CHAPEL HILL– Shockingly, the Tar Heel football team is now sitting at 1-5 on the season. But it was the latest defeat at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes on Zero Dark Thursday that may have hit the Carolina players the hardest.
UNC had a 23-13 lead after all in the fourth quarter only to see it disappear in a 27-23 loss to a team now ranked No. 6 nationally in the polls.
Senior quarterback Bryn Renner says the offense settled for field goals rather than touchdowns far too often in the red zone.
“We had a lot of chances in there, and obviously we came up with a ton of field goals. We have to capitalize and get touchdowns in a game like this against a top ten opponent,” Renner says.
Renner couldn’t say enough about the exhilarating 199-yard performance from tight end Eric Ebron. He says Ebron may be the best tight end in the country.
“He’s essential. He’s one of the best tight ends in the country, if not the best. He’s critical to our success passing the ball. And he’s a heck of a player,” Renner says.
Speaking of Ebron, how did he continually find himself open against the top-notch Miami defense? He says it all starts with belief.
“Just doing my job and running my routes. You know, just believing in the concepts, believing in the coaches, believing in everything,” Ebron says.
Despite the setback, Ebron says he believes the Tar Heels displayed to the nation that this Carolina team is much better than their unfortunate record suggests. In fact, Ebron says some of the younger guys really grew up on Zero Dark Thursday.
“We showed the world that our record doesn’t speak for the way that we can play. We are young, and we are developing as a team and a unit. I feel like this game really helped mature some of our younger players,” Ebron says.
Going forward, senior defensive lineman Kareem Martin says the Tar Heels have two options: feel sorry for themselves or fight for wins.
“It’s always tough after a loss. But at the end of the day, next Saturday we’re going to be playing another football team. Whether we’re down or not, they’re going to come into Chapel Hill and we’re going to play them,” Martin says. “We can feel sorry for ourselves and get another loss against Boston College or take this loss, learn from it, and get ready for Boston College.”
Saturday’s game against Boston College will kick off at 3:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/moving-forward-players-perspective/
CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heel football team played with passion and fought hard in front of a spirited crowd on hand in Kenan Stadium for Zero Dark Thursday. But it wasn’t enough.
Falling to the Miami Hurricanes 27-23 was a tough pill to swallow for the coaches, players and fans.
“There’s nothing that I’m going to say that’s going to make them feel any better. They’re hurting, our fans are hurting, and everybody’s hurting. Those are hard to swallow. Our guys did everything we asked them to do as far as believing in each other and playing hard to the last second. I’m hurting for them. I really am,” Coach Fedora says.
That was Head Coach Larry Fedora following the game. One of the more questionable plays of the contest came in the second half when Carolina was called for a delay of game on offense on third down and inches to go. Coach Fedora says he is at a loss for what happened there.
“We substituted. They felt like they needed to hold up the ball. You’re supposed to give the team three seconds to be able to substitute, which we felt like we gave them more than three seconds. That was his [referee’s] explanation to me,” Coach Fedora says.
Despite the crushing defeat and final touchdown drive given up to the Miami attack, Coach Fedora says the defense played a strong game overall, snagging four interceptions of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris over the course of the contest.
“It put us in position to win the football game. Any time you create four turnovers you got a chance. Our defense made a lot of plays. I hate to look at it as those two drives in the fourth quarter,” Coach Fedora says.
But make no mistake; Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels will not abandon ship on the season. He hopes to still make something of the season despite the 1-5 record.
“We’re just going to go back to work. We’re going to do what we do. Our kids are going to come back and continue to work hard. And the coaches are going to continue to coach them hard. And we’re going to hopefully build off it and get better,” Coach Fedora says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/coach-fedora-givesthursday-night-reflections/
CHAPEL HILL—The pregame festivities inside Kenan Stadium for Zero dark Thursday certainly set the stage for a prime-time ACC showdown between the struggling 1-4 North Carolina Tar Heels and the undefeated Miami Hurricanes.
The rain falling at the kickoff didn’t seem to put any damper on the mood of the crowd in attendance. There were just a few empty seats in the corners of the stadium.
