception in the endzone.
Just don’t expect the Tar Heels to feel sorry for themselves. There’s still a long road ahead.
“I don’t know how it’ll compare to last season,” Fedora said after the game. “I’m really more concerned with what we do with this team.
“It’s gonna be interesting with our leaders—how they handle this,” he continued. “I think I know. They’ll come back out to work on Sunday and they’re gonna get ready to go for the next game.”
The Tar Heels will travel to Champaign, Illinois next week for a road game at Illinois (7:30 p.m). It will be the second leg of a home-and-home series that began in 2015 with a 48-14 win by UNC at Kenan Stadium.
Facing expectations that are among the highest in program history, the No. 22 UNC football team heads to Atlanta on Saturday hoping to prove last year’s 11-win campaign was no fluke.
Standing in the Tar Heels way, however, are the No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs—a perennial contender looking to remain on top under new head coach Kirby Smart.
If UNC head coach Larry Fedora truly has his sights on turning the Tar Heels into an NCAA powerhouse, then there’s no doubt he’s paid close attention to the school on the opposite sideline this week.
Georgia is immensely talented, boasts one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and went 10-3 last season.
Still, though, the Bulldogs decided it was time to fire head coach Mark Richt and bring in Smart—the former Alabama defensive coordinator—just to try and keep things fresh.
While it’s surely a bold move to make, Fedora doesn’t expect it will have any negative effects on his opponents come game time.
“Since I’ve been here, I don’t think there’s been a year that Georgia hasn’t been in the top 10 in the recruiting rankings,” Fedora said. “I mean, they’ve got players.
“There’s gonna be a tailback back there that can go,” he continued. “There’s gonna be an offensive line that can go. There’s gonna be a quarterback—whoever it is—that can go.
“And the same thing on defense.”
The question marks leading up to this showdown largely focus on the Bulldogs’ offensive backfield.
All summer long, the competition between senior Greyson Lambert—last year’s starter—and highly-touted freshman Jacob Eason has been a hot-button conversation down in Athens.
Then there’s Nick Chubb.
Considered one of the country’s top running backs in 2015 before suffering a serious knee injury, Chubb is expected to make his much-anticipated return on Saturday. While it’s not unusual for a player coming off such an injury to need time getting back up to speed, UNC tailback Elijah Hood—who has become quite the star himself—sees Chubb as a different breed altogether.
“I knew Nick Chubb was gonna play [in this game] this spring,” Hood said Monday. “I told the media then that there was no way Nick Chubb was not going to play.”
“He’s a competitor, he’s strong, fast, physical, agile.” he added about his former teammate during the U.S. Army High School All American Game. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Nick Chubb and the way he runs the football.
“As a running connoisseur myself, we look at each other’s runs and we’re like ‘Wow.’”
Here’s where this game gets really interesting, though.
The Tar Heels also have a highly-touted new starting quarterback. And guess what? They also have a tailback that can inflict all kinds of damage on a defense.
That’s not even including a defensive coordinator—Gene Chizik—that won a national title when he coached in the SEC, and a group of defensive backs dead-set on becoming the one of the best units in America.
Senior cornerback Des Lawrence would rather not hear another word about Georgia or the SEC—especially if the Tar Heels come out on top.
“Coming out of high school, everyone knows the SEC is what’s loved and what everyone loves to talk about—regardless of what the next conference is doing,” Lawrence said.
“So you do get tired of it,” he continued. “And I think it adds a chip on any other conference’s shoulder.
After a short shrug, Lawrence finished by saying: “As long as we go out there and do what we need to do, we’ll get some talk.”
Last season, UNC learned the hard way how important it can be to win marquee games such as this during opening week. Losing to South Carolina—a team that went on to struggle all year—hurt the Tar Heels’ credibility in the rankings, and in the eyes of the college football elite.
This game, for all intents and purposes, is a shot at redemption—even if Fedora wants to try his best to undersell it.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t make or break our season one way or the other—because it doesn’t affect the goals of this football team.” Fedora said. “But yeah we want to go out there and win a football game—and we’re preparing that way.
