Coach Fedora Relishing UNC-ECU Rivalry, Chance for Revenge

Game week is back for the Carolina football team. And with a trip down to Greenville to face East Carolina in Pirate country on tap for Saturday, head coach Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels know they will have to be at their best to emerge with a victory and improve to 3-0 on the season.

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The open bye week gave the UNC coaching staff the opportunity to go back to the basics and preach the fundamentals. The Tar Heels were sloppy with penalties, defensive assignments and tackles for large portions of their wins in the opening two contests.

Coach Fedora says he thought his team, loaded with an infusion of freshmen and sophomores, profited greatly from the refresher courses in practice at Navy Field.

“It’s an opportunity for them to get more reps and hopefully, become more comfortable. When it will slow down for them, I don’t know. Last year, it took a while for all those young kids. I don’t know when that will take place for them. But I thought it was good to have the open week at this point. It gave us some time to get back to the fundamentals,” Coach Fedora says.

But the tune-up time is over. Game week is in full swing for the Tar Heels.

The Pirates are coming off an impressive 28-21 upset over the then-No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies at Blacksburg – a place few opponents walk out of on the right side of the scoreboard.

The ECU Pirates knocked off No. 17 Virginia Tech last Saturday. (ECU Athletics)

The ECU Pirates knocked off No. 17 Virginia Tech last Saturday. (ECU Athletics)

So with an in-state rivalry contest against an in-form opponent upcoming in a hostile environment, Carolina will no doubt face a stern test. Coach Fedora says the regional matchups featuring ravenous fan bases only add to the excitement.

“When you’re talking about an in-state team, the good part about it is the regional rivalry. The fans love it – both sides. They don’t like the other side,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora and Lucas Crowley (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora and Lucas Crowley (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora says game weeks like these are what make college football so special.

“That’s good for college football. I think it’s good. It gives your fans something to talk about all year. It’s something to talk about up to the game and after the game. I think it’s a good thing,” Coach Fedora says.

Saturday will offer a chance at some sweet revenge for the Tar Heels. A season ago, Carolina suffered a humiliating 55-31 home loss in Chapel Hill.

Coach Fedora says he doesn’t have to remind his team about last year’s debacle in Kenan Stadium.

“You really don’t have to say anything. These guys don’t forget things like that. I’m sure in a lot of their minds; it will be a factor for them. It will be something that internally motivates them. But then you have other guys who are playing that had nothing to do with the game. It’s a game to them,” Coach Fedora says.

After opening their season in the cozy comforts of home, the schedule turns tough for the Tar Heels, with five of their next seven games coming on the road.

As Coach Fedora always says, UNC will be taking it one step at time, just trying to go 1-0 each week. But given last year, if Carolina is somehow able to go 1-0 at the end of play on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, it may feel more like two wins for the price of one.

UNC Men’s Soccer Takes Over No. 1 In CSN Poll

The UNC men’s soccer team surpassed the only team it has fallen to this season and now sits in the top spot in the nation, according to a recent poll.

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College Soccer News ranked North Carolina No. 1 in the nation Monday after its 3-0 ACC win against Pittsburgh on Friday in Chapel Hill.

That win propelled the Tar Heels past the former No. 1, UCLA Bruins, who the Heels lost to, 1-0 in the Carolina Nike Classic on August 31.

The Bruins’ recent scoring woes helped contribute to the shift: UCLA is coming off a pair of 0-0 ties to Santa Clara and Cal Poly over the weekend.

Notre Dame held the No. 2 spot before Monday’s poll but fell to No. 4 after a 1-0 loss to Kentucky last Monday. Washington sits in the No. 3 spot, moving up two; Virginia rounds out the top five falling one spot.

The Tar Heels are back on the road and out of conference play Tuesday against William and Mary. That game can be seen on NSCAATV with the kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

UNC Making The Most of Bye Week

The No. 25 North Carolina football team won’t have to game plan for an opponent on Saturday, but the Tar Heels have been working hard nonetheless in their bye week. For some players, that means a chance to get back fully fit, while for others it provides the opportunity to hone their skills.

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Junior wide receiver T.J. Thorpe has been sidelined with a left ankle injury so far this season, but Thorpe says he’s taking it all in stride and knows his return to competition is not all under his control.

“At this point, it’s nothing to worry about. It’s out of my hands. I’m a big person of faith. It’s God’s will. If He wants me to continue to play, I’m going to play. If not, I’ll know it,” Thorpe says.

