Pinch yourselves Tar Heel fans.
You might just realize that this dream-like season is for real. Not only that, it’s not over yet.
After clinching the ACC Coastal Division last week against Virginia Tech, the No. 14 UNC football team took care of its other season-long goal in Raleigh on Saturday–defeating the rival NC State Wolfpack 45-34 behind another explosive offensive performance to earn a “State Championship”–the reward for beating all three in-state conference opponents this year.
The school-record 11th consecutive victory has head coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels at 11-1, and also completes the program’s first 8-0 finish in the ACC—putting the team in a position to possibly reach the College Football Playoff with a win over No. 1 Clemson in next week’s conference title game.
“It’s incredible,” Fedora said afterwards. “This group of seniors that’s leading this team, and the rest of these guys–they’re doing some things that have never been done here at UNC.
“What a tremendous legacy these seniors are leaving,” he added. “They’re having a lot of fun with each other, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Sophomore tailback Elijah Hood gashed the Wolfpack defense for a career-high 220 yards on 21 carries. He also added a pair of touchdowns to help send NC State’s record tumbling to 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the ACC.
“Things were definitely going my way, judging by those stats,” he said with a laugh when informed of his final numbers. “I think we had an excellent gameplan, in all honesty. We came out and played real physical.
“Everyone blocked really well for me out there, from the O-line to the receivers at the second level,” Hood continued. “They gave me a lot of room to make some things happen.”
Hood picked up 52 yards on the opening drive alone, as the Tar Heels got some sweet, symbolic revenge after last season’s 35-7 loss to the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill–going ahead 35-7 in this game before the first quarter ended.
UNC finished the game with a whopping 374 yards on the ground, as speedy second-string running back TJ Logan gave Hood a break in the first quarter by scoring once from 42 yards out, and then again from 40 yards out–and finishing the game with 100 on just six touches.
Through the air, senior quarterback Marquise Williams completed 19-of-30 passes for 174 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins during the early explosion. He threw an interception in the second quarter–but it was his first since October 24th at home against Virginia.
“Our thing was, [NC State] thought we were the same team as last year,” Williams said. “We lost to Virginia Tech last year and we came and took care of business [this year]. We lost to Miami bad [last year], came and took care of business. We lost to State bad, came and took care of business.
“We’re the 2015 team, and that’s what I love about this team,” he added. “This team has that grit, and just wants to finish.”
Despite jumping out to the huge lead early in the game, UNC was unable to keep the Wolfpack from clawing their way back into contention.
A pair of lost fumbles in the second half (one by Williams, one by Hood)–led to 13 NC State points, as the Tar Heel offense began to sputter. After piling on 35 in the first 14:09, UNC failed to score in either the second or third quarters.
Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed just 17 of his 37 throws, but picked up 204 yards and two passing touchdowns. A physical, dual-threat player, he also had 128 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to keep his team from being blown out.
By the start of the fourth quarter, after a 3-yard scoring run from Brissett, NC State had shrunk the UNC lead to 35-23.
The fans in Carter-Finley Stadium were beginning to regain hope.
It was a moment reminiscent of the Tar Heels’ sloppy finish against Virginia Tech a week ago, where they allowed two touchdowns in the final three minutes of regulation before winning in overtime.
But an 11-play, 73-yard drive by UNC was capped at the beginning of the final period with Hood’s 1-yard touchdown run–giving the team some much needed breathing room down the stretch.
A fumble by Hood on the next Tar Heel possession looked like it would set up the Wolfpack with another score, but Gene Chizik’s UNC defense forced a field goal, which kept the lead at 16.
After the Tar Heels drove down and got a field goal of their own, NC State finally broke through for another touchdown on a 20-yard pass by Brissett to David Grinnage–but with only 1:50 remaining, it was too little, too late.
UNC recovered the ensuing onside kick, and went into the victory formation to kneel out the game clock–putting the final stamp on its most successful regular season in program history.
Fedora has explained that he began each team meeting this year by stating two goals.
Coastal Division Champs. State Champs.
With both of those goals accomplished, though, he can finally turn his focus elsewhere.
