Saturday’s 20-13 win over then No. 16 Miami marked the fifth time in five tries this season that the UNC football team won as an unranked team.
In two games as a member of the top 25, the Tar Heels have faltered each time.
Head coach Larry Fedora will need that statistic to change now that UNC has re-entered the AP poll this week at No. 22.
The Tar Heels are one of four ACC teams among the rankings, joining No. 3 Clemson, No. 7 Louisville and No. 13 Florida State.
UNC is the only team from the Coastal Division to be ranked.
After a second straight loss, Miami slid from its spot at No. 16 all the way out of the top 25. This after being ranked as high as No. 10 following a 4-0 start.
The other ACC member to leave the polls was Virginia Tech–who fell victim to a major upset against Syracuse and, much like UNC did last week, slipped from No. 17 to the outside looking in.
With four schools–No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska and No. 10 Wisconsin–among the top ten for a second straight week, the Big Ten remains the strongest league at the top.
Led by No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M, the SEC has twice as many ranked teams as any other league, however. The reappearance of No. 25 LSU in the polls gives the SEC eight teams in the mix.
Luckily for the Tar Heels, though, their next game comes against a Virginia team that has limped to a 2-4 record under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall. In each of UNC’s losses–to Georgia and Virginia Tech–its opponents entered the game as members of the top 25 themselves.
That certainly won’t be the case this weekend, as the Tar Heels continues their quest for a second straight ACC Coastal Division title.
Following each of UNC’s thrilling comebacks against Pitt and Florida State, head coach Larry Fedora gave the same message.
One of these days, the tables would turn and the struggling defense would be forced to bail out the high-powered offense.
That time came on Saturday, when Malik Carney’s strip sack in the final moments capped an impressive defensive effort–and sealed the Tar Heels’ 20-13 road win over No. 16 Miami.
Coming off the worst offensive performance of the Fedora era, the Tar Heels sprinted out to a 17-point halftime lead behind a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Mitch Trubisky and a pair of field goals from Nick Weiler.
UNC became the first team to score on Miami’s much-improved defense in the first quarter all season long, and appeared to have found its groove again. That progress then slowed to a halt after halftime, as the Tar Heels were held scoreless over the final two quarters.
Instead, the game was won by the defense for a change—a group that not only made the game-sealing play, but one that also stopped the Hurricanes on third down 11 times and held them to just 3.9 yards per rushing attempt on 36 tries.
“It looked like, to me, they controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well,” Fedora said of his defense. “I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage the entire game.
“There were only a couple times it looked like we misfit a gap and a guy got through,” he continued. “But very seldom, did they get to the linebacker level.”
As fate would have it, the skies opened up with heavy rain early in the fourth quarter—creating conditions similar to those the Tar Heels played in during their loss to Virginia Tech.
Not long after, Miami tailback Joseph Yearby took a handoff from quarterback Brad Kaaya and scampered 42 yards down the right sideline. UNC was able to force him out of bounds,however, and then make a critical red zone stop.
A 22-yard field goal put the Hurricanes within one score, but Carney’s heroic effort ended their next drive—and with it, their chances of tying the game.
Defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke scooped the ball off the ground, while tailback Elijah Hood followed up three plays later with a bulldozing 13-yard run on 3rd-and-12 that put the final nail in Miami’s coffin.
“You get Malik Carney who comes in during a two-minute situation—and it’s the first time our defense has been on the field in a two-minute situation—and they had the opportunity to win it, and they do that,” Fedora said.
The coach then smiled a bit. “And that run by Hood there at the end was just unbelievable.”
In a battle between two of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, Trubisky completed 33 of his 46 throws–finishing a yard shy of 300 in addition to the two early scores. He also channeled his inner Marquise Williams by carrying the ball 13 times for 47 yards.
The Tar Heel secondary, meanwhile, played perhaps its best game of the year as it held Kaaya to completions on just 16 of his 31 passes for only 221 yards.
“They hit us on some runs, and we had some negative yardage plays,” Fedora said. “But I thought Mitch had a real good command of where he was taking the ball. He threw the ball really well today and the receivers did a nice job.”
It was the eighth straight road win for UNC, which moves to 5-2 while also moving back into a tie for first atop the ACC Coastal Division following Virginia Tech’s upset loss to Syracuse.
There’s still plenty of work to do, as the Hokies still own the tiebreaker over the Tar Heels.
If the UNC defense continues to build off this effort, though, Fedora and his bunch have a good shot at taking care of their end of the bargain.
“We’ve got all of our goals still sitting in front of us,” Fedora said. “That’s a big thing, to be at this point of the season and to have that. We’ve got another divisional opponent coming up, so that’ll be one we have to get ready for—but I’m proud of where this team is.