WR T.J. Thorpe hauls in a  TD pass (Elliott Rubin)

WR T.J. Thorpe hauls in a TD pass (Elliott Rubin)

But with the bye week aiding the healing of his ankle, Thorpe is harboring hopes of lining up with the Tar Heel offense next weekend at East Carolina.

“I don’t know what Coach Fedora has to say, but for me personally, I have every intention of playing against ECU. I told the staff that it’s my goal. Hopefully, that will be attainable,” Thorpe says.

Despite the obvious frustration of not being able to help his team with his athletic prowess on the field,  Thorpe has been contributing in other ways.

Thorpe was credited by multiple players after the San Diego State win for his encouraging words on the sidelines and for rallying the team to lift its level when trailing to the Aztecs. Head coach Larry Fedora, for one, certainly took notice.

“If you watch film, watch T.J. Thorpe and those guys on that sideline, they sweated through everything they had. They were energetic and pumped up on that sideline. They were doing everything they could possibly do to help their teammates. I’m really proud of the way they responded and what they did throughout the game,” Coach Fedora says.

One of the sliver linings resulting from Thorpe’s injury may be the emergence of sophomore receiver Mack Hollins, who has carded a touchdown in each of the first two games in 2014.

Coach Fedora says Hollins is now an integral component of the UNC offense.

“The guy can make plays for us all the time. He’s really come on. He understands everything, so we can put him in a lot of different places to help us out. Mack is going to help us all year,” Coach Fedora says.

Sophomore center Lucas Crowley says the open week has allowed his teammates to perfect their responsibilities and become a more cohesive unit.

“These two weeks is going to help. It gives us an extra seven days to be able to go over the film and look at what each guy is doing – what blitz they are going to do and what they show. It will help out a lot,” Crowley says.

UNC O-linemen Caleb Peterson and John Ferranto team up with TE Jack Tabb on the strong side. (Elliott Rubin)

UNC O-linemen Caleb Peterson and John Ferranto team up with TE Jack Tabb on the strong side. (Elliott Rubin)

Crowley says the most growth on the UNC offensive line has come from a leadership standpoint. He says everybody now recognizes the vital role they play.

“Leadership is starting to come along. In the beginning at camp, everybody’s looking at Landon [Turner], because he’s the most experienced guy. But now, everybody is starting to realize that we can’t just rely on Landon. Landon’s even telling us that sometimes he needs us. Everybody’s stepping up,” Crowley says.

The Tar Heels certainly know they’ll need to step up when they hit the road to face the ECU Pirates next weekend.

Anson Dorrance, Tar Heels ‘Defending the Legacy’ in 2014

The tenth-ranked North Carolina women’s soccer team, 3-2-1 on the season, still has a ways to go to climb to the national championship-winning level head coach Anson Dorrance is so accustomed to. But no matter the year, the end goal remains the same for the Tar Heels.

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“We’re starting to get honed. We’re starting to figure things out. A lot of the young kids we’re playing are starting to get it together. I know where we can be. I don’t think this will be a finished product even by NCAA Tournament time, but we’re going to be a handful,” Coach Dorrance says.

The freshman and sophomore-laden Tar Heel roster has had to grow up quick with a schedule that is as usual, brutally tough with ranked foe after ranked foe lining up hungry to take down the most storied program in women’s college soccer.

Carolina huddles up (UNC Athletics)

Carolina huddles up (UNC Athletics)

Coach Dorrance has talked about ‘defending the legacy’, and that’s exactly the pressure that faces this year’s bunch of Tar Heels.

With injuries and unexpected departures, Coach Dorrance says his squad has to overcome the obstacles and fight past them.

“We thought we were only going to lose six – the six that signed pro contracts. We didn’t expect to lose Caitlyn Ball, our starting center back. We lost her against WakeForest with a concussion. Then we lost basically my best returning player in Alexa Newfield. All of a sudden, we’re staggering through all kinds of things. […] We’re trying to ham-and-egg a unit,” Coach Dorrance says.

But there’s good news for UNC. According to Coach Dorrance, they’ve already faced, by far, their toughest competition, and in that stern test out at UCLA, the Tar Heels battled their way to a scoreless draw.

“It’s going to be hard for teams to score against us. We certainly saw that out of UCLA. That’s the best college team I have ever played against in my career – the UCLA team we played this year out at UCLA. They played wonderful soccer. But for the grace of god, they could have beaten us. We were dodging bullets,” Coach Dorrance says.