The Tar Heels received the kickoff and failed to get off to a quick start. A false start penalty didn’t help the cause. But a three and out it was. Tommy Hibbard booted the ball over to the Hurricanes.
Dominique Green provided the first shot of real adrenaline to the contest when he snagged an athletic interception of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris on third down. The Tar Heels were now back in business, taking over possession at their own thirty-eight yard line.
***Listen to the call***
Tailback T.J. Logan gashed the Miami defense up the middle and tight end Eric Ebron made a nice catch to move the Tar Heels down into Miami territory, but quarterback Marquise Williams tossed an interception in the end zone to disappoint the Carolina crowd.
A 59-yard run by Duke Johnson had the Miami offense knocking on the door of the end zone. But senior safety Tre Boston stepped up big time on the goal line, throwing Miami runners for a loss in back-to-back plays to force a field goal for the Hurricanes.
The field goal by Matt Goudis was good and gave the visiting team the early 3-0 lead with 8:45 remaining in the first quarter.
On the next series, Tar Heel quarterback Bryn Renner came up empty yet again when a pass to Sean Tapley on third down came up a yard shy of moving the chains.
Senior Kareem Martin made a nice tackle for a loss along with a quarterback hurry to lead the Tar Heel defense to a nice stop of the Miami attack back on their own side of the field.
Back on offense, Carolina continued to incorporate a quarterback shuffle with Marquise Williams getting numerous snaps. Offensive coordinator Blake Anderson was certainly holding true to his comments earlier in the week on employing Williams’ unique talents more often.
Lightning struck in Kenan. And it was registered by star tight end Eric Ebron. He scampered to the end zone on a 71-yard pass from Marquise Williams. It was Ebron’s longest career touchdown reception. He eluded two tackles and then was off to the races.
The Tar Heels seemed to be building on their momentum. The fans were roaring and the defenders were flying around the field with vigor. But a long bomb by Miami stunned the crowd and put Miami back on the doorstep of a score.
But the Carolina defense stiffened yet again. A Miami field goal put the score at 7-6 in favor of the home team.
Carolina got the ball back, but a controversial no call on some physical defending by a Miami cornerback left the Tar Heels in punt formation.
One of the developing stories on the night was the mounting injuries for the Miami squad. Player after player seemed to be dropping out of the contest. But credit the Tar Heel defense for some tough, physical play.
Carolina was back at work with a few ticks left in the first quarter. And T.J. Logan continued to pound away on the ground, carrying the load, and bringing an end to the first quarter of action on Zero Dark Thursday.
At the close of the first quarter, Ebron already had amassed 101 yards receiving to go along with his touchdown that gave UNC a one point lead at 7-6. Meanwhile, Miami rusher Duke Johnson had tallied 83 yards.
The Tar Heels didn’t waste any time moving the ball down the field to start the second quarter. Renner whistled a perfect ball to a wide open Quinshad Davis to set up a great scoring opportunity inside the Miami 20-yard line. But the Miami defense rose up and forced a long field goal attempt for Carolina.
And disaster struck for the Tar Heels next. A blocked field goal fell into the hands of Miami’s Gunter, and he ran it all the way back to end zone to put the Hurricanes up 13-7 and silence the crowd.
With 12:33 left in the half, the stunned Carolina offense took up the ball now facing a six-point deficit. But the proceedings didn’t seem to faze the Tar Heels as they marched the ball right back down the field on the heels of an explosive 16-yard run by A.J. Blue and some strong passing by senior signal caller Renner.
And the scoring drive was capped off with a pass to Davis for a touchdown. The Tar Heels reclaimed the lead at 14-13 with 9:50 left in the half.
***Listen to the call***
Miami was back in the saddle. And a blown assignment by the Tar Heel secondary on third down gave away a huge chunk of yardage to the Miami offense as Morris connected for a 42-yard completion to Allen Hurns.
But this time it was Tre Boston to the rescue. He picked off Morris to return the ball to Carolina. The Carolina defense was delivering an inspired performance in Chapel Hill and in front of a nationally televised audience.
