On The Eve Of College Football

CHAPEL HILL – We’re on the eve of one of the biggest Tar Heel football games in recent memory. Yes, the interstate battle against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina squad commences tomorrow on ESPN at 6 p.m.

And despite very few pundits giving North Carolina much of a chance against the top ten ranked SEC school to the south, senior offensive tackle James Hurst says the Tar Heels are ready to turn some heads on Thursday.

“We understand what’s at stake. We understand how big of an opportunity we have and what kind of stage we are going to be on. It’s increased the excitement level. All the guys are ready for this game, they want to show out on the national stage,” Hurst said.

The bulk of the pressure of stopping the dynamic South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be put on Hurst’s shoulders, and he says he is prepared for the challenge.

“It’s definitely a lot of film study. I definitely look at him as much as I can. I look on their defense as much as I can, trying to get any tips or anything like that so I can give myself the mental edge,” Hurst said.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, unheralded red shirt freshman Jon Heck will be starting alongside the veteran Hurst on the offensive line. The understandably nervous Heck says he is looking to stay focused and not panic in his first start for the Tar Heels.

And how will young Jon Heck and his Carolina teammates handle the Richter-scale registering noise from the 80,000+ ravenous South Carolina fans packed into Williams-Brice Stadium? Heck says the Tar Heels have a plan in place.

“They blast the music out here at practice. That’s going to be a big factor, especially when we are calling plays at the line. I’m going to have to hold hands with my guard in case I can’t hear the snap count from the center and just stay focused,” Heck said.

Heck says he senses his team is fired up and ready for this statement game. He says Carolina must beat a team of this caliber to prove they belong at the upper echelons of the college game.

“I think the statement we’re trying to make is that we can hang with these top ten teams and that we are one of the best teams in the country,” Heck said.


Spurrier, Gamecocks Looking for SEC Title

Courtesy Getty Images

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – It’s easy to tell that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes this is his best chance in nine seasons to win the Southeastern Conference title: He’s upped the wisecracks and toned down the hype for the Gamecocks and All-American Jadeveon Clowney.

Spurrier has rarely missed a chance to take a jab at in-state rival Clemson this offseason. He also abruptly closed fall camp to the public after three days because of what he decided was too many cellphone snoops and autograph hounds fixated on the SEC’s reigning defensive player of the year.

The clincher was when video went viral of Clowney flipping a two-man tackling sled with Gerald Dixon at the team’s opening workout Aug. 2. Spurrier quipped it’s time to focus on all the Gamecocks and not just Clowney.


Counting Down To Kick-Off Against The Gamecocks

Picture Courtesy Go Heels

CHAPEL HILL – The anticipation is building as UNC football’s season opener against South Carolina on Thursday, August 29, draws closer. It’s the opening act for the college football season, kicking off at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.

The contest, happening in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, will mark the 56th meeting on the gridiron between the two schools and the first since 2007.

UNC Head coach Larry Fedora joined South Carolina’s Sports Talk Radio Show for a friendly chat about facing the Gamecocks and how he feels his Heels will stack-up.

“We understand that it will be a hostile environment down there in Columbia. The Gamecocks fans will be ready. We understand the task at hand,” Fedora said.

In Fedora’s first year with Carolina (8-4, 5-3 in the ACC) last season, his team set school records in scoring and total offense, won eight games, and could have claimed a division title if it weren’t for lingering NCAA sanctions.

Fedora also ushered in a new era of no-huddle spread offense for the Tar Heels and shattered previous school records with 487 points scored and 40.6 points averaged per game. At the helm was quarterback Bryn Renner, now a senior, back to lead the high-scoring offensive attack.

“He just got better as the year went on so I’d say that last five games, he did a great job for us. Then he picked up this spring right where he left off. We expect big things out of him this season,” Fedora said.

The question of who will fill Giovanni Bernard’s big shoes remains. The No. 37 NFL Draft pick averaged 6.7 yards per carry on his way to 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground for the Tar Heels in 2012.

Fedora says he feels confident about the options he has. Senior AJ Blue and Sophomore Romar Morris have the experience. True freshman Khris Francis was one of the biggest surprises of UNC’S Spring Game. The early enrollee from Hillside High School in Durham topped both Blue and Morris in the game with 101 yards on 20 carries. Fellow freshman TJ Logan might make things even more interesting. Logan scored eight touchdowns and rushed for more than 500 hundred yards for Northern Guilford High School’s victory in the 3-A state championship game this past season.

“We’re excited about what he brings to the table. I really feel pretty good about all four of those guys. It’s going to be interesting to see who decides they want to be the man,” Fedora said.

South Carolina finished the 2012 season with an 11-2 record, a victory in the Outback Bowl, and a No. 8 national ranking. The Gamecocks also have Jadeveon Clowney, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. That’s one of the reasons Fedora is not taking anything for granted.

“We’re scared to death of them. You got that defensive end that’s All-World and is a great player. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Fedora said.

The two programs, which used to play regularly, have not met since 2007 when South Carolina won in Chapel Hill by a 21-15 count. The Gamecocks have won four of the last five contests since1988.

UNC holds a 14-9-1 advantage in games played in Columbia, and also holds a 34-18-4 advantage in the all-time series.