“And I believe–that our guys are gonna believe–that they can win that football game.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-and-georgia-enter-top-25-showdown-with-plenty-to-prove
Heading into its highly-anticipated season opener this Saturday against No. 18 Georgia, the No. 22 UNC football team faces the problem of knowing it will be without one of its biggest weapons—senior wide receiver Mack Hollins—for the entire first half.
As a result, plenty of practice time has been devoted to filling his void against a Bulldog defense stacked with talent.
The situation was created in last year’s bowl loss to Baylor—a game where the Tar Heels were thoroughly outplayed from start to finish.
While blocking in the second half, Hollins made a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defender. Thanks to NCAA rules, he was then ejected and suspended for the first half of UNC’s next game—which, of course, is nearly nine months later.
The suspension comes just in time for junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s first career start.
Trubisky showed a great connection with Hollins in his limited playing time over the last couple of seasons, but also realizes the Tar Heels are loaded at the receiver position—with veterans like Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Austin Proehl ready to make plays themselves.
“We’ve got a really strong receiving corps,” Trubisky said at Monday’s press conference. “We’ve got a lot of depth. Mack being out the first half, I don’t think we’ll lose anything in that aspect.
“Someone’s gonna step up,” he continued. “I’m not really worried about it.”
Where UNC will really miss Hollins, however, is on special teams.
For each of the last three years, the 6-foot-4 former walk-on has been a difference maker in that area—using his speed and intelligence to force opponents into difficult situations. He also earned recognition from head coach Larry Fedora as the special teams captain early on in his career, and has carried that role since his freshman season.
“Really the biggest deal for us is he’s been a starter on all four special teams, so you’re talking about four different units that you’re having to prepare for,” Fedora said. “That’s been more difficult than preparing offensively.
“The next receiver will step up. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been playing the position.”
As good as the Tar Heel receivers are, there’s nobody else who can take the top off a defense with a deep route quite like Hollins can.
Under new head coach Kirby Smart—who has won multiple national championships as Alabama’s defensive coordinator—Georgia will likely showcase a pro-style 3-4 defense centered on stopping UNC’s bruising tailback Elijah Hood.
Having Hollins on the field could help shift some of that attention to the outside.
If it’s still a back-and-forth game after halftime, a fresh Hollins could make all the difference for Trubisky and company.
“We’ve been watching some Alabama film because Kirby Smart’s coming from there,” Trubisky said. “It’s gonna be a good challenge for our offense.
“We’re really expecting everything,” he added. “But we’ve got a good plan for this week.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-football-ready-for-life-without-hollins-during-first-half-vs-georgia
The UNC men’s tennis team isn’t ready to go home just yet.
Continuing the best season in program history, the No. 2 Tar Heels defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Now halfway home in their quest for the outdoor national championship–after winning the indoor title in February–UNC (28-4) also set a new school record with its 28th win.
It was also the third straight 4-0 win for the Tar Heels during the tournament, as they have yet to drop a single team point on their way to the quarterfinals.
Mississippi State (18-9) was able to win one of the three doubles sets, and even forced UNC’s team of Brayden Schnur and Jack Murray into a tiebreak.
The Tar Heels prevailed, however, and went on to cruise to a trio of straight-set victories in the singles portion of the event.
Schnur, UNC’s top ranked player at No. 26 in the country, was the first to finish–getting a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 34 Mate Catura.
Soon after, No. 46 Brett Clark defeated No. 70 Nuno Borges 6-4, 6-4 for his 116th career singles victory as a Tar Heel.
Jack Murray then locked up UNC’s third consecutive trip to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Niclas Braun.
It was quite the response by a Tar Heel squad which saw their women’s counterparts–also among the favorites to bring home a championship–prematurely sent home on Thursday.
UNC returns to action on Sunday, May 22–facing off against the winner of USC and Georgia at 5 p.m.
Sure, there may be 109 days before college football season begins–but it’s never too early to get excited about it.
It was announced Tuesday morning that the Tar Heels’ battle with Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 3rd is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
So go ahead, start making tailgate plans. Plenty of storylines will be present in the Georgia Dome that night.