***Listen to the call***
Back with possession, Marquise Williams picked up fourteen yards on a quarterback keeper to get the Tar Heels moving the ball back down the field in pursuit of another score.
A healthy dose of Logan and Ebron continued to progress the football. And the drive was finished with a successful 25-yard field goal by Thomas Moore.
With the score at 17-13 and 3:26 left in the half, Miami took over once again on offense. And the struggles continued for Hurricane quarterback Morris. A punt was the result of the series.
And the half came to a close with the scoreboard reading in favor of the team in black Nike uniforms. Carolina was ahead going into the locker room, 17-13.
The halftime stats showed why the game was proving to be so tight. The total yardage was almost dead even with Carolina racking up 291 yards and Miami notching 288 of their own. The first downs favored UNC 13-7 and the time of possession edge went to the Tar Heels as well by just over three minutes.
According to ESPN, Ebron’s 144 yard total was the highest yardage accumulated in a half by any tight end in the nation so far this college football season.
Miami got the ball first to start the second half and did a nice job moving into Carolina territory quickly with some timely patterns. But Kareem Martin delivered a massive blow to quarterback Morris to get a sack and force a field goal attempt for the Hurricanes.
And Goudis missed the field goal to keep the score locked at 17-13.
Ebron added a reception that pushed him up to 167 yards. That was good enough for the UNC single game record for yards by a tight end. And boy, the Tar Heels were clicking on all cylinders now.
Ryan Switzer slashed ahead for a quality pick-up. The vaunted Hurricane defense seemed to be back on their heels against the fast-pace offense of the Tar Heels.
A costly pass interference call on Miami handed a first down to Carolina. But the Tar Heels returned the penalty favor with a chop block that set them back 15 yards. Coach Fedora was furious on the sidelines.
Ultimately, it was Thomas Moore trotting onto the field for a 35-yard field goal attempt. And the ball sailed through the uprights to give UNC a 20-13 lead with 6:59 left in the third quarter.
Miami advanced across the fifty yard line in their next series with ease. And again, Morris was able to find an open receiver to convert on a crucial third down to push the Canes deeper into Carolina territory.
But another Miami drive was halted by a pass landing into the wrong team’s hands.
The theme of the night was quickly becoming turnovers. With the interception by UNC’s Norkeithus Otis, the Tar Heels had already totaled up three picks on the evening. The crowd was going wild with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
***Listen to the call***
T.J. Logan continued his fine play on the ensuing Tar Heel drive, surging ahead for first down yardage. The Tar Heels were slicing and dicing down the field playing at warp speed and mixing it up well. Renner even carried the ball himself for some extra yardage.
The decibel level at the end of the third quarter was deafening inside Kenan Stadium. The crowd could sense an upset with their team now looking to stretch the lead. And the Tar Heel sideline was filled with spirit and passion now heading into the final 15 minutes of the contest.
The 12-play, 76-yard drive stalled out, but another Moore field goal was critical, placing UNC up by more than a touchdown at 23-13.
There was still plenty of time left in this one, however. But Miami knew they needed to make something happen soon. And they played like it, zipping their way down inside the Carolina red zone.
Dallas Crawford bashed his way in for the touchdown to narrow the gap to three points with 11:29 to play. That was a statement drive for the Hurricanes.
The pressure was squarely back on Carolina’s shoulders. How would Bryn Renner handle it?
With a three and out. Hibbard punted the ball back into the hands of the surging men from Miami.
And would you believe it? Another interception for the Tar Heels makes it four on the night. Dominique Green grabbed this one to set UNC’s offense back up for a chance at more points.
T.J. Thorpe tight-roped his way up the sidelines to pick up big yardage. But Renner returned the favor by throwing an interception of his own to give the ball right back to Miami. The game was quickly turning into a game of hot potato. No one seemed to want to hold on to the ball.
With 7:59 left on the clock, Miami was unable to do anything with the ball. And it was Carolina’s ball again with the game hanging in the balance.
A rough delay of game penalty on Carolina eliminated their third and short. And a play later, Renner was sacked by a swarming Miami defense.
Hibbard launched the ball a whopping 54 yards to pin Miami back inside their own 10-yard line with 4:11 left in the Thursday night affair.
