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‘O.K. is never Okay': Larry Fedora Wants More from Tar Heels

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora says tasting success last weekend should motivate his 3-4 Tar Heels to want to experience more of it. And that’s a good thing for the Carolina skipper who knows there’s plenty to work on in all three phases of the game.

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Despite a four-game losing streak, UNC’s 48-43 win over Georgia Tech puts the Tar Heels right back into the ACC Coastal conversation.

The UNC defense has been playing with more intensity and aggression in recent weeks. But the scoreboard hasn’t got the memo. The Tar Heels have surrendered a combined 117 points in the past three contests.

And although Coach Fedora admits he’s by no means satisfied, he says it’s most important to see continual progress made each Saturday.

“O.K. is never okay. I still expect them to get better. I expect them to be better this week than they were last week. As long as we keep growing, than we’ll be alright,” Coach Fedora says.

Switzer celebrates (Elliott Rubin)

Switzer celebrates (Elliott Rubin)

The UNC special teams department has lacked the kind of fireworks put on display in 2013 and persistently advertised in the preseason.

Most notably, Carolina’s sophomore sparkplug Ryan Switzer has been bottled up by opposing coverage teams and contributed uncharacteristic mistakes of his own.

Coach Fedora says Switzer needs to stop trying to force the action and let the game come to him.

“I spent a lot of time talking to him [Switzer] this past week about not forcing anything in the punt return game. All we’ve done is try to force things, and we’ve gone backwards. We’ve been very poor in that aspect. I thought he did a good job the other day. […] There’s no reason to force it, just fair catch it and move on to the next one,” Coach Fedora says.

As frustrating as UNC’s No. 127 ranking in points allowed per game may be, Coach Fedora says the defensive intangibles like effort and attitude are unwavering.

“That is the hardest thing. It’s more about attitude and effort. I’m happy to say that we don’t face the triple option again this year. We don’t have to be concerned with it. I still think our attitudes, the way we’re practicing and the belief in what we’re doing is still good,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams is the centerpiece of the Tar Heel offense that ranks 17th in the nation in scoring. Williams was named an ACC Player of the Week for the second straight time Monday for good reason.

Marquise Williams celebrates with the Tar Pit after the GT win. (Elliott Rubin)

Marquise Williams celebrates with the Tar Pit after the GT win. (Elliott Rubin)

His record-breaking numbers over the weekend deserved that honor, but Coach Fedora says it’s the junior signal caller’s enhanced decision-making abilities that have proved most vital.

“I think he’s [Williams] gotten better and better every week. As you continue to make good decisions and when you don’t make a good decision and make something out of it, you gain confidence. Stay within the offense, take what they give you, and we’ll be okay. When you get outside of that, things happen,” Coach Fedora says.

Winning tends to breed more winning. Coach Fedora says the young Tar Heels’ confidence levels are growing as they figure out what it takes to emerge victorious on game days.

“For their confidence level and their ability to believe in each other and what they’re doing, we were getting to a point where we really needed it [a win]. It was all about finding a way to win the football game. When you find a way to win football games, you start realizing if you don’t screw it up, you got a pretty good chance,” Coach Fedora says.


Williams, Tar Heels Cool Under Pressure

When faced with a deficit and little time remaining on the clock, the UNC offense came up big Saturday night, snapping a five-game losing streak to Georgia Tech.

UNC signal caller Marquise Williams’ poise under pressure was paramount.

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Despite the torrid pace of the UNC offense, there was an overlaying sense of calm about the Tar Heels as Williams directed the game-winning drive that ended with a T.J. Logan touchdown dive.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says the team works through the two-minute drill every week. It showed against the Yellow Jackets.

“As he was going out with 3:07 left, he said, ‘We do this every week. It’s not big deal.’ He’s right. We work two-minute every week. We’ve been doing that since the first day that we got here. He’s comfortable with it. If you look at our guys, they aren’t helter-skelter. We go at that pace all the time. It’s very calm for them,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

At times Saturday night, Williams’ play was beautiful to watch. The junior leader completed 38 of his 47 passes, totaled 390 yards and threw four touchdowns.

During one stretch in the second half, Williams completed 14 consecutive pass attempts, just one shy of the school record.

With 3:07 remaining on the Kenan Stadium clock, Williams thrived. He says his only thoughts concerned “moving the chains”.

“This is when the best quarterbacks perform – under pressure, when you’re down. We had three timeouts and 3:07 left. Don’t force anything and check the ball down. I knew we just had to move the ball down and keep moving the chains. We found ways to keep executing on the offensive side of the football,” Williams says.