“We talked about it before the game,” he added. “They’ve become a team.”
The Tar Heels will stay on the road next week for a game in Charlottesville against Virginia, which is 2-4 in 2016 after a 45-31 loss to Pitt on Saturday.
Keeping with tradition, UNC celebrated the beginning of basketball season with its annual “Late Night with Roy” event–featuring the Tar Heels as both athletes and dancers.
Hosted by former UNC and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Jesse Holley, the night also featured a unique twist with the addition of various skills competitions.
At the end of it all, though, the team scrimmage–the famous Blue vs. White game–decided the night’s winner.
Justin Jackson’s three-pointer in a one-minute overtime period helped lift the White squad to a 40-37 victory that featured a great deal of up-tempo action.
While almost the entire roster was able to get some time in the spotlight during the scrimmage, Jackson led his team with 13 points on the way to a victory in both the game and the overall competition.
Other members of the White team included Kennedy Meeks, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, Luke Maye, Stilman White, Kanler Coker and Aaron Rohlman.
Britt added nine points to the cause, while Meeks and Pinson each tallied six apiece.
The Blue team consisted of Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams and Shea Rush.
Hicks led the blue squad in the scrimmage with 13 points, while Berry chipped in nine.
Earlier in the night, Berry teamed up with Bradley to give the Blue side a 2-0 lead by winning both the shooting stars competition and the skills contest.
The first event consisted of two teams attempting to be the first to make shots from various locations on the floor, while the second included an obstacle course that tested players’ dribbling, passing and shooting.
Bradley, a 6-foot-10 freshman, flashed a nice outside shot during those events–even though that may not mean much when it comes to in-game action.
During the next three competitions–a relay race, the dance-off and the three-point shootout–the White team recovered to take the lead heading into the main event.
The relay race was a confusing jumble that forced players into twerking and wearing football helmets at different times, but it provided a good laugh when Pinson took over on the microphone and did his best Larry Fedora impersonation.
Pinson also got the crowd going with his dance moves–giving his team a point after defeating Berry in a one-on-one showdown that broke a tie following the team routines.
Britt then went out and took home the three-point competition with a win over Jackson in the semifinals and Robinson–a lanky, 6-foot-6 freshman–in the finals.
The UNC women’s basketball team started the night off with a dance routine and a scrimmage of its own, after head coach Sylvia Hatchell was given a standing ovation upon her introduction.
It was a night of fun and basketball that gave fans a an early preview of Chapel Hill’s favorite season.
UNC will play its first exhibition game Friday Nov. 4 at home against UNC-Pembroke.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-kicks-off-basketball-season-at-late-night-with-roy
UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams took some time during Media Day on Tuesday to address the ongoing controversy in the sports world surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
By refusing to stand for the national anthem before games, Kaepernick has sent shockwaves through most of America–using his actions to help create dialogue about the racial inequalities that exist in the country.
Many other players across several different sports have since followed suit, in an effort to keep the conversation in the news cycle.
“I don’t mind telling you–I try to be straight forward when I can–when [Kaepernick] first did it, it made me very angry,” Williams told reporters.
Soon after, the coach brought his team together for a meeting to discuss the issue–but with a different mindset.
“Then he explained himself more, and I listened better” the coach added. “He wasn’t saying this is a bad country. He was saying we’ve got one particular problem he was taking a stance on–and I think he’s correct.”
After making his views clear to the players, Williams asked them each to come to him if they had any issues or questions with what’s going in the world–so they’d be able to mutually help each other reach a common understanding.
Soon after that meeting, Williams said two players came to him for an opinion as the violent protests in Charlotte surrounding the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott were reaching their peak.
“I think we have a very significant problem throughout our entire country,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of different things I’m watching people debate on TV. That’s for sure.”
As far as what would happen if any member of the Tar Heels decided to make a stand on any social issue–whether it be following Kaepernick or another form of protest–it would be allowed, as long as they discuss it with the coach beforehand.
“I may disagree with you, but I’ll be with you,” Williams said, imagining a situation where he was having that discussion with a player. “Just don’t surprise me.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/roy-williams-comments-on-kaepernick-protests
Among the many memorable moments from UNC’s 2015 season was a 59-21 blowout over Miami that served as the final game at Kenan Stadium for seniors such as Marquise Williams and Landon Turner.
The visitors fired head coach Al Golden after the year and brought in former Georgia boss Mark Richt—who now has Miami ranked No. 16 and ready to exact revenge on the Tar Heels this Saturday in South Florida.