But the Hurricanes put together a methodical drive right down the throats of the Tar Heel defense. And with 1:40 remaining in the contest, Miami had the ball at the Carolina 36-yard line.
The tension was palpable in Kenan Stadium as the Tar Heels took a timeout with 53 ticks left on the clock to get set for a third and three for Miami.
Miami bashed ahead for the first down and then Morris completed a touchdown to Waters to get inside the 12 yard line of Carolina. And with the drama building, Miami Head Coach Al Golden called a time out with 25 seconds to go.
Miami scored the go-ahead touchdown to claim a 27-23 lead with 16 seconds left to go in the game.
But the Tar Heels didn’t go down without a fight. Eric Ebron hauled in a long pass to give Carolina a sniff at the end zone to end the game.
And that’s the way it ended. Miami escaped with the win. And the Tar Heels were left shaking their heads, dropping to 1-5.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/almost-magic-tar-heels-lose-miami-tussle/
CHAPEL HILL– The wait is over. It’s time. All the hype and anticipation feeds into the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes rolling into Chapel Hill to take on the struggling 1-4 Tar Heels Thursday night.
Yes, the Tar Heels beat Miami a year ago, but that contest seems like ancient history with the way the season has unfolded.
But Head Coach Larry Fedora says he has liked what he’s seen out of the team in practice all week.
“We’ve had a great week of practice. We came in on Sunday in practice, that was our Tuesday practice, and that was our big work day. And then yesterday and today was a polish day. I thought we moved around really well,” Coach Fedora says.
Despite his belief that the offense is beginning to run smoother in practice and really gel as a unit, Coach Fedora says until he sees it during live game action, it’s all for show.
“You got to go do it. You got to go do it in a game. That’s the thing. You have to overcome the mistakes you make. You’re going to make some mistakes. That’s going to happen and you have to overcome them,” Coach Fedora says.
In order to pull out an upset victory Thursday night, Coach Fedora says he knows his team cannot afford to commit the penalties they’ve been racking up all season, especially those silly mistakes that come pre-snap and post-snap.
“You got to play smart. When you’re having as many penalties as we’ve had, you’re just not playing smart. […] The pre-snap and post-snap penalties, those are stupid mistakes,” Coach Fedora says.
Yes, Miami presents enormous challenges for the Tar Heels. But Coach Fedora says he’s been focusing on cleaning up his own team’s act more than worrying about the top-ten team Carolina is facing.
“I have to tell you we put more emphasis on ourselves, trying to correct the mistakes that we’ve made, and the things that are keeping us from being a good football team,” Coach Fedora says.
Well, Zero Dark Thursday is upon us. And senior safety Tre Boston hopes the atmosphere is “ridiculous” inside Kenan Stadium.
“It’s an opportunity for us to go “blackout.” I don’t think Kenan’s ever done this before. We’re trying to get fans involved in this to help us and get an atmosphere that is ridiculous. I know our fans can do it. It’s been sold out. That’s what it means to us to get fans involved and get their emotions in here,” Boston says.
And that atmosphere will start to build when WCHL’s pregame coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. Thursday live from Ram’s Plaza and Franklin Street for Tar Heel Downtown. Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/coach-fedora-tre-boston-embracing-thursday-night-spotlight/
CHAPEL HILL– The finishing touches are being applied over at Navy Field practice facility for the Tar Heels’ encounter with No. 10 Miami on Zero Dark Thursday.
The “blacked out” crowd will be hoping for an inspired performance out of senior signal caller Bryn Renner as he returns to the starting position. Renner says he’s ready to go and fired up to find some holes in the physical Hurricane defense.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win. So I think we’ve added some different stuff in the game plan-trying to get a read on Miami’s defense. Any advantage can help,” Renner says.
Renner says he still remembers the wild Chapel Hill night atmosphere when the Tar Heels last hosted a Thursday night contest way back in his freshman year. And Renner says he is excited about another opportunity in his final season in UNC uniform.
“It’s huge. You dream of these games as a kid. We’ve luckily had two of them. The whole Town of Chapel Hill is going to be rocking. We’re ready to go. We’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Renner says.