Williams has always been known for his explosive dual-threat ability. But the way Coach Fedora was talking about his quarterback following the win over Georgia Tech, it’s his role as a game manager that made the difference.

“He really did a nice job of checking the ball down. He didn’t push the ball into any coverages he shouldn’t have. He did a heck of a job with the way he ran the ball as always and the way he threw it,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams is none short on confidence. He’s made his fair share of mistakes in his Carolina career that began when Bryn Renner went down to injury last season, but Williams says he draws inspiration from a couple NFL greats.

“That’s where the greats perform. You look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady with the two-minute drive. I want to be something like that one day in my life. I thought, ‘Why can’t I do it?’ I look back at times that I turned the ball over in certain situations, but I have the opportunity to come back and redeem myself,” Williams 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)

But there’s another factor contributing to Williams’ fine play the past two weeks at Notre Dame, a team that nearly knocked off defending national champion Florida State last week, and at home against the Yellow Jackets.

The young UNC offensive line is coming together. The addition of Jon Heck back into the starting lineup after recovering from injury and the maturation of the rest of the guys up front has led to more time for Williams’ decision-making and opened up wider rushing lanes for UNC’s stable of running backs.

Coach Fedora says he likes the progress he sees from the O-line and in turn, is delighted with the emergence of a running game.

“You’re talking two weeks in a row that we’ve had our starting five back up front with some repetitions under their belt. I think they’re doing a better job and with Marquise being able to run, it’s going to open up some things for the running backs. Those guys ran hard and did a nice job,” Coach Fedora says.

Perhaps Logan going in for the decisive touchdown Saturday night was fitting. It could be a sign of a different Tar Heel squad moving forward into the latter portion of the 2014 schedule, a team armed with an effective rushing attack.

Logan ran with a renewed fighting spirit last weekend, running over Jacket defenders while tallying up 77 yards on 14 carries to lead the Tar Heels on the ground.

Williams says all the hard work put in by the O-line is finally being rewarded.

“It’s been shaky all year. A lot of people were talking about how we couldn’t get a running game. Those guys kept feeling bad about themselves. Now, the offensive line is unbelievable. My hat goes off to them every Saturday. After we finish practice on Sundays, you see some guys out there blocking. I’m so grateful to have those guys. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do out there,” Williams says.

What’s more, despite an unimpressive 3-4 record and 1-2 mark in the ACC, the Tar Heels aren’t completely out of the Coastal race. Williams and company are heading back to the practice fields this week with tangible success to build on, emboldened by the momentum of an ACC victory.


Tar Heels Thwart Yellow Jackets 48-43

The North Carolina football team used T.J. Logan’s game-winning touchdown dive with 11 seconds to play to get past Georgia Tech 48-43 in Kenan Stadium Saturday night and improve to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.

With the loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped to 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.

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Quarterback Marquise Williams completed 38 of 47 pass attempts for 390 yards and four touchdowns. At one point in the second half, Williams completed 14 consecutive attempts, one shy of the school record.

“We just had to play with confidence as an offense,” Williams says. “We told the defense as soon as they came off, we said, `We got your back.'”

Williams set the UNC record for completions in a game with 38 (previous was 33 by T.J. Yates vs. NC State in 2010). He also set the UNC record for completions in consecutive games with 62. The previous record was 61 by Yates in 2010.

“All night (Marquise) did a really nice job of taking the ball where it was supposed to go,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says. “He didn’t force it, and he checked down when we needed to. That’s why we moved the chains the way we did.”

The Yellow Jackets struck first with a Zach Laskey 3-yard touchdown to go up 7-0 with 5:47 to go in the first quarter.

The Tar Heels answered right back when Williams threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard to tie the contest at 7-7 with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter. Georgia Tech responded with a 27-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to snag back the lead at 10-7 with 10:47 left in the half.

A Williams to Ryan Switzer 68-yard touchdown pass pushed UNC ahead 14-10 with 9:13 to go in the second quarter.

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Following some solid defensive effort, the Tar Heels struck again. This time, it was much the same. Williams used his legs to get down the field and then polished the scoring drive off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Switzer to give UNC a 21-10 advantage with 2:51 left in the second quarter.

The Yellow Jackets didn’t waste any time responding. QB Justin Thomas slung a 12-yard touchdown strike to Tony Zenon to close the gap to 21-17 with 1:25 to play in the half.