“Well, now it’s time to reset our goals,” the coach said after the game. “Our goal now will be to be ACC Champions.”
Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte now awaits Fedora and the Tar Heels, where they will get a shot at the nation’s top-ranked team–the 12-0 Clemson Tigers. That game will take place next Saturday, December 5th at 8 p.m.
With the ACC Coastal Division wrapped up–and a spot in the conference title game against Clemson assured—the No. 14 UNC football team has already put together its best season since 1997.
It’s not over yet, though, as the Tar Heels close out the year in Raleigh against their most-hated football rivals, NC State–seeking revenge for the 35-7 loss they suffered at the hands of the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill last season.
Ten straight victories have head coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels sitting at 10-1 this year—with a perfect 7-0 mark against conference foes. Last week’s division-clinching win over Virginia Tech helped UNC reach the first of the goals Fedora has preached in team meetings all year.
For most teams it could be easy to be complacent in this situation. But the Wolfpack are the opponent this weekend—and well, that just means the Tar Heels have yet another opportunity to take care of another year-long goal.
“It’s been one of our goals to be state champs,” Fedora said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “Whether we played [NC State] early or late, it was still going to be the same way.
“This goal is equally important to us [as winning the Coastal],” he added. “I don’t worry about this team, a letdown, or ‘Are they gonna be motivated enough?’ That really hasn’t entered into my mind.”
To become state champs, the Tar Heels have already beaten Duke and Wake Forest, but will now have to defeat a 7-4 NC State team that is one of the few in the ACC with as much athleticism as UNC.
Not to mention the bragging rights the Wolfpack hold in this rivalry, winning six of the last eight meetings between the two schools—including the demoralizing victory a year ago.
“Cannot forget it,” senior linebacker Shakeel Rashad said in reference to that game. “Football’s an emotional game, and so obviously that’s been in the back of our minds—it’s a salty game—so that taste has been in the back of our mouths since the game ended last year.
“We have to remember what it felt like, the way we lost that game.”
After the win in 2014, Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren took some subtle jabs at UNC, saying that his is a “blue-collar, hands-in-the-dirt” school.
The Tar Heel players and coaches chose not to address those words directly in the lead-up to the game this week, but senior quarterback Marquise Williams did speak about how the loss affected the team’s close to the season, including the 40-21 bowl loss to Rutgers.
“It was bad, you know, that feeling,” Williams said. “A rival team, that came here and stomped [us] on [our] own ground. It was tough for us–and we had to overcome it, and move on from it.”
“It seemed like we didn’t overcome [the loss to State] because then we went out and got stomped some more.”
The star of last year’s NC State team—dual-threat quarterback Jacoby Brissett—is back this year, and will provide Williams with a near mirror of himself whenever he’s watching from the sidelines. Not only that, the weapons around Brissett, like speedy tailbacks Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines, will present the UNC defense with a stiff challenge all day long.
“These guys are not slaps,” Williams said about his opponents this weekend. “This is a good football team, and they’re a good football team that’s been competing, playing very well. They played Clemson very well, they played Florida State very well, and they’ve been doing great things.”
The Wolfpack lost a 56-41shootout when they played Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, and fell 34-17 in Tallahassee against Florida State.
Now they’ll get one final chance at a marquee upset when they meet a Tar Heel team not only hell bent on revenge, but locked in on goals it’s never reached before—a message Fedora made clear about his squad.
“We’re not done,” Fedora said. “I won’t sit back and look back until it’s all over with. I told [the players] earlier in the week ‘We’ve come too far to only come this far.’
“We still have our blinders on, our heads down, and continue to be focused on the job at hand.”
The game will be broadcast live on WCHL’s radio airwaves, on 97.9 FM and 1360 AM. It will also be televised on ABC. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
For a moment on Tuesday night it appeared as if the No. 9 ranked UNC men’s basketball team was on its way to its second loss in three games.
The Tar Heels were down by eight points with less than five minutes to play, but then exploded on a 21-3 run to defeat the Kansas State Wildcats 80-70–in Kansas City–to win the CBE Hall of Fame Classic Championship.
“I told ‘em at the three-minute and 28 second [mark] that I felt like we were in good shape—that our team could be made right now” UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game. “A team is made during the season. It’s not made in preseason practice.”