Senior offensive lineman James Hurst says the team seems to primed and ready for the showdown. He says the pressure is off, and his teammates are looking forward to matching the intensity and energy of a top ten team.
“We’re excited about it. You get a team like Miami that has all this hype and these great players on defense, and they’re undefeated. They’re coming to our place in a night game. We’re excited about it. We know that they are going to bring it, and we’re going to bring it right back to them and hopefully establish ourselves,” Hurst says.
Coach Fedora says he has been keeping things simple lately, preaching the need to be 1-0 following the Miami contest.
“The only goal that we’re focused on right now is being 1-0. That’s it,” Coach Fedora says.
One of the scariest aspects of Miami’s attack is their ability to throw the ball deep. That, along with their improved offensive line will make life difficult on the Tar Heels, Coach Fedora says.
“They can throw the ball down the field. Their offensive line is tremendously improved. They’ve had success running the ball and being physical up front. But they’re going to throw the ball down the field, and they have a couple guys that can really go,” Coach Fedora says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/thursday-night-throwdown-seniors-hope-to-seize-the-moment/
CHAPEL HILL– Miami Head football coach Al Golden says he is eager to bring his undefeated Hurricanes up to Chapel Hill Thursday for the Coastal division showdown.
***Listen to the interview***
In a chat with Coach Golden this week, he says the Tar Heels are a dangerous threat to his team, especially with the up-tempo style Coach Fedora presents.
“They play at warp-speed on offense. They got a big-time tight end. I think the offensive line is getting better every week, and they’re physical. Their signal caller is as good as there is in the league,” Coach Golden says.
Earlier this season, the Hurricanes out-muscled a rugged Florida Gators squad to gain an added boost of confidence that seems to have Miami playing at a different level these days, void of miscues.
But Coach Golden says his team remembers well the loss they took on their home field to Carolina a year ago and they’ll be out for some revenge this Thursday against many of the same players.
“They did a great job last year holding us to fourteen points. They had a lot of guys who made plays and were active. And a lot of those same guys are back this year,” Coach Golden says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/acc/coach-golden-hurricanes-understand-tar-heel-threat/
CHAPEL HILL – We’re now just two days out from Zero Dark Thursday and a showdown with the Hurricanes of Miami. And the growing excitement is certainly palpable at Carolina football practice this week.
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says as much as he would like to think his coaching will make a difference Thursday night; it’s ultimately up to the mindset and execution of the players on the big stage.
“You can chase them around and try to lead them out here as best you can, but it boils down to whether or not they really want to do it,” Coach Koenning says.
The rough 1-4 start to the season presents a tedious situation for the Tar Heels teetering on the edge of irrelevancy. In the face of this reality, Coach Koenning says he has been emphasizing consistency and upping the speed of play for his defenders in practice.
“I’m just trying to consistently hold them accountable. We’re trying to go fast and play faster. And we’re doing more things in practice to kind of try and speed up the pace to make them think on the run,” Coach Koenning says.
The Carolina secondary has been torched for huge yardage in numerous games this season. And that’s a scary trend heading into the match-up against Miami. Coach Koenning says the Tar Heels are bracing themselves for the wide open aerial assault of “The Pass Central.”
According to Koenning’s count, Miami throws for fifty or sixty yard bombs regularly over the course of a contest.
A year ago, UNC walked out of Sun Life Stadium with an 18-14 victory. But Coach Koenning says he knows his boys will be facing a more confident Miami team this year, firing on all cylinders.
“I think they weren’t the confident football team that they’ve developed into. […] They played fanatical, played very aggressive, and outhit Florida. They’re an extremely confident football team,” Coach Koenning says.
Not to completely forget about the offensive side of things, the X-factor Thursday may be the dynamic play of quarterback Marquise Williams. And Offensive coordinator Blake Anderson says he’s not holding back with his play calling.
“When he [Williams] sees the field in the future, we’re going to let the playbook be a little more open and let him utilize every aspect of what we do to create the most stress for the defense that we can,” Coach Anderson says.
That wide-open mindset on offense should only add to the excitement in Chapel Hill on Thursday.