Seven UNC Coaches Receive New Contracts

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That seems to be the mantra that the UNC Athletic Department is operating under, as it was announced Thursday that the school came to an agreement on brand new three-year deals for five of its head coaches and extended the contracts of two more.

The group receiving the multi-year deals consists of: Anson Dorrance (women’s soccer), Sam Paul (men’s tennis), Joe Breschi (men’s lacrosse), Carlos Somoano (men’s soccer) and Karen Shelton (field hockey).

Despite coming under fire during the school's academic scandal, UNC women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was rewarded with a two-year extension. (Elliot Rubin)

Despite coming under fire during the school’s academic scandal, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was rewarded with a two-year extension. (Elliot Rubin)

Believe it or not, it’s the first multi-year deal for each of the coaches listed above. All five of them now have agreements that run through the 2018-19 season.

Women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy each had their current contracts extended.

Hatchell’s deal is a two-year extension that runs through the 2019-20 season while Levy’s is a one-year extension lasting through the 2018-19 season.

The seven coaches have combined to win 34 national championships during their time at UNC–including 22 from Dorrance by himself.

“This is a remarkable group of head coaches – each of them has won a national championship and they have a combined 168 years directing their programs at Carolina,” UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “We are excited and proud to sign these seven championship coaches to these multi-year contracts and extensions.

“We are fortunate to have such quality people directing our programs,” Cunningham continued. “They have provided consistent and outstanding leadership for many years, and that leadership has paid off successfully in competition, in the classroom and in their development of the young women and men they coach.”

Five of the seven coaches earning new deals have been at the university for over 20 years. Only Breschi (2009) and Somoano (2011) arrived in Chapel Hill during this century.

The UNC-CH Board of Trustees has approved the terms of the contracts.

UNC Invited to Play in Prestigious “PK80” College Basketball Tournament

Over the last few decades, not many people have had more influence over college athletics than Nike chairman Phil Knight.

That relationship will be recognized in November of 2017, with the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon–a prestigious preseason college basketball tournament known as “PK80.”

UNC was among the 16 teams selected to play in PK80, which will be among the largest–and toughest–regular season tournament fields in history.

“What a thrill for North Carolina Basketball to be playing in such a special event to honor a truly special man,” head coach Roy Williams said, in a statement released by the university.“PK80 not only brings together some of the top basketball programs in the game, it honors a giant in business and sports.

Phil Knight is celebrating his 80th birthday in a big way. (Christian Peterson/ Getty Images)

Phil Knight is celebrating his 80th birthday in a big way. (Christian Peterson/ Getty Images)

“Mr. Knight has a wonderful ability to touch people’s lives and do great things, both in and out of the sports world,” Williams continued. “I’ll always cherish my friendship with him.”

The entire field consists of schools that wear Nike gear–with 13 of the 16 having made at least one Final Four appearance.

Nine of the last 13 national champions are also in the mix.

Participating schools include: Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.

“On behalf of the 16 schools participating in PK80, we are honored to be highlighting Mr. Knight’s contributions to college basketball,” said Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events. “The strength of the field coupled with the two venues in Portland set the stage for what should be an exciting weekend.”

Chris Oxley, senior vice president of venue operations of Rose Quarter said, “PK80 will be an incredible showcase of basketball for fans in our arenas and watching on ESPN.

“Two eight-team events – consisting of three games per team – will run simultaneously in the two buildings with the crowning of two bracket champions,” he added. “All games from Portland will be televised on ESPN networks.”

No bracket information has been announced yet for the event, but games will take place on Thursday, Nov. 23, Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 26.

UNC Football Still Seeking Leadership in Key Positions

In a sport like football where a large number of moving parts must work together seamlessly to achieve a common goal, leadership becomes paramount to success.

With big vocal presences like former quarterback Marquise Williams yet to establish themselves in the locker room this season, the UNC football team—despite being extremely talented—is still working on finding its voice at a couple of key positions.

“Leadership doesn’t just come from seniors,” Fedora said. “It can come from anybody. Anybody that has influence on your team—and that can be a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. It doesn’t matter.