Junior Mitch Trubisky will make his debut as UNC’s starting quarterback while trying to pick up a signature victory for head coach Larry Fedora.
Defensively, the Tar Heels had the most improved defense in the nation under first-year coordinator Gene Chizik–but struggled to contain the running game as the season came to a close.
After losing a number of key leaders on defense, it’ll be interesting to see how Chizik chooses to try and stop Georgia’s star tailback, Nick Chubb.
Chubb will likely be making his return from a severe knee injury that ended his season in 2015.
Off the field, former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will be getting his first shot as Georgia’s head coach.
And last, but not least, the Tar Heels will also be looking to build up quality wins in the non-conference portion of its schedule.
Last season, UNC lost its opener to South Carolina–one of Georgia’s SEC rivals–while also playing North Carolina A&T and Delaware, two Football Championship Subdivision schools.
Despite winning 11 games in a row on the way to the ACC Coastal Division championship, many national analysts felt that the Tar Heels’ poor strength of schedule kept them out of consideration for the four-team college football playoff.
UNC will again play two FCS opponents–James Madison and The Citadel–in 2016, which makes defeating Georgia in the opener that much more important if the Tar Heels want to improve upon last season’s successes.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/start-time-announced-for-unc-georgia-college-football-kickoff-game
No it wasn’t quite Villanova at the buzzer for the national championship, but the No. 13 UNC baseball team ran into some heartbreak of its own on Wednesday at Boshamer Stadium.
Despite having the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Tar Heels fell victim to a crazy, game-ending double play–losing 3-2 to the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs.
UNC is now 21-8 after picking up its first mid-week loss of the season. Asheville improves to just 8-22 with the win.
The Tar Heels played arguably the sloppiest game they’ve played all year, but were able to fight back to at least put themselves in position to win.
It just didn’t work out that way this time.
Junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez hit a hard drive to center field in the game’s final at-bat that appeared as if it would at least score the tying run no matter what.
Problem is, UNC-Asheville’s Joe Tietjen made an incredible diving catch and UNC’s Brian Miller–who was halfway between second and third base at the time–didn’t quite get the memo.
Tietjen noticed Miller needed to tag up before he could advance so he quickly threw the ball in to second for the final out, ending the game right then and there.
“Baserunning 101,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said after the game, visibly frustrated. “We’re just trying to tie the game there. We’re not trying to win it, we were trying to tie it. Our kids know that.
“You just turn around and stand there [on second base],” the coach continued, when asked what Miller should have done. “It’s an easy read, we practice it every single day. If he catches it, go back to second base, we score and tie the game. If he doesn’t run to third and make him make a play.””
Had Miller not been thrown out, UNC would have had its hottest hitter in recent games–shortstop Logan Warmoth–at the plate with a chance to win it.
The team’s fastest player and leader in stolen bases, Miller decided he wanted to try and take care of business a bit earlier.
“I thought it was in the gap,” Miller said. “I was trying to score, but I just made the wrong read too quick and it cost us.”
All this late-inning drama was only possible because the Tar Heels found themselves in a 3-0 hole by the bottom of the sixth inning.
That happened because offensively UNC was unable to get anything going, recording just six hits on the day.
The only two runs the Tar Heels scored came following a trio of walks in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With the bases loaded and one out, Warmoth hit a sacrifice fly. Then freshman Brandon Riley doubled home another run before Adam Pate flew out–ending the only threat the Tar Heels put together before the final sequence.
“It’s a hard skill,” Fox said. “We have a sign on our board [in the locker room] that says, ‘Hitting is the most difficult skill in sport, therefore don’t rely on it to win.
“I probably need to go take that down, because they’re taking it a little too far,” he added.
The Tar Heels will host Virginia Tech at Boshamer Stadium this weekend for their three-game ACC series. First pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m.
Returning to action after a six day break for final exams, Benton Moss put together his second straight terrific start, and the Tar Heel bats came alive early, to lead the No. 24 UNC baseball team to an impressive 11-2 win over the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday night.