To open the second half, Georgia Tech took advantage of their first possession and reclaimed the lead at 24-21 thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Darren Walker with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Carolina answered right back with a scoring drive that was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run by Williams to push the Tar Heels into the lead at 28-24 with 8:13 on the third quarter clock.

The Tar Heels widened the gap yet again with another impressive drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown dive by running back Romar Morris that gave UNC the 35-24 lead with 2:36 to play in the third quarter.

Justin Thomas rallied the Jackets back into contention with a 46-yard scoring pass to Deandre Smelter to close the margin down to 35-31 with 14:50 left in the game.

The key play of the game came on a 4th and 6 at the GT 36-yard line. UNC’s Coach Fedora elected to go for it. It paid off. Williams hooked up with Mack Hollins for a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 42-31 cushion with 12:34 left to play.

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

The Yellow Jackets responded with a 14-yard touchdown dash by Zach Laskey. But a huge tackle by UNC defender Des Lawrence put a stop to Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion effort. The Tar Heels held a 42-37 advantage with 8 minutes left in the contest.

A 75-yard reverse by Smelter went to the end zone for a touchdown and gave Georgia Tech a 43-42 edge with 3:07 to play.

On the next possession, UNC bounced back strongly.  Logan took the ball in the end zone for the game-winner with a two-yard scoring dive to earn the Tar Heels the 48-43 win.

Georgia Tech had one final possession deep in its own end, but Thomas’ desperation deep heave fell incomplete and receiver Michael Summers dropped Thomas’ short pass.

Next up for UNC comes a trip up to Charlottesville next Saturday to take on the 4-3 Virginia Cavaliers in another critical ACC Coastal matchup.



Tar Heels Look To Avoid Habitual Yellow Jacket Sting

The 2-4 North Carolina football team will welcome 5-1 Georgia Tech to Chapel Hill this weekend for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday under the lights at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels will be searching for their first ACC win of the season.

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Saturday’s game is a classic contrast in styles. It’s the jumpy, up-tempo UNC offense up against the deliberate, ‘lull you to sleep’ triple-option assault of Georgia Tech.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says there’s pressure to score on every possession against the Yellow Jackets’ style of play that eats up so much clock.

“Georgia Tech does a tremendous job of possessing the ball. They stay ahead of the chains so they’re not in long-yardage situations on third down. They can still get to their entire offense, which is the triple option. Offensively, you go from averaging 14-15 possessions in a game to 9-10,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels have been preparing a little differently in practice this week – without a football.

“We don’t use a ball when we’re running the triple option. That way, the defense doesn’t know who has the ball because there is no ball. On every play, somebody should be wrapping the fullback up, somebody should have the quarterback and somebody should have the pitch. If they’re not, something is wrong,” Coach Fedora says.

UNC senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer says gap assignments are a priority against the triple option.

“You’re going to have to fit your gap and do your job. You can’t really worry about the guy next to you; just know that he’s going to be able to do his job. Everybody on this defense has a job to do. If we do our job, we’ll be fine on Saturday,” Farmer says.

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is worried about the dual-threat ability of Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams is one of only eight players in the country leading his team in both passing yards and rushing yards.

Coach Johnson says the Yellow Jacket defense will try to keep Williams constrained inside the pocket.

“You have to be mindful of your rush lanes. Where he really kills you is adlibbing. You have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket and not letting him kill you on scramble plays,” Coach Johnson says.

A win this weekend would provide a huge confidence boost to the Tar Heels for multiple reasons.

First, UNC needs to put a stop to the immediate bleeding – a four-game losing streak. But perhaps more importantly, the Tar Heels must exorcise their triple option demons.

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

UNC has succumbed to Georgia Tech on five straight occasions and dropped 14 of the last 16 contests between the schools. In order to harbor any realistic hopes of winning the ACC Coastal this year and what’s more, in any future seasons, the Tar Heels must prove they can find a way past the Yellow Jackets.

Coach Fedora senses that urgency and says the Tar Heels will need to quickly adapt to the speed at which Georgia Tech runs the triple option. But the problem is he also says it’s impossible to adequately simulate Coach Johnson’s offense with a scout team.

“There’s no way you’re going to show them the speed of the game with the triple option in practice. We don’t run it. You’re not going to get a scout team to run the triple option as quickly and efficiently as they do. It takes some time at the beginning of the game to get acclimated to the speed of it. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long. You’re only going to have so many possessions,” Coach Fedora says.