Last weekend, Carolina downed a pair of ranked opponents at the Duke Nike Classic. Coach Dorrance says he’s beginning to see the pieces come together for his team, but they’ll need to continue to progress offensively to truly contend.

Summer Green - 2013 NCAA First Round - Courtesy: Jeffrey A. Camarati

Summer Green – 2013 NCAA First Round – Courtesy: Jeffrey A. Camarati

“You could see some pieces. Jessie Scarpa is a special player. I think if we could get her into a position where she can attack for us, I think we’re going to be more of an offensive threat. I think I know where we can go. I think we can be a lot better. This was the emergence this weekend,” Coach Dorrance says.

The strong points for Carolina come from the defense and the depth. In fact, Coach Dorrance says he’s comfortable going 17 deep in his roster without much of a noticeable drop-off in play.

“Our depth is legit. We can literally go 16, 17 players deep. And there’s not that big of a difference between player 17 and player 11. They’re pretty close. You can see that when we sub. The subs basically won the game for us [vs. Arkansas]. We scored with all of our reserves on the field,” Coach Dorrance says.

The Tar Heels have some time to evaluate the season so far and shore up the offensive attack before returning to the pitch to take on ACC rival and national powerhouse Notre Dame Saturday, Sept. 20.

Tar Heel Jamie Loeb Claims American Collegiate Invitational

Carolina women’s tennis phenom Jamie Loeb is continuing her dominant form into her sophomore year at Chapel Hill. Most recently, Loeb collected some more hardware at the American Collegiate Invitational, held at the site of the U.S. Open.

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UNC All-American Loeb was thrilled to add the inaugural American Collegiate Invitational title to her ever-expanding trophy case last Saturday.

Loeb says the new tournament is a wonderful experience for top college players to get a taste of the U.S. Open experience at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

“I’m really excited and really proud to be the first one to win this tournament. It’s a great experience and awesome how they’ve provided this tournament for collegiate players, giving us more awareness and opportunities,” Loeb says.

Loeb with the trophy (UNC Athletics)

Loeb with the trophy (UNC Athletics)

The local product turned Tar Heel waltzed through the field without dropping a set and beat an in-conference ACC rival in Virginia junior Julia Elbaba in the final match.

But Loeb says the match was a difficult one, featuring a 7-5 first set that took over an hour to complete.

“In the first set, I was struggling a little bit. Physically, I was getting tired. The heat was getting to me a little bit. But I knew I had to power through. Overall, it was pretty tough for both of us,” Loeb says.

The Invitational included eight men and eight women selected from the best players from across the nation. The winners in both divisions are guaranteed a wild card into the qualifying draw of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Jamie Loeb (

Jamie Loeb (

Loeb has that to look forward to next summer, but for now, she’s just enjoying her latest achievement. She says it’s special to have so much support from family and friends.

“I’m so happy all my family, coaches and friends could be here. It was awesome having their support. The crowd got behind both of us. It was awesome in general. I’m really happy everyone was here,” Loeb says.

As for the Tar Heels, they’ll get their fall season underway this weekend in the Ranked +1 Tournament held at the Cary Tennis Park from Sept. 12-14.

With top-ranked Loeb and another four of her teammates all listed in the preseason ITA rankings, Carolina figures to have a legitimate chance for a run at a national championship that just eluded their grasp a year ago in a 4-3 loss to UCLA in the title match.

Coach Fedora: UNC Getting Back to Fundamentals in Bye Week

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora is glad his Tar Heels are 2-0, but knows there’s a need for improvement with a tough schedule looming after the bye week. For now, the Carolina skipper is preaching fundamentals on the practice field in the hope that the talented Tar Heels can crack their untapped potential.

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Missed tackles and blown assignments plagued the Carolina defense Saturday night against San Diego State.

In lieu of the erratic play, Coach Fedora says the team will be spending some extra time shoring up the basics this week.

“That [sloppiness] concerns you, it always does. We’ll have to go back to the fundamentals this week. When I say that, it does not mean that we haven’t been practicing fundamentals, it just means that we have to go back and really work hard on the fundamentals,” Coach Fedora says.