The Hurricanes enter this game at 4-1 after suffering their first loss of the season last week against Florida State when their potential game-tying extra point was blocked with under two minutes to play. Each of Miami’s four wins, though, have come by at least 14 points or more–including a 35-point victory in Boone over Appalachian State.
This group of Hurricanes might not resemble the dominant Miami teams of the early 90’s and 2000’s, but UNC head coach Larry Fedora definitely won’t be expecting a repeat performance of last year’s demolition.
“I think Mark’s doing a great job with them,” Fedora said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think they’re playing energized, they’re playing hard and they’re playing well.
“Other than the other night [against Florida State], they’ve been pretty dominant.”
In nearly 200 games as the head coach at Georgia, Richt managed to win a whopping 74 percent of them—despite competing in the ruthless SEC.
He brought with him to Miami—his alma mater–a reputation as a great recruiter and offensive mind. Because of that, many people envisioned a breakout year for star quarterback Brad Kaaya being the key to a successful season.
While Kaaya has been solid, the team’s defense—led by a trio of true freshmen at linebacker—currently ranks seventh in the country in total yards allowed. Virginia Tech, which manhandled the Tar Heels last week, is one of only two teams in the ACC (NC State being the other) to have allowed less yards than Miami this season.
UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the Tar Heels’ high-octane offense will have to be at their best in order to avoid another letdown.
“They’re a really tough defense that’s been putting up some good numbers,” Trubisky said. “Definitely one of the best defenses in the ACC.
“They’ve got some young guys—especially at linebacker—flying around and making plays,” he continued. “They’ve got some ballers, so they’re gonna be ready to go.”
Earlier this week, UNC received good news when word got out that junior tailback Elijah Hood will play against Miami after missing last week’s game due to a concussion. The Tar Heels will need Hood’s ability to run in between the tackles in order to expand their options offensively—especially since they’ll need every point they can get against that stingy defense.
Miami’s offense—like each of the other opponents UNC has faced this season–will certainly test the team’s run defense for as long as they can find success.
However, the added bonus of having a 6-foot-4 quarterback in Kaaya that’s near the top of NFL Draft boards means Miami could easily force the Tar Heels into trying to outscore them.
“He can spin it,” Fedora said of Kaaya, using one of his favorite phrases to describe throwing ability. “He’s a quality quarterback, there’s no doubt.
“I don’t know where he’s projected [in the NFL Draft], but he’s gonna go high,” the coach continued. “One thing I can say is Florida State got after him the other night, but he stood in there and played really well.”
This game will also mark UNC’s third this season in a tough atmosphere against a school with a long and storied football history. First Georgia in the Georgia Dome, then Florida State in Tallahassee and now this.
With the body of work Richt has put together in his first five games at Miami, it’s clear this game will look plenty different for his team than last year’s did.
For the Tar Heels, though, it’s more about making sure this game looks plenty different than last week’s.
“Again, another ranked opponent on the road in a hostile environment,” Fedora said. “Our guys have done that, so they know what to expect.
“I expect our guys to bounce back,” he continued, referencing the loss to Virginia Tech. “I think they understand the task at hand.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-football-faces-stiff-challenge-against-revamped-miami
The UNC baseball team has been down on its luck over the past two seasons–missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years for the first time since head coach Mike Fox took over in 1999.
Last season’s Tar Heels had the highest RPI ranking in history (19) to not be selected for the big dance.
Fans should feel a little better, though, after it was announced Wednesday by Baseball America that UNC ranked second in the publication’s annual recruiting class rankings.
Although the team has often been plagued by classes that include many players who end up going pro and never stepping foot on campus, this year’s ranking is the highest the Tar Heels have had since placing No. 1 in 2003.
Only Ole Miss, which was No. 1 in the rankings this year, has more incoming players ranked among the Baseball America Top 500.
UNC has six new players that are all listed among the top 208. Five of those players, however, are right-handed pitchers.
Tyler Baum (No. 91) is the star of the Tar Heel class, but he will likely compete for limited playing time along with: Austin Bergner (No. 165), Luca Dalatri (No. 174), Robbie Peto (No. 179) and Bo Weiss (No. 183).
Catcher Brandon Martorano (No. 208)–who teamed with Dalatri at New Jersey’s Christian Brothers Academy–rounds out UNC’s top six players.
Five of the six Carolina freshmen in the rankings were drafted in the 2016 MLB Draft: Weiss (Yankees, 29th round), Peto (Angels, 30th round), Martorano (Diamondbacks, 30th round), Bergner (Red Sox, 38th round) and Dalatri (Rockies, 40th round).