Williams now sees his team improve to 5-1 this season, all while senior point guard Marcus Paige sits with a broken hand.
The late surge–which included a rare dunk by Kennedy Meeks and three-pointers from Joel Berry and Theo Pinson—helped hand the Wildcats their first loss of the year, dropping their record to 4-1.
It also spoiled a career night for Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes, whose hot shooting touch carried his team, and led to a game-high 24 points.
“The Stokes kid, he was really something,” Williams said. “If I’m not mistaken he had made four threes in all their games previous to this one. He made six of ‘em today—six out of eight. One time I think we fouled him, and he still made it.”
Sophomore wing Justin Jackson continued his recent dominance for the Tar Heels, dropping 22 points and handing out six assists—his third straight 20 point effort. He was also named the tournament’s MVP when it was all said and done.
Not wanting to see that type of production go to waste, the wiry, 6-foot-8, Jackson brought his teammates close and delivered a simple message in the closing moments.
“I called everybody together and I said, ‘We’re only gonna do this together,’” Jackson said. “We had four minutes to do it. And so we went out there got a few stops, got some good shots, and guys knocked ‘em in.
“From here on out,” he continued. “When we play together, and when we get defensive stops like Coach tells us we need to do–we can play with anybody.”
The frontcourt duo of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson combined for 26 points, while Theo Pinson added 11.
However, it was clear that the team could use Paige back as soon as possible.
Guards Joel Berry and Nate Britt contributed just 12 total points on 4-of-14 shooting, while turning the ball over five times.
Williams was happy to escape Kansas City with the win, but the coach says these games take their toll on his body as he ages.
“I’m only so old, there’s only so many little hops I got left out there,” Williams said, referencing his trademark jumps he does when he gets angry. “I think [we] can build on it. But what [we] need to build on is to see it on tape and see the mistakes [we] made that put [us] in that spot. And then change those.
“And then see the enthusiasm and the effort that [we] had there at the end—and then build on that.”
Next up for the Tar Heels is a long Thanksgiving break before coming back next Wednesday to take on the nation’s No. 2 ranked team, the Maryland Terrapins—possibly with Paige back in the lineup.
An upset loss at Northern Iowa on Saturday caused the UNC men’s basketball team to slip from first to ninth in the AP Top 25, but the Tar Heels recovered nicely on Monday—defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 80-69 in the semifinals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic played in Kansas City.
UNC improves its record to 4-1 this season, while former Duke assistant coach Chris Collins saw his Wildcats lose their first game of the year—dropping to 3-1.
Leading the way for head coach Roy Williams was 6-foot-8 sophomore Justin Jackson, who poured in 21 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.
Jackson—expected by many to have a breakout campaign–has now led the team in scoring for two straight games after struggling to show a killer instinct over the past couple weeks.
“I told you guys if [Jackson] was my biggest worry, what a great situation I was in,” Williams said after the game. “I do know a little bit about the game, and I was not concerned with Justin Jackson.
“But we’ve talked about the aggressiveness—a lot,” the coach added.
The sophomore was one of six UNC players to finish the game in double figures, as all five starters hit the mark–along with junior forward Isaiah Hicks off the bench.
Northwestern put up a fight throughout, and led by as many as six points in the first half—but the Tar Heels went on a 14-1 run before the break and never looked back, leading by as many as 20 during the second half.
All this despite the team making just 7-of-25 three-point attempts against Northwestern’s 2-3 zone, and getting only five points from sixth man Nate Britt.
“Needless to say, we haven’t shot the ball well the last two games—particularly from three,” Williams said. “Nate [Britt] was hot as he could possibly be early, and he’s really struggled the last two games.
“It’s the first time all season we’ve played against a zone the entire game,” he added. “Down the line I think that’ll really help us.”
Senior forward Brice Johnson had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double in five games, but the big story of the night was definitely Jackson stepping up into the role many expected him to take by the horns this season.
It’s these kind of performances Williams has been looking for while he allows star point guard Marcus Paige to recover from his broken hand.