Ryan Switzer gets the handoff for the Tar Heels (Elliott Rubin)

Ryan Switzer gets the handoff  Marquise Williams (Elliott Rubin)

Despite the sloppiness, Coach Fedora says he’s most pleased with the fighting spirit he’s observed in his team two weeks into the young season.

“We made enough plays to win the game. Our guys made the plays when we had to make the plays. I give our team credit for how they persevered throughout the game. They were positive and had great energy on the sideline. There were a lot of guys that were frustrated, but they fought and fought until we got it done,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half against the Aztecs and trailed Liberty in the opening week of play before turning it on in the third quarter.

Junior starting quarterback Marquise Williams leads UNC in rushing yards up to this point in the season. But with a talented stable of running backs that includes sophomore T.J. Logan and freshman Elijah Hood, Coach Fedora says that needs to change.

“Anytime we can run the football, we are going to be a better football team. We weren’t having success in that first half [vs. SDSU] running the football,” Coach Fedora says.

Slow first half starts, especially by the offense, have become an issue for this UNC squad, but Coach Fedora says he’d rather the guys play their best brand of football in the latter stages of the game than the other way around.

“That’s not concerning for me. I think that’s a great thing. We played our best ball when we were down. I would much rather have it that way than the other way. There are going to be some times when we are going to be in that situation, and I know how this team is going to respond. We’ll get better on the front end. We’ll get better,” Coach Fedora says.

There isn’t a more opportune time to get better than in the bye week. With no opponent to worry about this Saturday, the Tar Heels are afforded the chance to focus on themselves.

“We’re not where we want to be right now. But we’re 2-0. We’re going into an open week. We can get some guys healed up and continue to get better in all three phases. We haven’t even got close to our potential,” Coach Fedora says.

Not close. Not yet. But an open week spent addressing core issues and weaknesses may do wonders for a UNC team that has scraped its way to a 2-0 mark, but has slid down to No. 25 in the most recent coaches’ poll and dropped out altogether of the AP rankings.

Tar Heels Feeding Off Electricity, Energy of Kenan Fans

UNC head coach Larry Fedora and players were quick to point out the impact of the rowdy crowd that generated a true home-field advantage inside a striped-out Kenan Stadium Saturday night in the Tar Heels’ 31-27 comeback win over the San Diego State Aztecs.

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“I want to congratulate the crowd and our student section, the Tar Pit. That was an unbelievable atmosphere. They did a tremendous job throughout the entire game. Our guys fed off that the entire game. We needed every single person that was in those stands. With as much yelling they did, I know they’re worn out just like our guys are worn out. I really appreciate the effort they gave tonight with that atmosphere,” Coach Fedora says.

The crowd noise made an impact from the get-go with SDSU having to burn a timeout on the very first series on a big third down and eight.

And it didn’t stop there. Delay of game penalties and false starts plagued the Aztec offense all night, likely in large part thanks to the 58,000-plus strong in attendance screaming their lungs out, decked out in perfectly coordinated Carolina blue and black attire in alternating sections to achieve the impressive stripe out effect.

Kenan Stadium Stripe Out (UNC Athletics)

Kenan Stadium Stripe Out (UNC Athletics)

Even when the UNC play on the field was giving the fans little to cheer about for much of the first half, the crowd hung in there, never abandoning the cause. And they were rewarded for their loyalty.

The roars reached a crescendo following the game-clinching interception in the end zone by senior safety Tim Scott in the waning seconds of the contest. Kenan Stadium erupted.

Turnovers have been a major story to the season so far for Carolina. Through two games, the Tar Heels have already forced nine turnovers, five of them interceptions.

But a big contributor to those takeaways has to be the disruptive nature of the home fans. It’s a symbiotic relationship – the crowd feeds off the big plays by the defense, and the defense is fired up by the energy produced from the stands.

Coach Fedora says the turnovers were the difference in the ballgame.

“The defense created three takeaways. They scored one of them and took one down to the 15-yard line. That was the difference in the game. They created those turnovers,” Coach Fedora says.

Scott says he could feel the electricity in the air and credits the fans for willing the Tar Heels over the finish line.

“The crowd was amazing. They definitely beat Miami’s game last year. They were giving us energy throughout the whole game. At times, we weren’t feeding off it. We weren’t playing as good. But towards the end of the game, I felt like we were feeding off their energy, and it was getting us excited and ready to play,” Scott says.

Junior quarterback Marquise Williams, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, says the 2-0 start gives the team a ton of momentum heading into the bye week followed by a shot at revenge at East Carolina Sept. 20.