The Diamond Heels are set to begin play in their Fall World Series at Boshamer Stadium this weekend. Admission is free. The games are set for Friday at 6 p.m, Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-brings-in-nations-second-ranked-recruiting-class
As it prepares for its third consecutive top-25 opponent this weekend, the UNC football team has done its best to put last Saturday’s crushing loss to Virginia Tech in the rearview mirror.
No longer in control of their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division, the Tar Heels understand that from this point forward winning is their only option.
After getting a chance to dissect the film from the Virginia Tech game, UNC head coach Larry Fedora concluded that yes, his team played every bit as bad as it appeared. Just like on Saturday, he also refused to make excuses about the weather.
Instead, he called out the offense for its ineffectiveness while praising the defensive line for playing its best game of the season—especially given that the offense’s four turnovers continually put the defense in tough situations.
What Fedora didn’t do during his press conference on Monday, however, was show any type of panic. One game, in his mind, is no way to define an entire football team.
“I think this team’s got a lot of grit, I really do,” Fedora told reporters. “I’d hate to put everything—I’m not gonna put everything—on that performance the other day.
“They’ve shown that they care tremendously, play for each other, they have each other’s backs and they play hard,” the coach continued. “It just leaves a bad taste in [our] mouth the way we performed the other night.”
More than anything else, the Tar Heels understand they’ll need Virginia Tech to lose twice in conference play during the second half of the season if they want any shot at making a return to the ACC Championship Game.
That’s been the team’s main goal since the season started and nothing has changed yet.
Defensive tackle Naz Jones didn’t waste words when explaining what needs to happen this weekend against No. 16 Miami—and in each of the Tar Heels five games after that.
“We’ve gotta be goal-oriented and know that we’ve gotta win out to accomplish our goals,” Jones said. “We all have the same goals and the same mindset when it comes to things not going our way [last] Saturday.”
Last season, UNC was able to reel off a school record 11 straight wins in order to claim its first ever Coastal Division crown.
With that in mind, it’s not wrong to think the Tar Heels are perfectly capable of putting together six in a row at this point. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has had the offense rolling for the most part this year, while Jones and the defense have begun to make modest gains.
Looking at things from that perspective, a positive mentality could do wonders for this group. And since the schedule lightens up a bit down the stretch, there really isn’t any massive overhauls that need to take place.
The Tar Heels simply need to remain confident and do what they do best.
“We just have to prepare the same way we would have if we had won the game [against Virginia Tech]—not be too down on ourselves, or trying to change anything,” Jones said. “We can just practice and prepare like we’ve done every other week.”
One major pitfall the Tar Heels must avoid, however, is getting caught scoreboard watching. Knowing they need some help from other schools to get back to their perch atop the Coastal Division is bound to cause distractions at times, worrying about what Virginia Tech is up to.
Of course, players like Trubisky are saying all the right things at the moment—and it’s probably a genuine feeling. A tough road game at Miami awaits UNC–one which would likely put the Tar Heels out of contention no matter what if they lose.
At this point, what other teams are doing means nothing.
“We just gotta control what we can control,” Trubisky said. “We can’t control who beats who or [any of that].
“We can only focus on Miami this week.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-football-in-must-win-scenario-for-acc-coastal-division-race
Two names cast a large shadow over the UNC men’s basketball media day session on Tuesday.
The reason that matters is because Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige played their final game in Tar Heel uniforms over six months ago.
Despite returning six key contributors from a year ago, the remaining Tar Heel players face an uphill challenge this season as they look to establish their own legacy.
Head coach Roy Williams wasted no time reminding reporters how much love he had for both Johnson and Paige as players and as people. He brought up the incredible stats Johnson posted during his final year, while also praising Paige for being one of the team’s best players for each of his four seasons on campus.
And while he recognizes that the Tar Heels have enough talent to compete on the national scale again, he’s interested to see how new leaders—such as point guard Joel Berry, small forward Justin Jackson and big man Kennedy Meeks—respond to the challenge.
“Those other guys—as I’ve said many times—they’ve really gotta step up,” Williams said. “Because it’s not just two guys out of eight, it’s [our] two best—and markedly you could say maybe the two best at every part of the game.
“When Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] were the best–if all of a sudden they weren’t available for the Ryder Cup–that would have been a big loss.”
The most obvious area where UNC will need fresh faces to take over—outside of replacing the on-court statistics—is with vocal leadership.
Players such as Meeks and junior wing Theo Pinson bring lively personalities to the table, while the quieter players like Berry, Jackson and Isaiah Hicks prefer to lead by example.
In his role as the point guard, though, Berry naturally takes more of that pressure on his shoulders. Instead of trying to escape Paige’s shadow, he has embraced the thought of speaking up more—often leaning on lessons he learned from Paige to make the transition easier.