The senior from Enfield, North Carolina improved to 7-0 on the season, delivering five strong innings of one-run ball to move the Tar Heels to 30-16 so far this year, while dropping Asheville to 20-27, as the teams begin the final month of the regular season.
In his last start on April 26th at home against Boston College, Moss tossed eight shutout innings, and surrendered just two hits on his way to the victory.
He retired the first nine Bulldog hitters he faced in this game, and found trouble just once–in the top of the fourth inning, when the first three men up all reached base, capped by a run-scoring single from center-fielder Joe Tietjen.
After a scoreless fifth inning from Moss, Tar Heel head coach Mike Fox decided to make the switch to sophomore reliever AJ Bogucki to begin the sixth, despite the senior having thrown just 64 pitches, likely in an effort to preserve him for a second start this week on Sunday at Notre Dame.
Entering the stretch run, it’s been well-documented that the pitching from Moss and his starting counter-parts has carried UNC this season, but on Tuesday the right-hander got some much-needed support from his hitters as well.
“I thought we had some opportunities when we bunted some, which was kind of our goal tonight, to try to get some runs early,” says head coach Mike Fox, “It was nice to score early, kind of take a deep breath, and then get some other guys on the mound.”
Carolina’s heavily maligned offense capitalized against an Asheville team which entered Tuesday’s match-up with a sky-high team pitching ERA of 6.23, giving Moss an six run lead through just three innings, scoring three runs in both the second and third innings.
The surge began when freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth laid a fantastic bunt down the first base line, allowing catcher Korey Dunbar to come home and score the first run before a play could be made.
Warmoth and designated hitter Adam Pate then executed a double steal, taking second and third base from Asheville left-handed starter Lucas Clarke (4-7)–still with no outs in the inning. UNC followed up with an RBI groundout from Joe Dudek and a sacrifice fly by Alex Raburn, which scored Warmoth and Pate.
More of the same ensued in the third for the Tar Heels, as Dunbar and Pate each scored for a second time on Dudek’s two-run single–giving Dudek three RBI in the first three frames–before Alex Raburn got his second RBI of the day when his base-hit scored Dudek.
“We didn’t really worry about the [Asheville pitching] numbers so much,” says Dudek, “I think we were all itching to play after a week [off]….We know this is an important stretch for us right here. We realize the urgency for all these games.”
“We just played aggressive tonight and it worked out well.”
Action cooled down after Asheville scored their run in the top of the fourth, with neither team able to manufacture anything else until the top of the eighth inning when the Bulldogs broke through against AJ Bogucki for their second run of the night–coming by way of an RBI single from first baseman Hunter Bryant.
Not risking any funny business, Coach Fox turned to his bullpen workhorse, senior Trevor Kelley, to come on and escape the inning without any more damage being done.
And he would do just that, earning the final out of the eighth to keep the Bulldogs from shrinking their deficit any more.
In addition, the Carolina offense tacked on an additional five runs in the bottom of the eighth to make sure the lead was out of reach for freshman reliever Brett Daniels, who worked a scoreless ninth to complete the dominant Tar Heel team effort, and end the misery for Asheville.
All in all, Moss, one of team’s two senior leaders, says he was happy to see his team score as much as they did playing their style of baseball–with all 11 runs coming without the luxury of a single long-ball.
“Coaches have talked a lot to us about how we’re not gonna go up there and every one of our batters hit home runs. We’re a team where we’re gonna manufacture runs,” Moss says, “And it was good to see that we’re moving the ball, we’re putting it into play in the right places, bunting when we need to….and getting dudes to the next base.”
Another mid-week home game at Boshamer Stadium awaits the Diamond Heels tomorrow, as they’ll host the Elon Phoenix on Wednesday night with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.
With the final two weeks of the college baseball regular season on the horizon, the No. 24 UNC baseball team resumes its quest for Omaha on Tuesday—welcoming the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs to Chapel Hill for a game at Boshamer Stadium.
The Tar Heels come into the game with a 29-16 record, and have won 12 of their last 15 games during a recent hot streak, while the Bulldogs have struggled this season, currently sitting at 20-26 in 2015.