“The bottom line is if we had to have [Paige], we could have played him last week,” Williams said. “But we don’t have to have him. We’re trying to be very cautious. If it had been an NCAA Tournament game, I’d have played him.
“But I said we’re gonna be very careful,” he continued before adding in a little joke. “I may not play him until February—probably will though.”
Northwestern received a big contribution from guard Tre Demps, who tallied 21 points and hit four shots from beyond the arc in the game. Guard play dominated the night for Coach Collins’ team–as Demps, Bryant McIntosh, and Scottie Lindsey combined for 46 of the Wildcats’ 69 points.
“Northwestern’s got some guys that can shoot the basketball,” Williams said. “Nine-for-20 from the three-point line is not what we want to give up, but you got to give them credit too. Chris [Collins] does a nice job, and they know their roles. And they played well.”
Now UNC will have to turn right around and get ready for another late night game without Paige on Tuesday, as they’ll face a tough Kansas State team—a squad that defeated Missouri 66-42 in the first semifinal game on Monday.
As the UNC football team was cementing its spot as number one in the ACC Coastal Division on Saturday, the top-ranked UNC men’s basketball team was doing the opposite–likely relinquishing its claim as the best team in America with a 71-67 upset loss to Northern Iowa on the road.
This game was originally scheduled by the Tar Heels to be senior point guard–and Iowa native–Marcus Paige’s “homecoming.”
But Paige could only watch as his team had a nine-point halftime lead grow to 16, before it slowly slipped away in crunch time. He has been sidelined since Nov. 3 with a broken hand.
The loss drops head coach Roy Williams and his team to 3-1 at the beginning of the year, while Northern Iowa improves to 2-1 with the stunning victory.
Up 41-32 at the break, UNC got a career game out of sophomore wing Justin Jackson–who snapped out of his early-season slump to score a personal-best 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers.
Only the frontcourt tandem of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were able to join Jackson in double figures, though, as the Tar Heels struggled to find scoring against the stingy Panther defense. Both players finished with exactly 10 points, despite the fact that Meeks’ scored all of the team’s first eight to begin the day.
Senior guard Wes Washpun connected on a three-quarter court heave for Northern Iowa right as the halftime buzzer sounded–giving some slight foreshadowing on what was to come. For the game, Washpun led the home team with 21 points and eight assists, while fellow senior Matt Bohannon added 19.
After a short jumper by Johnson found its way through the net with just over 17 minutes left in the second half UNC held a commanding lead, ahead 50-34.
Over the next eight minutes is when everything went down the drain, as the Panthers stormed back with a 29-8 run to put themselves in control.
Perimeter shooting proved to be the difference, with Northern Iowa making 11 shots from downtown compared to just five for the Tar Heels. UNC’s defense was also a bit shaky, as the experienced Panther guards continually beat Jackson, and guards Joel Berry and Nate Britt off the dribble.
None of Carolina’s 13 missed threes were as crucial as one by Berry with under 20 seconds remaining, and UNC down by three.
After the shot clanked off the rim, Berry ended up with the ball again at the top of the key–but misfired on a cross-court pass afterward.
The pass was intercepted by Northern Iowa and the Tar Heels were forced to intentionally foul–ending their hopes of getting Paige a win in his return home.
UNC will face a quick turnaround, as they are set to begin play in the CBE Hall-of-Fame Classic in Kansas City on Monday. The Tar Heels open up with a game against Northwestern–coached by former Duke assistant Chris Collins–before potentially facing either Missouri or Kansas State on Tuesday.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest game the UNC football team has played this year, but after letting a 14-point lead disintegrate in the final three minutes of regulation the 17th ranked Tar Heels were able to escape Blacksburg on Saturday with a 30-27 overtime victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies–keeping their playoff hopes intact.
“That’s why I’m in this,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said afterwards. “To see [the players] reach their goals and dreams. We sit in those living rooms and tell them and their parents that my dream is for them to reach their dreams when they come to Carolina.
“For those seniors, their No. 1 goal this year was to win the Coastal Division, and they’ve done that,” he added. “And we expect that to turn into bigger things.”
