Small mistakes, again, doomed the UNC football team.
***Listen to the story***
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.
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/little-things-still-costing-tar-heels-big-time/
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/upset-minded-tar-heels-meet-5-fighting-irish/
Carolina junior offensive guard Landon Turner and head coach Larry Fedora agree it’s the fine details that are tripping the Tar Heels up so far this season. At 2-3 on the season, UNC is hoping to shore up its deficiencies soon.
***Listen to the story***
If the 2014 college football season has shown us anything, it’s parity. After a weekend littered with upsets that flipped the rankings on their head, the Tar Heels will be aiming to author a surprising win of their own Saturday at Notre Dame.
Turner says he’s confident the Tar Heels can beat anybody in the nation on a given week.
“That’s what college football is about. Anybody can win on any given Saturday. As a team, we have to believe we can win any week. I think we have the talent to beat anyone in the country. We just have to find a way to put it all together,” Turner says.
For the offensive line, penalties have been a major issue. Turner says he remains optimistic despite being discouraged by all the ‘little things’ that have been holding back the unit.
“We just need to refocus as an offensive line and make sure that when we come to compete on game day, we remember the technical things, the smallest things that are easy to correct. I’m encouraged by it, but it’s disappointing at the same time,” Turner says.
Five games deep into the season, Coach Fedora is still waiting for some light bulbs to go off in his players’ heads. He says it’s up to the individuals to make a decision to block out the big picture and focus on what they can control – the ‘small stuff’.
“You can fix it. You can fix it when you decide as an individual you want to fix it. I’ve been talking about it from the beginning and will continue to talk about it until those switches flip. We’ll get it going. We’ll get it corrected. But sometimes, as an individual, you’re worried about the big picture and forget about the smallest detail that we just need you to take a six-inch step at a 45-degree angle with your right foot,” Coach Fedora says.
With so few returning players in the starting lineup, Coach Fedora says youth can cloud the ability to lock in on the details.
“Every detail is very important or we wouldn’t give you the detail. We would just say, ‘step’. We do have to get all of those and sometimes, when you’re dealing with young kids; their focus is not on the smallest details. Their focus is on everything that’s going on,” Coach Fedora says.
By contrast, perhaps it’s fitting that UNC’s opponent this weekend, Notre Dame, is making a living on doing all the ‘little things’ well. There’s nothing flashy about the Fighting Irish, but they take care of the football.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels continue to grind it out on the practice fields, striving for cohesiveness. Turner says putting all the small pieces together is what makes football special.
“That’s the one thing I love about this game. It takes 11 guys moving almost perfectly. If there’s one chink in the armor, the whole play falls apart. I guess it is alarming, but when you play it for a while, it’s what makes the game great,” Turner says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-still-tackling-little-things/
Head coach Larry Fedora leads a Carolina football team that has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the most penalized teams in the ACC, and in turn, the nation. But Coach Fedora says the mistakes are correctable with a road trip at No. 6 Notre Dame looming.
***Listen to the story***
It’s an old cliché, but it’s never a good sign to hear coaches reference the ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ saying.
On Monday, Coach Fedora went to the well one more time when discussing the myriad mistakes committed by the UNC offense in Saturday’s 34-17 home loss to Virginia Tech.
“You name it. Whether it was a guy flinching, jumping off sides, missed assignment here – it would be easy if it was just one guy. But that’s not the way it is. We take turns shooting ourselves in the foot right now. The good thing is that everything is correctable. We just got to get it corrected,” Coach Fedora says.
With back-to-back games against two of the remaining 10 undefeated teams in the FBS, the Tar Heels had better get the sloppiness out of them sooner rather than later.
Coach Fedora says for right now, his players are battling within themselves. He says until the mistakes are corrected, the Tar Heels have more pressing issues to worry about than their next opponent.
“The focus for us was going back, breaking down the film and looking at all the mistakes we made. We see that we look like a team that if we could our mistakes corrected and take care of the things within our team, we could be a decent football team. Until we do that, it’s going to be tough,” Coach Fedora says.
With that said, the Carolina skipper recognizes the huge opportunity afforded to UNC this weekend. Coach Fedora says playing at Notre Dame in front of a national T.V. audience is exciting.
“We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us this week. We get a chance to go to Notre Dame and play on national T.V. It’s exciting and should be a lot of fun,” Coach Fedora says.