Despite having struggled offensively for a good portion of the season, UNC should have a prime opportunity to get the bats going in this game, as Asheville has a sky-high team ERA of 6.23 this year.
Look for a pair of UNC juniors to try and put some runs up on the board early, catcher Korey Dunbar and center-fielder Skye Bolt, who each have six home runs this year—good enough to share the team lead at this point in the season.
On the other side, any pitcher the Tar Heels send to the mound will have to pay special attention to powerful Bulldog first baseman Hunter Bryant. His 11 home runs this year are close to as many as Bolt and Dunbar combined.
The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and if there’s one thing anyone can predict—it should be a slugfest, with a few baseballs potentially leaving the park.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-resumes-play-tuesday-hosts-unc-asheville
The North Carolina football team will open its season against a tough SEC foe for two straight seasons at a neutral site.
After facing off with rival South Carolina to open the 2015 season in Charlotte, the Tar Heels will make a return trip to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Bulldogs for the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
UNC took on LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game back in 2010.
The 2016 Georgia Dome showdown will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Georgia and North Carolina will renew an old rivalry, having met 30 times since 1895 with the Bulldogs winning the last contest 7-3 in 1971. Overall, Georgia sports a 16-12-2 edge in the head-to-head series.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-georgia-renew-old-rivalry-2016-opener
The No. 5 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 3-0 on the season, embarks on its quest for a Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title Wednesday at high noon when the Tar Heels take on the 3-0 Butler Bulldogs.
***Listen to the story***
The Tar Heels join a stacked field in what UNC head coach Roy Williams says is the premier early-season tournament this year.
Two Final Four teams from last season, Florida and Wisconsin, could stand in the way of UNC in the Bahamas.
But Coach Williams says for now, he’s focused on the feisty Bulldogs, who defeated the Tar Heels 82-71 in the Maui Invitational semifinals back in 2012.
“We’re 3-0, we’ve done some good things, and we know we’ve got to get a heck of a lot better. We’re a different team. They’re [Butler] a different team. But there are some guys that were around when they beat us by 88 points or something like that the last time we played them. I remember that. It’s a wonderful tournament. Looking at all the tournament fields, I think it’s the best field of any of the preseason tournaments. It’s a big-time challenge for us,” Coach Williams says.
Junior guard Marcus Paige says the team’s balance gives the Tar Heels an edge on the competition.
“With that type of balance and our defense as hungry, alert and aggressive as it was today [vs. Davidson], I would expect to have a bunch of guys in double figures on any given night,” Paige says.
One of those UNC players in search of a breakout season is sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks. He’s off to a promising start. Meeks tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Davidson.
Meeks says he’s been getting some advice from former Tar Heel and fellow big man, Sean May.
“I talk to him all the time. He tells me about having soft hands, looking at the ball all the way through, being aggressive on offense and also getting down in a defensive stance for the entire game. He’s really been a good asset to my life,” Meeks says.
Paige has noticed a major difference in the impact of Meeks and junior forward Brice Johnson, who’ve both reshaped their bodies to withstand the physicality of ACC basketball.
“You can see they’re really skilled. Brice has upped his weight and is more of a physical presence. Kennedy shed his weight. They both had that skill set even last year, so now they’re able to utilize it more with more minutes and a bigger role in our offense. It’s great to have,” Paige says.
So far, Paige has been happy to take a backseat in the scoring. He says he understands the best Roy Williams teams always look to dominate inside first.
“When we have big guys as skilled and talented as them that are ready to handle the rigors of playing top-quality opponents with their bodies now we can play inside out. That’s always how Coach Williams’ best teams have played,” Paige says.
The Tar Heels will need to watch out for Bulldog Kelan Martin, who scored 23 points off the bench on 9 for 13 shooting in Butler’s most recent 80-39 thrashing of Loyola (Md.).
UNC is tied 2-2 with Butler in the all-time head-to-head series and will be hoping to tip the scales in its favor when the two schools collide at Imperial Arena Wednesday.http://chapelboro.com/unc-mens-basketball/tar-heels-begin-battle-4-atlantis-face-bulldogs