Senior quarterback Marquise Williams fumbled three times in the game–and twice in the fourth quarter with UNC trying to run out the clock–but his 5-yard touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis in the extra period was a walk-off winner.
“Marquise really was never shaken–I can’t say the same for me,” Fedora said. “After the second fumble, he came off and he was like, ‘Okay, I’m good, I’m good.’ I didn’t have a whole lot to say to him. I really didn’t. There was nothing good that I was going to say.
“He went over there and got himself ready to go,” the coach said about his quarterback. “He knew what was at stake and what he had to do, and then he went back out. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make a play.’”
Already UNC’s all-time leading receiver in terms of catches and touchdowns, Davis’s touchdown clinches the ACC Coastal Division for the Tar Heels and their head coach, Larry Fedora. It also marks the team’s 10th consecutive victory, bringing its record to 10-1 in 2015–and a perfect 7-0 against conference opponents.
All signs late in the ball game pointed to Virginia Tech pulling off a fairy tale ending for their head coach since 1987, Frank Beamer, in what was his final home game at Lane Stadium. Instead, Beamer’s squad falls to 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the ACC–needing a win next week against Virginia to keep his 22-year streak of making a bowl game alive.
Hokie quarterback Michael Brewer completed 20 of his 35 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns–each coming in the game’s closing minutes. His top target, receiver Isaiah Ford, continually burned the Tar Heel secondary deep all game long–catching eight passes for 155 yards and a score.
“When we talked all week about this game, we knew that this was the perfect storm,” Fedora said. “Everything was going against us. They had the tribute to Coach and they needed to get bowl eligible and it was the seniors’ last day in this stadium, and the black unis.”
A defensive battle for most of the day, Williams’s 18-yard touchdown run on the game’s first drive was the only touchdown of the first half. Joey Slye’s 32-yard field goal for Virginia Tech accounted for the only other points before the break, with UNC ahead 7-3.
The Tar Heels struggled with the crowd noise in Blacksburg, picking up seven false start penalties on offense–which helped contribute to the season-high eight punts they were forced into.
On top of that Williams struggled with his accuracy, only completing 13-of-26 throws, but for 205 yards and a score.
Taking advantage of that fact, the Hokies were able to hang around until the end–getting a 4-yard scoring run from Brewer to tie the game at 10 with the fourth quarter approaching.
Despite getting only three carries in the first half, Fedora turned to sophomore tailback Elijah Hood to try and put the game away in the end.
On back-to-back drives to begin the final period, the Tar Heels found the end zone by giving it to Hood, who gained 117 yards on 17 carries once it was all said and done.
Sophomore cornerback MJ Stewart then intercepted Brewer in the red zone with just over 5 minutes remaining and the Tar Heels up by a pair of touchdowns
It seemed, momentarily, like the game was over at that point. But the Hokies found a way to battle back.
A bad exchange on a handoff from Williams to Hood gave Virginia Tech the ball at their own 37-yard line. Then a couple of long passes by Brewer, one for 25 yards to fullback Sam Rogers, and a 26-yarder to Ford put them in business.
Four plays later–on fourth-and-goal–Brewer found 6-foot-7 tight end Bucky Hodges to make it 24-17 with 2:54 remaining.
TJ Logan got the Tar Heels going with a 21-yard rush to begin their next drive, but on the next play Williams fumbled again–and again Virginia Tech recovered.
Starting from UNC’s 48-yard line, Brewer and Ford struck again–this time on a 36-yard bomb that set the Hokies up 12 yards from the end zone.
The script was similar to the previous drive, as Tech faced 4th-and-2. Only this time Ford got to finish what he started, hauling in a 4-yard score that ended up sending the game to overtime.
UNC won the coin toss to begin the extra period and chose to start out on defense.
Virginia Tech was unable to even gain a first down in their chance with the ball, going three-and-out and settling for a 41-yard field goal–meaning a touchdown would win it for the Tar Heels.
And that’s exactly what they got, pulling things together after unraveling late.
An 18-yard pass from Williams to Ryan Switzer got the ball rolling on the drive’s first play, before a false start penalty a couple snaps later put the team in a precarious position.
Third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. With the ACC Coastal Division on the line.