A quick start is always important, but against the ball-control running of Georgia Tech, it’s even more vital. An early first half lead reminiscent of the 14-0 margin opened up by the Tar Heels a week ago at Notre Dame, could completely change the complexion of the game Saturday night.


Scouting Report: A Chat With GT Coach Paul Johnson

WCHL’s Matt Oakes caught up with Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson to discuss the state of GT football, the parity in the ACC, the triple-option offense and his matchup with the Tar Heels this weekend in Chapel Hill.

***Listen to the conversation***


Roy Williams Relishing ‘Molding’ Season, UNC’s Potential

October is Roy Williams’ favorite time of the year. In preseason practice, the UNC basketball head coach says he can spend time truly teaching his players and sculpt a team identity for the season ahead.

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In 2012, Coach Williams says his Tar Heels were a broken Kendall Marshall wrist away from a sixth NCAA Tournament championship.

Since then, UNC has been mired in off-the-court issues, most prominently featuring P.J. Hairston. Coach Williams says the last couple years have been tough, but it has reaffirmed his love for the game.

“In 2012, we were a broken wrist away from what I thought was the best team in the country. The last two years, there has been more junk than I would like to deal with. It’s made the job not as much fun. But one thing that it’s done is to confirm what I truly love is being on the court with the kids. The last two years, that’s been my salvation,” Coach Williams says.

The last two seasons, UNC has struggled to put both inside and outside scoring together. But Coach Williams says this year’s bunch of Tar Heels has the potential to be much more balanced.

“I think there’s more balance. We have to play like it. I want the perimeter guys to play really well, and then you have a really good team. We do have some people in there. Now they have to step up and do it,” Coach Williams says.

Paige eyeing the floor (UNC Athletics)

Paige eyeing the floor (UNC Athletics)

Despite the enormous potential and numerous media outlets placing the Tar Heels inside the top 5 of their preseason rankings, Coach Williams stops short of calling this year’s lineup “ideal”. He has another All-Star squad in mind.

“It’s not ideal. If it was ideal, I would have Marcus, Marvin, Tyler, Tyler and John. That would be ideal because we could do everything. This team hasn’t shown yet on the court against other teams that they can do everything. We still don’t have anybody that’s proven they can be an inside scorer,” Coach Williams says.

It remains to be seen who may emerge as that dominant force under the basket. A beefed-up Brice Johnson and a fitter Kennedy Meeks serve as a couple of the prime candidates.

But it has been made clear by Coach Williams, as if it needed to be crystallized any further, that Marcus Paige is the best player on the floor.

Paige, a preseason All-America pick, will be hoping to have more offensive support in his junior campaign. Coach Williams says he wishes he had a full roster of Marcus Paiges to play.

“He’s a complete basketball player. He’s our best shooter, probably the best driver and best defender. If I had five of them at the same size, we would be really good,” Coach Williams says.

Brice Johnson fights through double team (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson fights through a double team (Todd Melet)

For now, Coach Williams is embracing the preseason – an opportunity to develop and mold his Tar Heels into the Final Four team they all say they want to be.

“I love this time period – the teaching, trying to mold the guys. Trying to mold a team is trying to get everybody aimed at one objective and make sacrifices for the common goal. That’s a big challenge. Getting everybody to make sacrifices towards a common goal is one of my thrills,” Coach Williams says.

UNC opens Smith Center action Oct. 24 with a 7:30 p.m. exhibition game against Fayetteville State.


UNC Football Turning the Corner À La 2013?

UNC football head coach Larry Fedora is comparing the Tar Heels’ tough 50-43 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday to last season’s 27-23 defeat to Miami in Chapel Hill.

The parallels are plentiful, but will UNC back it up with another dramatic turnaround?

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“There were many bright spots. There were some things that we were able to take from this game [at Notre Dame] and hopefully, we’ll be able to grow on and be a better football team because of it,” Coach Fedora says.

The energy was up. The Tar Heel defenders were flying to the ball and playing with aggression. Marquise Williams and the offense were clicking on all cylinders.

Was Saturday the beginning of a transformation reminiscent of the Miami game on Zero Dark Thursday in Kenan Stadium a year ago?

The similarities are eerie.

Both games were played in mid-October. UNC was largely written off heading into both contests, following sluggish starts to the seasons. The Tar Heels were facing an undefeated and top-ten team on both occasions. And to top it all off, the underdog Tar Heels carried a surprising lead into the fourth quarter only to suffer a painful loss both years.