“He was just always vocal, always positive,” Berry said of Paige. “If someone made a mistake, he would always take the blame. And then when we went and watched film you could see it wasn’t his fault—but as a leader you don’t want to get in a confrontation with a teammate during a game. He did a great job of that.
“I’m a quiet person,” he added. “But in my position I’m gonna have to be louder than I was last year.”
The player with perhaps the biggest shoes to fill is Hicks, the senior who is expected to take over for Johnson at the power forward spot.
Although he’s had flashes of brilliance off the bench over the last couple seasons, Hicks has never been a full-time starter to this point in his college career. His explosiveness and rebounding will be sorely needed for a Tar Heel team that doesn’t have quite as much depth in the post as it has in the past.
While Johnson was always UNC’s most emotional player on the floor, Hicks is about as laid back as they come. As a leader in that fashion, Hicks said he feels like he’ll be able to do his part when called upon—but he expects the other returning players to take on some of that responsibility as well.
“Everyone knows we don’t have Marcus and Brice, so everyone else is picking it up,” Hicks said. “You’ll see Joel Berry talking more and he’s pretty emotional too–so he’s got a little bit of both [Paige and Johnson].
“Not only that, you got Nate, Kennedy, Justin, and Theo,” he continued. “Everybody’s been stepping up and doing what they can to fill that void.”
To truly make their own mark, this bunch of Tar Heels will need to leave a lasting impression come tournament time yet again. UNC will likely be ranked among the top 10 in all of the major polls once the regular season finally gets underway. A second straight Final Four trip isn’t out of the equation either, once the leadership issue is taken care of.
Because this team has the luxury of experiencing excruciating pain together against Villanova, the players only need to think back to what their coach told them after Kris Jenkins’ heartbreaking buzzer beater cost them a national title.
Provided they do that, the rest should take care of itself—regardless whether Paige or Johnson step foot in the Smith Center at all this year.
“I told them in the locker room [after the loss to Villanova], ‘Let’s use this as fuel to work harder in the offseason, let’s use this as fuel to motivate, and use this as fuel to put in the extra time.’” Williams said. “Know that we were this close to what we wanted”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-mens-basketball-seeking-new-identity-without-paige-and-johnson
Hurricane Matthew took its toll on the state of North Carolina on Saturday, causing all kinds of flooding and water damage.
Among the casualties was the UNC football team’s spot in the Associated Press Top 25, which was released Monday afternoon.
Following a 34-3 blowout loss to then No. 25 Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels slipped from No. 17 to the outside looking in.
UNC’s offense sputtered in the heavy rain and wind, allowing the Hokies to aggressively pressure quarterback Mitch Trubisky and an offensive line playing without senior guard Caleb Peterson.
The Tar Heels also missed the services of bruising tailback Elijah Hood, who has a play style perfectly suited for the conditions.
Head coach Larry Fedora’s squad is now 0-2 in 2016 when playing as a ranked team.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, was rewarded with a jump to the No. 17 spot previously held by UNC.
In total, five ACC schools found themselves in the rankings. Only the SEC–with seven–had more.
Clemson leads the way at No.3, while Louisville trails just behind at No. 7.
Florida State moved from No.23 to No. 14 after its thrilling win over Miami this past week, as the Hurricanes slipped from No. 10 to No. 16.
The Tar Heels will aim to move back into the mix when they travel back to the Sunshine State this weekend to face Miami and its star quarterback Brad Kaaya.
Arguably the greatest coach in college sports history, Anson Dorrance added yet another milestone to his career on Sunday–notching his 800th career win as the UNC women’s soccer team defeated Wake Forest 2-1 at Fetzer Field.
Coaching the 900th game in program history–and his tenure–Dorrance achieved the feat thanks to goals by Ru Mucherera and Dorian Bailey.
Bailey’s free-kick goal in the second half put the Tar Heels ahead for good, and ensured their coach would go home with his latest big win.
UNC is now 8-2-3 this season since recovering from back-to-back losses to USC and NC State last month.
To put that in perspective, Dorrance’s career record as the Tar Heels’ coach is a whopping 800-65-35.
When factoring in the 172 wins he collected as the men’s soccer head coach at UNC from 1977-88, Dorrance is now just 28 wins shy of reaching 1,000 all-time.
Pair that with his 22 national titles, and you really do have an argument that nobody in the history of the job has ever been more successful.
His climb up the wins ladder will have a chance to resume this Friday, when the Tar Heels travel to face No. 20 Notre Dame.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/anson-dorrance-earns-800th-career-win-as-unc-knocks-off-wake-forest