In the season opener against South Carolina, Williams was faced with the same situation and ended up throwing the ball into the outstretched arms of a defender–the only reason this team isn’t undefeated now.
This time, though, he found the outstretched arms of the program’s most decorated receiver. And with it, the right to play No. 1 ranked Clemson two weeks from now in Charlotte, his hometown.
“We knew we were going to have to play error-free,” Fedora said. “That’s what we talked about, just be really good in the fundamentals and the techniques, and be brilliant in the basics.
“And we didn’t, but we found a way to win.”
Although this win clinches the Coastal Division for the Tar Heels, they’ll still have to defeat the arch-rival NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh next week to keep their playoff hopes alive.
When the No. 1 UNC men’s basketball team tips off its game against the Northern Iowa Panthers tomorrow it will be a bittersweet moment for senior point guard Marcus Paige.
Although the Tar Heels are 3-0 so far with Paige sidelined due to a broken hand, this game was scheduled so that Paige could have a “homecoming” game in his native Iowa.
Instead, he’ll have to watch from the bench in a suit and tie, as his teammates look to continue their recent success without him.
In place of Paige, the Tar Heels will likely continue to start sophomore Joel Berry II at the point guard spot–while bringing in junior Nate Britt off the bench to help share the duties.
Berry played a team-high 36 minutes on Wednesday against Wofford, while no other Tar Heel crossed the 30-minute plateau. He has averaged 15 points and 4 assists during his time as a starter, but UNC head coach Roy Williams has said he would like to see him take better care of the ball. In each of the Tar Heels’ three outings, Berry has turned it over three times.
With Paige’s perimeter shooting viewed as the attribute UNC would miss the most, it’s been a welcome surprise for Williams to have Britt come in to games as the sixth man and knock down shots. To this point, the junior is 8-for-12 from beyond the arc, and has provided plenty of spacing to allow the big men to do their work down low.
Pounding the ball into the paint should be a focus for the Tar Heels in this game, since the Panthers don’t have a single upperclassman on their roster at the forward or center positions.
Northern Iowa presents a formidable challenge for the Tar Heels, but they are not exactly the same group that went 31-4, and was ranked as high as 10th in the country last season. Only two starters from that team–guards Matt Bohannon and Jeremy Morgan–are back this year for head coach Ben Jacobson; but the pair has combined to average 33 of the Panthers’ 72 points per game during the team’s 1-1 start.
Coincidentally, UNC has one of the best, most experienced frontlines in the nation–starring senior Brice Johnson and junior Kennedy Meeks. Each of those two players is averaging a double-double (Johnson: 16 PPG, 11.7 RPG, Meeks: 16.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG) to begin the year.
Should the Tar Heels execute their game plan and take advantage of the inexperienced Panther frontcourt, they could very well leave Iowa with another easy victory, and leave their leader–Paige–with a big smile on his face.http://chapelboro.com/news/top-ranked-tar-heels-head-to-northern-iowa-paige-goes-home/
That’s all it will take for the No. 12 ranked UNC football team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and continue its dream season.
Standing in front of them?
A date in Blacksburg against the Virginia Tech Hokies–in what will be the final home game for their legendary head coach, Frank Beamer.
Blowout victories over Duke and Miami in the last couple weeks have shown fans that head coach Larry Fedora’s team is a force to be reckoned with. Ranked 17th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the 9-1 Tar Heels have been largely overlooked thanks to losing the season opener to a now 3-7 South Carolina team, and also for having a weak strength of schedule that hasn’t included a single top 25 opponent.
Because of that, UNC’s playoff credentials have been a hot button issue this week. But for senior quarterback Marquise Williams, none of it matters much at this point.
“It’s cool, but you can tell [the playoff committee] still doesn’t respect [us],” Williams said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “As long as [we] just keep winning football games—and keep winning by 30 and 40 points—I mean, eventually they’ll have to respect [us].
“It’s fun, but you can tell deep down inside they don’t wanna talk about Carolina football,” he added with a chuckle. “And that’s alright.”
The Tar Heels have an outside shot at making the four-team playoff for the national championship by winning out, and defeating Clemson in a potential ACC title game.