Snagging the program’s first top-10 victory since a 31-28 win over No. 4 Miami in 2004 would make the trip all the more fun. But with three straight defeats, it’s easy to question the confidence level in the UNC locker room.
Coach Fedora, though, insists his players maintain belief.
“I’m not a guy that wavers up and down in my confidence based on one game. I don’t know how you do that. There’s frustration involved, but I don’t think there’s a lack of confidence in what we do or how we do things,” Coach Fedora says.
The UNC defense appears to have steadily improved, with far better tackling and energy, since the debacle at ECU a few weeks ago. Coach Fedora agrees with that assessment.
“I think they’ve taken the challenge. They’re doing a better job of maintaining their gaps and not trying to do too much. When the ball’s thrown, we’re getting pressure on the quarterback. They’re also doing a good job of retracing and getting back down the field,” Coach Fedora says.
Coach Fedora, who will be making his first trip to Notre Dame, was asked if he’d let the team soak in the rich tradition and history at South Bend this weekend. He says there won’t be time for sight-seeing and offered a more attractive alternative.
“We don’t get that opportunity. We stay an hour away. We’re there a couple hours before the game and leave after the game, so there’s not a whole lot of time for soaking up anything. I’d rather go in there and make some [history],” Coach Fedora says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/fedora-id-rather-go-make-history/
The Carolina rushing attack has struggled to gain traction all season long, but the void was especially glaring Saturday against Virginia Tech. The tailback trio of T.J. Logan, Romar Morris and Elijah Hood combined for 15 yards on nine carries.
***Listen to the story***
Through five games in the 2014 season, the stable of highly-touted UNC running backs has only mustered a combined 450 yards.
Myriad factors are circulating as key contributors to the lack of production.
Freshman running back Elijah Hood says the UNC offense lacks any kind of flow due to sloppy mistakes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a lot. That limited what we could do offensively. We had a lot of drives that we couldn’t get a good flow going. That threw us off. When our offense can’t get a rhythm, we struggle to move the ball,” Hood says.
Some of those errors include frustrating false start penalties that continue to plague the offensive line. Hood says the penalties destroy momentum.
“It can get frustrating. You obviously want to move the ball. When you’re moving the ball backwards, that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do. Having those penalties hurts bad. We need to be moving forward and using our tempo. We can’t do that when we’re drawing penalties,” Hood says.
Frustratingly for Hood, he was handed the ball on a mere three occasions Saturday afternoon. Compare that to the Hokies, who gave the ball to Trey Edmunds 12 times and a whopping 20 handoffs went to Marshawn Williams.
It’s tough to get in any sort of rhythm with only three cracks at the ball. Hood says the penalty yardage, though, forces the Tar Heels away from a commitment to the run game and into more difficult passing situations.
“It’s pretty tough when you don’t get a lot of carries to get a good rhythm. Also, we were giving ourselves a lot of long field to get first downs. When that happens, it just makes it hard for running backs to run the ball. First and fifteen, it’s a little bit harder to run the football,” Hood says.
The youth of the UNC offensive linemen has been well-documented. But junior offensive guard Landon Turner says the Tar Heels need to get off to quicker starts and take care of their own assignments in order to set the running backs up for success.
“We didn’t really get a chance to run as many of our run plays that we had because we didn’t start fast enough this week. Guys need to buy in. There are breakdowns every play. You can look at the film. There’s a breakdown in someone’s position somewhere. We all have to come together and put a whole game together by doing our own jobs,” Turner says.
Junior quarterback Marquise Williams was named the ‘lone bright spot’ by head coach Larry Fedora in his postgame remarks Saturday. Williams says he has full confidence in his offense to stick together and overcome the issues in the run game.
“We got to keep attacking. The offensive line is going to do a much better job. I know a lot of guys are feeling down, but they’re going to do a tremendous job. I’m not going to turn my back on them. The running backs are going to keep believing. As long as they believe that if we can get them to the safety, they’re going to make them miss. Keep fighting hard, don’t turn your back on anybody, and come together as a family,” Williams says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/missing-element-unc-rushing-attack/
The North Carolina football team committed sloppy mistakes and was unable to get its offense going early in a 34-17 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium, dropping to 2-3 on the season.
With the victory, the Hokies improved to 4-2 in 2014.