“It gives us a lot [of momentum]. We’re going into a big doghouse in two weeks at ECU. It’s going to be crazy packed and be unbelievable. We aren’t going to relax on this bye week. We’re going to practice Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A lot of guys think we should get off, but I think we should keep battling and keep going to get what we deserve,” Williams says.

The line of scrimmage (Elliott Rubin)

The line of scrimmage (Elliott Rubin)

But that next hurdle on the road in Greenville can wait for now.

The passion and hunger for a winner was palpable in the Tar Pit Saturday night. And what’s more, the Tar Heel faithful – students, alumni and fans – got just that – a memorable win they all had a hand in.

But the biggest positive for Coach Fedora, who has been on a crusade to ‘change the football culture’ at Carolina since he was hired in 2011, is that all those in attendance for the memorable triumph over the Aztecs were thoroughly entertained. They’ll be back

Tar Heels Conquer Aztecs With 31-27 Comeback Stripe Out Win

The No. 21 North Carolina football team rallied from a 24-14 fourth quarter deficit to down San Diego State 31-27 and improve to 2-0 on the season in a raucous atmosphere inside Kenan Stadium Saturday night.

With the loss, the Aztecs fell to 1-1 on the season.

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Senior safety Tim Scott sealed the UNC victory with an athletic interception of Aztec senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler in the end zone in the waning seconds that held up after review and sealed the comeback victory.

Some more inspired defensive play came from cornerback Brian Walker, who snagged two interceptions and scored a touchdown, the Tar Heels were able to stave off a game effort by the tricky Aztecs.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says he wasn’t happy with the overall play of his team, but obviously pleased to come out with the win heading into the bye week.

“We got a win, that’s about all I can say. We’ll learn a lot of things from this game. We made enough mistakes to lose the game, but we made enough plays to win the game,” Coach Fedora says.

***Listen to Larry Fedora’s postgame remarks***

After a mere 108 total offensive yards in the first half, the Tar Heels racked up 103 yards in the third quarter alone to turn the tide of the game.

And when the Tar Heels responded with a 91-yard touchdown heave from Williams to sophomore Mack Hollins, the comeback was on. The electric play was the longest completed pass for a Carolina player in the history at Kenan Stadium.

A 2-yard touchdown smash for freshman running back Elijah Hood handed him his first career touchdown and pushed the Tar Heels ahead for good at 28-27 with 8:01 to play.

The Tar Pit loves UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer (Elliott Rubin)

The Tar Pit loves UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer (Elliott Rubin)


The crowd noise made an impact early on with SDSU having to burn a time out on the very first series on third down and eight. But the Aztecs recovered to drive the ball down the field with methodical precision. A costly holding penalty and an aggressive hit by UNC junior ram Ryan Mangum halted the drive and kept the Aztecs off the scoreboard with 7:14 remaining in the first quarter.

The Tar Heel defense continued to build momentum in the early going, forcing a three and out from the Aztecs with 1:22 left in the first quarter. But the UNC offense failed to score despite moving the ball successfully. For the first time in 10 contests, the Tar Heels failed to put points on the board in the first quarter as the game was locked at zero.

The Aztecs burst out of gates in the second quarter with a 29-yard dash down the middle of the field by Chase Price to get into UNC’s side of the field. But a few plays later, with the Aztecs knocking on the door of the end zone, the script was reversed.

Sophomore cornerback Brian Walker turned an interception into a touchdown on a 100-yard return that electrified the fans and pushed the Tar Heels out to a 7-0 lead with 10:52 remaining before halftime. It was only the third over 100-yard interception return for a touchdown recorded in Carolina football history.

But the Aztecs answered right back. A 56-yard throw from senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler to receiver Eric Judge tied the game at 7-7 with 9:38 on the second quarter clock.

A gift from Carolina followed soon after. An interception thrown by redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky handed the ball back to the Aztecs at the UNC 29-yard line. SDSU capitalized with another touchdown, a 12-yard run by Donnel Pumphrey to give the visiting team a 14-7 advantage with 7:08 left in the first half.

The line of scrimmage (Elliott Rubin)

The line of scrimmage (Elliott Rubin)

The fine special teams play of SDSU kept the Carolina offense playing on its own side of the field despite a couple three and outs deep in their own territory. And at intermission, SDSU held a 14-7 edge over the Tar Heels.