The next step, though, is to defeat Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium—notoriously one of the loudest environments in college football. Although the Hokies have struggled to an uncharacteristic 5-5 record so far, Fedora refuses to look past his opponent.
“It will be an extremely tough game, playing up there in Blacksburg,” Fedora said. “Especially with Coach Beamer’s last home game.
“There will be a tremendous amount of emotion,” he added. “I’m sure that there will be a lot of former players there to see him in his last game, and so we will definitely have our work cut out for us.”
Beamer has been the coach at Virginia Tech since 1987 and has won 234 games, made 22 bowl appearances, and produced NFL standouts like Michael Vick and DeAngelo Hall along the way. His teams have always been extremely sound on special teams and hard-nosed on defense—which Williams says could present a challenge this week for him and the rest of the dynamic Tar Heel offense.
“That’s always been a great defense,” Williams said about the Hokies. “You can’t look over them because they’re ready. [Defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s] gonna have them ready to go in this game for Frank Beamer and it’s exciting.
“They play [man-to-man coverage]” the senior continued. “They’re gonna make [us] beat them one-on-one, and make competitive catches.”
Part of the Tar Heels’ recent success has come because they have taken care of the football—avoiding turnovers in each of their past three games. That’s something Fedora and his staff have preached all year long.
But that’s not the only message he’s given to the team that has stayed consistent throughout the season.
“Coastal Division champs, state champs—that’s it,” Fedora said. “I don’t really get into it, I just tell [the players] our goal every week.”
He then added that, “We’re like trained pigs. We’ve got something and we just keep doing it over and over and over.”
That mindset has helped the UNC offense grow into one of the nation’s most dominant, while its defense has been by far the most improved—allowing just 19 points per contest in 2015 after giving up 39 a game just one year ago.
Senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer—who has been critical to that turnaround–has also not been afraid to tell the truth about what’s been on the minds of the Tar Heel players all week.
“We’re not worried about Frank Beamer’s last home game or any of that,” Schoettmer said. “We control our own destiny to win the Coastal and get to the ACC Championship. So that’s really what we’re worried about.”
The game is set to begin Saturday at noon, and will be broadcast live on WCHL’s radio airwaves (97.9 FM, 1360 AM). It will also be televised on ESPN.
Last Sunday’s sluggish performance against Fairfield left UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams wanting to see his team’s effort level finally match its talent level.
After a 78-58 victory over the Wofford Terriers in the Dean Dome on Wednesday night, Williams was much happier with what he saw from his No. 1 ranked Tar Heels.
“I think our team was better today than we were Sunday,” Williams said after the game. “I think we were more attentive. We gave better effort. Defensively, we talked more. We were more consistent with it.
“[Wofford’s] a hard team to guard,” the coach added. “They do a great job with their motion, with a couple of big guys setting screens and handoffs, and it’s hard to keep getting through that.”
The Tar Heels are now 3-0 this season after taking out the Terriers, who drop to 0-2 after going 28-7 a year ago.
Senior forward Brice Johnson posted his third straight double-double for UNC, with 16 points and 14 rebounds, as fellow forward Kennedy Meeks also added 16 points of his own. That came as the result of an adjustment made when it was clear the team’s outside shooting was struggling in the opening minutes.
“It was definitely more of an emphasis [to go down low] because [the guards] weren’t knocking [three-pointers] today,” Johnson said. “They went a little cold there at the start, so Coach was like ‘Hey, we need to get the ball inside because we have a size advantage on both ends.’”
At halftime UNC led by just five points, despite the Terriers not having a single starter taller than 6-foot-7.
That lead shrunk to just 50-47 with 13:11 to play, before going on a 14-3 run over the next five minutes.
The key was that Wofford’s deep shots finally stopped falling. On the night, the visitors hit nine three-pointers—including three by guard Jaylen Allen, who led the Terriers with 15 points.
Only once in the game did the Tar Heels sink one from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Theo Pinson, UNC’s go-to perimeter defender, was confident that once the threes stopped going for Wofford, his team could pull away.