In 2013, following the Miami defeat, UNC stood at 1-5. But the Tar Heels were a new team afterwards, rallying to win six of their next seven games to finish with a 7-6 record and a Belk Bowl victory.

The precedent is there, but can UNC find that detour road map and navigate through to a bowl game yet again?

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora is confident that if Carolina is able to clean up its own act, the Tar Heels can match up competitively with anyone.

“I think our football team came out of that understanding that if we take care of ourselves, we can play with anybody. But again, for us, it’s about ‘us’. Every team that’s defeated us, you give them the credit, and they’ve done a great job. But we just have to take care of us. If we take care of ‘us’, we give ourselves a chance to win against anybody,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora is hoping his Tar Heels can draw inspiration from what they were able to accomplish post-Miami in 2013 and apply it to 2014.

“I would say this Notre Dame game was a lot like Miami last year. We learned a lot of lessons in that game and started playing much better. Hopefully, we’ll do the same thing this year,” Coach Fedora says.

If the 2-4 Tar Heels are to embark on a similar recovery effort this season, they’ll have to start the process by overcoming the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech.

Coach Fedora says there is no good way to replicate what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson does with his offense with a scout team in practice.

But Coach Fedora says the team is looking forward to returning home and taking on the Yellow Jackets.

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

“We’re excited about coming home and playing in front of our home fans again. We’re taking on a very good Georgia Tech team that totally makes you stop what you’re doing on defense and change to prepare for the triple-option attack,” Coach Fedora says.

It will be a tough hurdle to clear Saturday. UNC has dropped 14 out of its last 16 matchups with Georgia Tech, including losses in the last five meetings.

But maybe a narrow miss against a top-10 opponent will again prove to be the necessary fodder for another successful Tar Heel turnaround.


‘Little Things’ Still Costing Tar Heels Big-Time

The Tar Heels were left wondering what could have been Saturday evening in the waning minutes of a hard-fought, but altogether frustrating loss to the undefeated Fighting Irish.

Small mistakes, again, doomed the UNC football team.

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UNC head coach Larry Fedora says the 50-43 loss at Notre Dame was tough to swallow in the locker room, especially with all the self-inflicting wounds the team suffered.

“They’re hurting. They know that was a heck of a football team they played today. You play a game like that, and you feel like you’re not that far away. We just need to get over the hump. We’ve got to get better in all three areas. We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes we’re making and do much better with the details, just the little things,” Coach Fedora says.

Larry Fedora (AP)

Larry Fedora (AP)

In total, the 2-4 Tar Heels tallied nine penalties for 94 yards. UNC also tossed in a pair of turnovers – one lost fumble and an interception.

But one bright spot for the Tar Heels came at the quarterback position. Coach Fedora abandoned his typical rotation formula, saying he didn’t want to disrupt Marquise Williams’ fine rhythm in South Bend.

“We decided to take some pressure off 10 [Mitch Trubisky] and let 12 [Williams] go. He was moving the ball. We were effective against a good defense. I thought 12 had a really good feel with what he was doing and seeing, so we decided to keep going with him,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams’ dual-threat ability was on full display at Notre Dame Stadium last weekend, avoiding tackles and even finding the end zone with his feet.

Missed tackles, however, plagued the UNC defense yet again, leading to big plays that Coach Fedora says crippled his team’s chances.

“You can’t give up big plays. If you give up big plays, you’re going to have a hard time winning. That’s one of the two things that we look at – the turnover battle and the explosive play battle,” Coach Fedora says.

Uncharacteristically, mistakes even began to infect the special teams department Saturday.

Photo courtesy of ledger-enquirer

Photo courtesy of ledger-enquirer

Carolina missed a field goal, had an extra point blocked, and botched a makeable two-point conversion. And don’t forget, the usually reliable Tommy Hibbard punted from the 33-yard line in the third quarter and sailed the ball into the end zone for a net gain of 13 yards, costing the UNC defense valuable field position.

The most controversial special teams play was the roughing-the- snapper penalty that kept alive an Irish fourth-quarter scoring drive. The Tar Heels were leading and about to get the ball back. Oh, what could have been?

With all that said, Carolina did show improvement and impressive fight on the road in a hostile environment against a top-five opponent, but until the ‘little things’ are cleaned up, the Tar Heels may have to settle for more moral victories.


Battling Tar Heels Fall 50-43 To No. 5 Fighting Irish

The North Carolina football team took a 36-35 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Tar Heels couldn’t hold on and lost 50-43 at the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday in South Bend, dropping to a 2-4 record.