The UNC offense came out of the locker room with a revived sense of urgency. After marching it down the field though, kicker Thomas Moore missed a 41-yard field goal attempt to kill potential momentum.

A massive 59-yard strike thrown by Kaehler got the Aztecs back in business at the Carolina 22-yard line at 11:09 in the third quarter. The 7-play, 76-yard scoring drive was capped off by a touchdown run by Pumprey to push the Aztecs ahead 21-7 with 9:13 on the third quarter clock.

With their backs against the wall, the UNC offense came alive. A diverse array of play-calling and a clutch fourth down conversion on a Williams keeper kept the drive alive. And with 4:40 remaining in he third quarter, an 11-yard touchdown reception by junior Quinshad Davis closed the gap down to 21-14. It was Davis’ 16th career touchdown reception.

To open the fourth quarter, the Aztecs polished off a scoring drive with a 49-yard field goal from junior kicker Donny Hageman.

But the Tar Heels responded with a lightning strike of their own – a 91-yard touchdown heave from Williams to sophomore Mack Hollins. The play was the longest completed pass for a Carolina player in the history at Kenan Stadium.

A 40-yard field goal from the cannon leg of Hageman regained some momentum for the Aztecs and pushed SDSU out to a 27-21 advantage with 10:30 remaining.

Next, it was Carolina’s turn. A 2-yard touchdown smash for freshman running back Elijah Hood handed him his first career touchdown and pushed the Tar Heels ahead 28-27 with 8:01 to play.

With under six minutes remaining, Brian Walker’s interception for UNC put Williams and the UNC offense on the doorstep of another score. With 4 minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels led 31-27 after a Nick Weiler successful field goal.

UNC defenders Des Lawrence and Shakeel Rashad  (Elliott Rubin)

UNC defenders Des Lawrence and Shakeel Rashad (Elliott Rubin)

The Aztecs marched the ball down inside the Tar Heel red zone on their final possession, but with the clock winding down, senior safety Tim Scott slid in front of his receiver and picked the ball off to seal the comeback win for the Tar Heels.

Next up for the Tar Heels following a bye week is a trip down to Greenville to face the East Carolina Pirates Sept. 20.


No. 21 Tar Heels Brace for Chaotic, Speedy Aztec Assault Saturday

The No. 21 North Carolina football team enters Saturday hoping to start a season 2-0 for the first time under head coach Larry Fedora when the Tar Heels welcome the 1-0 San Diego State Aztecs to Kenan Stadium for an 8 p.m. kickoff under the lights.

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The caliber of opponent is about to get a lot tougher Saturday for the Tar Heels.

Head coach Larry Fedora says SDSU, winners of nine out of their last eleven games, will present a much bigger threat to Carolina than Liberty in week one.

“I think it’s quite a bit of difference. I’m not taking anything away from Liberty. They’re a good football team, but SDSU is going to be a better football team in my opinion. I know coming into the season they have a lot of confidence and feel good with where they’re at,” Coach Fedora says.

Aztec defense (SDSU Athletics)

Aztec defense (SDSU Athletics)

Junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer says the infusion of talent from junior college transfers along with an explosive pro-style offense; make the Aztecs a formidable challenge for the defense.

“They got some talent. They have a bunch of junior college guys and are an older team. They’re explosive. They’re similar to Liberty with their offensive schemes, so that helps us. They got some speed, like to run the ball and they’re more pro style,” Schoettmer says.

One of the highlights in UNC’s week one win was the disruptiveness of the Carolina defense. The Tar Heels managed to recover four fumbles and force six turnovers against the Flames.

That’s a positive sign for defensive coordinator Vic Koenning’s boys. Last season, UNC recovered a mere seven fumbles all season and ranked No. 60 in the nation in turnovers gained. That’s a stat the Tar Heels appear well on their way to improving in 2014.

What’s the magic formula this year? Schoettmer credits a greater focus put on creating turnovers in the preseason.

“In training camp, Coach Vic [Koenning] stressed that every day – get turnovers. He preached that every day. If we didn’t get turnovers, we had to do up-downs after practice. We stressed that all camp and it shows,” Schoettmer says.

The young UNC offensive line figures to receive their toughest exam to date from a chaotic, unconventional Aztec defense.

Coach Fedora says to expect the unexpected from SDSU head coach Rocky Long’s crafty defensive schemes.