“I saw it a little bit in pregame, when [Wofford] was shooting the ball–you could just tell they’ve got the confidence,” Pinson said. “They shoot it great, actually. We knew they were going to make tough shots, but we knew that we were going to wear ‘em down at some point.”
Sophomore guard Joel Berry also contributed 16 points to the effort, matching Meeks and Johnson for the team lead.
Off the bench, junior Isaiah Hicks continued the big-man dominance, adding a season-high 12 points—while no other Tar Heel scored more than seven.
“I honestly feel like today was big,” Pinson said. “It shows what we can do if we play defense for 40 minutes. I mean, Wofford is a really good team. I mean, really good team. They’re gonna get some people.
“It just showed that we can defend at a high level, he added. “Their offense, they’re moving all the time—we don’t see many offenses like that. We did a really good job today, and I’m ready for the stretch.”
The stretch Pinson referred to begins with Saturday’s road game at Northern Iowa, and will continue into Monday and Tuesday when the Tar Heels compete in the CBE Hall-of-Fame Classic in Kansas City.
In their home opener at the Dean Dome on Sunday afternoon, the No. 1 ranked UNC men’s basketball team improved to 2-0 on the year with a sluggish 92-65 victory against the over-matched Fairfield Stags.
Winners of just seven games last season, Fairfield has now opened this year 0-2. However, the Stags didn’t go down without a fight.
The Tar Heels led by just eight points at halftime, and were still ahead by the same single-digit margin with just 12 minutes to play–before turning up the intensity down the stretch.
UNC head coach Roy Williams, as you might imagine, was not too pleased with how his team played early on.
“Needless to say, the score doesn’t tell the story of the game,” Williams said afterwards. “I thought we had a lack of execution, a lack of effort, and toughness out there early.
“They had all those things that we didn’t have. That gave them a little bit of an emotional lift and I challenged our guys to come out and play better [after halftime].”
Seven Tar Heel players scored at least eight points in a balanced workman-like effort against Fairfield’s zone defense. Leading the way was junior guard Nate Britt, who came off the bench to match a pair of career-highs—scoring 17 points while also draining four shots from behind the three-point line.
Afterwards, though, Britt was in no mood to enjoy those numbers, instead echoing Williams’ sentiments on how this one played out.
“As a whole we just needed to pick up the intensity,” Britt said. “We didn’t come out as intense as we should have, and they were getting all of the 50/50 balls, they were crashing all the boards—and we didn’t do a good job in either one of those categories.
“I wanted our bigs to work a little bit harder on the inside so we could get them the ball,” he continued. “But we took a lot of shots from the outside in the first half and most of them weren’t going down.
“I feel like we did a better job of those things in the second half, and that’s why we were able to pull away.”
Despite the time it took to get the ball rolling, senior forward Brice Johnson finshed with a double-double, posting 16 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore wing Theo Pinson also played a big role, stuffing the stat sheet with 11 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
But many of those numbers came after Coach Williams laid into his team at the break—something Pinson’s fellow sophomore, Justin Jackson, described to the media.
“Coach really challenged us, [saying] ‘If we really love this game, then why are we not playing like it?’ Jackson said. “I think if we play defense like we’re supposed to—obviously on offense we have a ton of weapons, so that’s not a problem—but if we play defense like we’re supposed to and finish it, I think we’ll be alright.”
Fairfield was led by senior forward Marcus Gilbert, who poured in 25 points as one of only two Stags to score at least 10 points.
Joel Berry added 15 points and four assists for the Tar Heels starting in place of the injured Marcus Paige at point guard, while Jackson added 11, and junior forward Kennedy Meeks scored eight–grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds in the process.
Despite the early woes, a win is a win no matter how it comes. Williams says he thinks his team will be fine in the long run, but added that the lack of energy Sunday was definitely unsettling.
“It was a surprise to me because it was [the] home opener,” the coach said. “I think we were all so excited about the football win yesterday, maybe we still had that glory in our heads, instead of going out there and playing.”
“I was beginning to wonder if we were gonna score as many as our football team scores.”
The Tar Heels will continue play in the CBE Hall-of-Fame Classic on Wednesday, as they’ll remain at home to take on the Wofford Terriers. Tip-off for that game will be at 7 p.m.