***Listen to the recap***

With the win, the Irish improved to 6-0 on the season and now set up a top-five showdown with No. 1 Florida State next weekend in Tallahassee.

Photo courtesy of sbnation.com

Photo courtesy of sbnation.com

Irish quarterback Everett Golson threw three touchdown passes to overcome his three turnovers and keep Notre Dame unblemished in 2014.

A controversial roughing-the-snapper penalty on UNC linebacker Norkeithus Otis kept alive the go-ahead touchdown drive for Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. From there, the Irish seized control of the contest and ran out the clock with strong ball control.

The Tar Heels remained winless all-time in South Bend. Carolina’s 43 points on Saturday are the third most scored in a UNC loss in school history.

UNC junior quarterback Marquise Williams completed 24 of 41 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He also tallied a career-high 132 yards on the ground, including a rushing touchdown. Williams became the first Tar Heel in school history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game.

“Marquise [Williams] played his heart out,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora Larry Fedora says. “He gave us a chance to win the football game. He ran the ball hard, he made some great throws, and he was a fighter out there today.”

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Williams didn’t stop there; he snagged a 23-yard pass from receiver Quinshad Davis for a score as well. Redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky didn’t see the field for the first time this season. The UNC offense experienced good rhythm for most of the contest.

But the UNC defense struggled to stop the Notre Dame offense, giving up at least 50 points for the third time in 2014, a record for the most 50-plus-point games surrendered in a single season by the Tar Heels.

Next up for the Tar Heels is a return home to Chapel Hill to take on 5-1 Georgia Tech at Kenan Stadium in a critical ACC Coastal contest.



Upset-Minded Tar Heels Meet No. 5 Fighting Irish

The North Carolina football team, with a 2-3 record, heads to South Bend to take on an in-form 5-0 Notre Dame squad ranked No. 5 nationally. The two programs will collide for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday afternoon in a nationally televised contest.

***Listen to the preview***

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson remains in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says Golson has improved tremendously as a passer and has the luxury of playing behind a stout offensive line that averages over 300 pounds per player.

“He has really grown as a passer. He can zip the ball and really spins it well. He’s got a tremendous offensive line – that has probably been the biggest thing for him this year. They’re big up front. They can move you,” Coach Fedora says.

Photo courtesy of www.uhnd.com

Photo courtesy of www.uhnd.com

But the true strength of the Fighting Irish lies in a dominating defense that’s only giving up a measly 12 points per contest.

Coach Fedora says Notre Dame’s size and speed is a formidable combo.

“They have the No. 3 scoring defense in country right now. They’re big and can run on the back end, not that they can’t run on the front end. They’re really big up front – 300-plus [pounds] across the front. We’ll have our work cut out for us up there,” Coach Fedora says.

Defensively, UNC has shown improvement in the past couple games, especially against the run. But this Saturday, Coach Fedora says they’ll have to guard against the dual-threat ability of Notre Dame’s Golson.

“They’re going to go as far as he takes them. He’s really a good player. He can run and beat you with his legs on any play. He can turn an ordinary play into a great play. He’s what makes it tick. He’s a really good football player,” Coach Fedora says.

The Irish are coming off a thrilling come-from-behind victory against Stanford. But head coach Brian Kelly says it’s vital for his team to put that behind them and focus on a talented Tar Heel team.

“Coming off a win against Stanford, it was important that we got right back to work against a very athletic and young, aggressive team in North Carolina,” Coach Kelly says.

For sophomore offensive tackle Jon Heck, the trip to South Bend will be a family affair. But he says his family members won’t be pulling for Carolina.

“My entire family went to Notre Dame. My uncle is actually a priest there. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins went there and are going to be there. They say they want me to do well, but they’re cheering for Notre Dame,” Heck says.

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey A. Camarati

The Tar Heels will certainly have nothing to lose against the heavily-favored Irish, but Coach Fedora says he’s relishing the opportunity.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity sitting before us right now. It should be a lot of fun to find out how we’re going to respond and who we are. It should be a great game,” Coach Fedora says.

Carolina and Notre Dame will meet for the 19th time in a series that dates back to 1949. The Tar Heels trail the all-time series, only managing to emerge victorious on two occasions.

UNC’s last win over a top-10 team was a 31-28 victory over No.4 Miami in 2004. Coach Fedora says he’s looking to make some history this weekend, but will his error-prone Tar Heels be up to the challenge of a smothering Irish defense and an efficient offense? Saturday will provide the answers.