***Listen to the recap***
Virginia Tech running back Marshawn Williams rumbled for a touchdown and Hokie signal caller Michael Brewer added another through the air to help guide the visiting team to a vital ACC win. The Hokies capitalized with 21 points on Tar Heel turnovers.
The UNC defense kept them in the game with an impressive third quarter in which they limited the Hokie offense to a mere 22 yards and recorded five tackles for a loss, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 21-point halftime deficit.
“That whole first half, for whatever reason, we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win the football game,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.
On the opening play of the contest, UNC junior quarterback Marquise Williams coughed up the ball on a sack, setting the Hokie offense up for an early touchdown thanks to an eight-yard scoring run by freshman back Marshawn Williams just 44 seconds into the game.
The Tar Heels answered back with a methodical march down the field on the ensuing possession, but the home team was forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Weiler when a third down pass slipped through senior tight end Jack Tabb’s fingertips in the end zone. At the 11:38 mark in the first quarter, the Hokies held a 7-3 advantage.
The Hokies continued to move the ball successfully against a reeling Tar Heel defense, converting on two third downs and a fourth down to keep the drive alive. VT quarterback Michael Brewer tossed a 26-yard scoring strike to receiver Bucky Hodges with 5:59 on the first quarter clock to give the Hokies a 14-3 lead.
The defenses largely dominated the second quarter of play until the waning moments before halftime. A 27-yard field goal Joey Slye pushed the Hokie lead up to 17-3 with 1:44 before halftime. Then, a poor decision by UNC redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Trubisky led to a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown by VT sophomore cornerback Kendall Fuller.
As the two teams trotted into the locker room, Virginia Tech held the 24-3 lead.
The third quarter went the way of the defenses with both offenses struggling to sustain any kind of momentum thanks to dropped balls and sloppy penalties. The scoreboard didn’t change.
A beautiful punt by Tommy Hibbard was downed inside the Hokie 1-yard line. Then, M.J. Stewart’s first career interception set up a great scoring opportunity for the Tar Heels. A couple plays later, freshman Elijah Hood punched in a 1-yard run for a touchdown that cut the Hokie lead down to 24-10 with 13:19 left to play in the game.
From there, with the game in hand, the Hokies began to grind out the clock, putting the finishing touches on an important road win in the ACC Coastal race.
Next up for the Tar Heels comes a tough road game at South Bend next Saturday against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
***Listen to the preview***
When facing the Hokies, an opponent typically expects a heavy dose of old-fashioned, ground-and-pound action from the running backs.
But with the loss of talented freshman back Shai McKenzie last weekend, UNC head coach Larry Fedora says he expects a different game plan that will include more passing. The Hokies have a capable quarterback in the form of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer.
“He’s [Brewer] doing a nice job for them. They have some big receivers. No. 7, he reminds me a lot of [Eric] Ebron. He’s really a big, physical and athletic kid. They have two very nice tight ends and are big on the outside as well. He’s doing a very nice job of spreading the ball around,” Coach Fedora says.
The Hokie defense, however, has always been the bedrock of Virginia Tech football. This year, is no exception. The Hokies lead the nation with 41 tackles for a loss and also top the national charts with 21 sacks.
Coach Fedora understands the stiff defensive challenge that will roll into Kenan Stadium Saturday.
“Bud Foster [VT def. coord.] is one of the best out there. Year in and year out, his defense is always going to be up there. He’s evolved with them over time. They press you, play man coverage and outnumber you in the box. Other than Georgia Tech, I don’t think anybody has rushed for over 100 yards against them yet,” Coach Fedora says.
The UNC offense is averaging 40.8 points per contest. That total is good enough for 23rd in the nation, but inconsistency of the attack has been the frustrating issue for the coaching staff and players.
Coach Fedora, though, is not pinning any of the blame on new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell.
“I really don’t think the coordinator has had an effect as much as the people actually running it. The calls are pretty much the same as we’ve always done. The offense hasn’t changed. We’ve had to adapt the offense according to some of the talent that we have,” Coach Fedora says.
All eyes inside Kenan Stadium will be on the work in progress that is the UNC defense. Senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer says the Tar Heels will have their hands full against the Hokies.
“They’re big up front. They have key offensive linemen back. Of course, they have a brand new quarterback. Their offensive line has always been extremely good. We are going to be challenged, as always, this week,” Farmer says.
