The Tar Heels are headed to Greenville to battle the East Carolina Pirates this weekend.
ECU holds a 2-1 record, coming off of an impressive win against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where the Pirates dominated the Hokies early in the game to pull out a 28-21 victory.
East Carolina is favored by five points over Carolina, but head coach Larry Fedora says the Heels have been preparing for this day during their bye week and are prepared to make some noise in Dowdy-Ficklen.
“I don’t think our guys have to be convinced that it’s going to be intense, I think they understand that,” Fedora said in an ACC teleconference Wednesday. “I think we’re the underdogs going into this game from my understanding and what I hear so we’re going to go into a place where that’s going to be sold out, hostile crowd. There will be some noise and an environment that should be a lot of fun to play in.”
When the Pirates visited Chapel Hill last season, quarterback Shane Carden threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns with three of his own touchdowns rushing. The Pirates possessed the ball for 36 minutes and left with a 55-31 victory over the Heels.
Although Carden has been ECU’s offensive bread and butter so far this season, Fedora says its important not to rule out their underrated defensive strength as well, one that only allowed 2.8 rushing yards per carry against Virginia Tech.
“Defensively I think they’re much, much improved,” Fedora said. “I think they’re much better than they’ve been since I’ve started playing them – about seven years now – they’ve done a great job on the defensive side of the ball. I think that’s the kind of hidden thing people don’t realize is they’re doing a great job of stopping the run, nobody’s really run the ball effectively on them and it’s made teams try to be more one-dimensional.”
You can hear the game live on WCHL at 3:30 p.m. Pregame coverage begins with Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts at 12:00 noon, followed by The Good Sports with Art C. and BobLee at 1:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-east-carolina-preview
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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.http://chapelboro.com/news/carolina-braces-east-carolina-collision-pirate-country
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/veteran-tar-heels-prepping-unc-youth-saturday
GREENVILLE – East Carolina has suspended starting nose tackle Terry Williams indefinitely for a violation of team policy.
Coach Ruffin McNeill said Tuesday in a statement that Williams “did not adhere to the conduct standards we have in place” but he didn’t say exactly why the junior was suspended.
The two-year starter has nine tackles and a half-sack in the first three games for the Pirates (2-1), who travel to North Carolina on Saturday. Junior Chrishon Rose is expected to start against the Tar Heels in Williams’ absence.http://chapelboro.com/sports/collegiate/pirates-suspend-starting-nt-williams-indefinitely