“They fly around and move around pretty good. They aren’t a big defensive line, but they’re moving constantly. There will be times in the game that they don’t put a hand on the ground on the defensive side of the ball. You won’t know who’s coming where. It’s unique in what they do. It will be difficult for an offensive line to figure those things out at the snap of the ball,” Coach Fedora says.

The Aztecs are 5-1 in their last six road or neutral site games. That stretch includes victories in three different time zones.

But UNC may have the upper hand in Chapel Hill. SDSU sports a lowly 2-10 overall record on the East coast.

Not wanting to test their luck two weekends on the trot, the Tar Heels will be looking for a faster start Saturday night than the sluggish beginnings to the Liberty contest.

Marquise Williams (ACC.blogs)

Marquise Williams (ACC.blogs)

The man tasked with directing a cleaner performance out of the UNC offense will be starting junior quarterback Marquise Williams. Coach Fedora says Williams will receive the majority of snaps over redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky going forward.

Williams says he wants to correct his mistakes from week one and get fired up to make amends in week two.

“I did pretty well. There are some things that I’m still going to correct. I got a little lackadaisical with the feet and some throws. It was the first game. It’s time to move on to SDSU,” Williams says.

The primetime Aztecs-Tar Heels 8 p.m. matchup in Kenan Stadium will be broadcast on 97.9 FM, WCHL and televised nationally on ESPNews.

Ebron to Tabb: UNC TE’s Turn To Embrace Spotlight

UNC tight end Jack Tabb isn’t your normal senior veteran. Although in his final season at Chapel Hill, he’s adapting to life in the spotlight for the first time. Now no longer in the shadow of Tar Heel great Eric Ebron, Tabb is looking to make the most of his senior season.

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Tabb, a communication studies major, says one of his favorite activities is hanging out at the beach. But Saturday, in Kenan Stadium, there was no time for relaxation for the Tar Heel nicknamed “Panda”.

Tabb says he enjoyed his experience under the lights in the season opener.

“It was exciting. It felt good. I don’t think we lost any steps. Marquise and Mitch are both playing well and are going to come to me like they came to Ebron. We’re going to make a bunch of plays,” Tabb says.

One of those big “plays” came in the form of a four-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter against Liberty.

Jack Tabb celebrates (UNC Athletics)

Jack Tabb celebrates (UNC Athletics)

And as for that guy named Ebron, the Detroit Lion made a surprise visit to his old team last weekend. Tabb says he was thrilled to see his friend and mentor after the game.

“I got to see him. I gave him a big hug when I saw him. He didn’t tell anybody he was coming either. I was pretty excited to see him. I asked him how it is the League and got a little more insight,” Tabb says.

Tabb says he gained a greater appreciation for what makes college football, and in particular Carolina football, so special, after hearing Ebron talk about the ‘business-nature’ of the NFL.

Eric Ebron (Photo courtesy of

Eric Ebron (Photo courtesy of

“He says it’s a lot different. It’s family here. In the League, it’s a business. He says he really misses the camaraderie and the brotherhood that we have here and how we play football,” Tabb says.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says he’s still hoping for more out of Tabb, but his steady improvement is certainly encouraging.

“I’d like to have that one back down the middle that Jack went up, and the linebacker got his hand on it at the last second. He learned a good lesson there that you need to go up and get it. You can’t wait for it to come down in that situation. He would have had two touchdowns. But he’s improved, he’s getting better,” Coach Fedora says.

Tabb says he’s bared witness to a lot in Carolina football over the past three-plus seasons. He says the experience has sharpened his outlook and perspective on his craft.

“I have a lot more insight and experience through the years of seeing my teammates leaving and not everyone in my class being here. It’s definitely really important to have that family feeling, especially in your last year of football. It feels good,” Tabb says.

However, Tabb knows there’s still plenty of room for improvement in his game.

“I need to play a little more physical. There are definitely areas that I need to improve – physicality, blocking on perimeter, making sure everyone on the offense is comfortable,” Tabb says.

But for Ebron, always the showboat, he wants Tabb to electrify the crowds with the big play.

“He said I did a good job. He said he wanted me to go up and dunk on that kid down in the end zone. I told him I got him next time, so we can make a highlight,” Tabb says.

If Tabb can continue to progress at his position, channel his ‘inner-Ebron’ and seize the moment in his final year donning the Carolina uniform, he may just find himself on a highlight reel or two before the final Bell Tower chimes of the season.