Special teams play could prove to be the deciding factor Saturday. Coach Fedora says strong-legged senior punter Tommy Hibbard has been responding well to everything they’ve been asking him to do.
“What we do with him is difficult to do. The reason we do it is because it makes it much more difficult on the punt return unit. He has really handled that well. There are opportunities for him to boom the ball sometimes, but that’s not really what we want done. It’s always about our net and not his average. We ask him to hang it up there sometimes or put it inside the 10-yard line,” Coach Fedora says.
Both teams harbor hopes of winning their conference division and playing for an ACC title in Charlotte come December. With that in mind, Farmer says the Tar Heels recognize the significance of the game.
“We have goals. They have goals. It’s a big-time game for both teams. We’re going to come out ready to play. That’s our season goal – to be ACC champs. We know that starts with Virginia Tech. It previously didn’t happen against Clemson, but we’re going to be fine Saturday,” Farmer says.
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series with Carolina 19-11-6 and sports an 8-2 mark in ACC contests. The Hokies are the only team from Virginia that boasts a winning football record against the Tar Heels.
But this year’s edition is a vital chapter in the rivalry. None other than Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer says Saturday’s meeting is a must-win for both schools.
“You never know how it’s going to work out down the road, but starting off 0-2 in conference is not a great starting point. I think both of us understand it’s a critical ballgame,” Coach Beamer says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/virginia-tech-unc-look-stay-alive-acc-coastal-saturday/
WCHL’s Matt Oakes caught up with legendary Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer this week. The two discussed the competitiveness and depth in the ACC, how to replace injured Hokie freshman running back Shai McKenzie and of course, previewed what Coach Beamer is calling a ‘must-win matchup’ with UNC this weekend.
***Listen to the conversation***http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/scouting-report-chat-vt-coach-frank-beamer/
Senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer and junior wide receiver T.J. Thorpe each lead on different sides of the football, but both Tar Heel veterans are driving home the same message to their teammates.
***Listen to the story***
One is more outspoken; the other, more of a stoic example. But both leaders are preaching the same doctrine this week in practice.
Personal accountability and self-discipline are their two pillars.
Thorpe believes the Tar Heels have been burdening themselves far too much with aspects of the game that are out of their control. He says his teammates need to focus all of their energy on their own respective assignments.
“We look too much into the big picture and try to control more than we’re able to control. I talked to some of the receivers about it. My main focus when I go out there is to control the things that I can control. I can’t control how Marquise [Williams] throws the ball or what he sees. You focus on your assignment,” Thorpe says.
Thorpe’s analysis could help explain the disjointed, inconsistent nature of a UNC offense that has been just as capable of a three and out dud as an electrifying touchdown play this season.
Farmer says the performance of the defensive linemen last weekend at Clemson, where the Tar Heel defensive front shut down the Tiger rushing attack, is a prime example of the success that can be achieved when everybody is handling their own gap assignments.
“It was a big-time difference. We filled all our gaps. We got lined up. It was really great for the front seven,” Farmer says.
Thorpe couldn’t agree more with Farmer. He says the receiving corps had 20 missed assignments against Clemson, contributing to the up-and-down play of the offense.
“We had situations in the game where we had receivers blocking on pass plays. We want to get on Marquise [Williams] for incompletions or starting slow, but that’s part of the problem. He doesn’t have anybody to throw to if you’re blocking. Things like that, we have to be sure to correct and make sure they don’t happen. Against good teams like Clemson, those mistakes will get you beat,” Thorpe says.
Farmer refuses to point the finger at the UNC secondary for letting the defense down at Clemson. He says everybody makes mistakes and needs to take care of their own business.
“It’s frustrating, but we’re all going to learn from our mistakes. As a front seven, we make mistakes. Everybody as a defense is all as one. Mistakes are going to happen, but we’re going to learn from it this week,” Farmer says.
But one thing is for certain. The Tar Heels will definitely need to continue to clean up their act if they harbor hopes of taking down an always well-coached Virginia Tech team Saturday.
Thorpe says the key is to learn from past errors and correct them going forward.
“There’s always a sense of urgency. We don’t want to be in the situation that we were in last year. With that being said, you have to take each week at a time. We have to continue to learn from the mistakes we made in previous weeks and make sure we don’t continuously repeat those mistakes,” Thorpe says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-veterans-thorpe-farmer-preaching-self-discipline/