Sophomore middle linebacker Andre Smith (10) is similar to Trubisky in that they both are naturally a bit more quiet than some of their teammates. Their positions, however, require that they use their voice to deliver play calls and audibles. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Sophomore middle linebacker Andre Smith (10) is similar to Trubisky in that they both are naturally a bit more quiet than some of their teammates. Their positions, however, require their voices to deliver play calls and audibles. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“If you’ve got influence, you’ve got the possibility to lead either positively or negatively.”

Looking at the Tar Heel roster in 2016, there are some seniors—like Des Lawrence, Ryan Switzer and Dominquie Green—who have done plenty of work to establish themselves as leaders.

However, none of those guys plays a position with as much influence as junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Since inheriting the role from Williams in the spring, Trubisky has been impressive—even throwing for a career-high 432 yards last Saturday against James Madison.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora remains critical of his new signal-caller, though, pointing out that Trubisky has made a few mistakes with his decision making at the line of scrimmage this season—which is crucial in a Tar Heel offense that relies on the quarterback to read the defense and get everyone into the right play.

“He’s not the most vocal leader that we have,” Fedora said. “Whether he likes doing it or he’s comfortable doing it, the position dictates it—so he has to do it.

“The quarterback has to have a presence all the time,” he continued. “So that’s something he’s constantly working on.”

In some ways, Trubisky’s quiet personality has made speaking up and barking at teammates a bit of a struggle.

On the other side of the ball, similar issues have arisen thanks to the reserved nature of new middle linebacker Andre Smith—a skilled sophomore with 26 tackles through UNC’s first three games.

Although Smith—who, like Trubisky, is in charge of getting his unit set in the right play–has made strides in his vocal leadership, the Tar Heels have hit stretches defensively where frustration has gotten the better of them.

Fedora said after the team’s shaky performance against James Madison that veterans like Lawrence and Green were having to do anything they could to keep the defense from underestimating the Dukes.

Junior safety Donnie Miles said he noticed the same thing, unfortunately, and hopes he can play a larger role in similar situations moving forward.

“We didn’t look like we were out there having fun,” Miles said. “There wasn’t really as much energy. That’s something that—me being an older guy—I gotta try to pick guys up and bring the energy. Not just wait for something to happen.

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik shares a word with junior safety Donnie Miles. Miles took it upon himself this week to say he needs to do more to help keep the defense focused and on track. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik shares a word with junior safety Donnie Miles. Miles took it upon himself this week to say he needs to do more from a leadership standpoint to help keep the defense focused and on track. (Smith Cameron Photography)

The learning process to become a leader is one that also extends beyond the field and into the film room. Players must be able to hold each other accountable, which obviously gets a little bit easier to do with the proof right in front of them.

Coaches are also crucial to development during meetings because they can provide brutal honesty that goes a step further than what many players would usually say to their peers.

When somebody like Trubisky or Smith misses a play call or fails to deliver the right message to their teammates, all Fedora and his staff need to do is look at the tape.

“We tell them it’s the only place they’re getting the truth in their life,” Fedora said. “It really is. They’re not getting it at home, they’re not getting it from their girlfriend, they’re not getting it from anybody else.

“They get the truth when they go into those meeting rooms—because the eye in the sky don’t lie.”

This early in the season, it’s not uncommon for teams to still be making mental mistakes as they work on finding their voice.

As time goes on, though, the Tar Heels will eventually need those issues to be figured out in order to knock off top competition—regardless of how much talent and playmaking ability they possess.

UNC Men’s Basketball Ranked Seventh In Blue Ribbon Preseason Poll

Although Larry Fedora has done a great job capturing the attention of the Tar Heel faithful during the fall, the fact remains that most of Chapel Hill divides the year into two distinct parts: basketball season and waiting for basketball season.

With the release of the annual Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook Preseason Top 25 on Tuesday, it’s safe to proclaim that basketball season is almost here.

Despite losing senior fan favorites Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 7.

Led by a group of juniors that includes Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson–as well as senior big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks–UNC should again boast an experienced lineup filled with talent.

The real discussion about talent begins, though, when comparing the Tar Heels to the nation’s No. 1 team in the poll–the Duke Blue Devils.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has the top recruiting class in America in Durham this year, to go along with a lineup that returns junior guard Grayson Allen, sharpshooter Luke Kennard and senior forward Amile Jefferson.

Once again, it appears the road to an ACC title could be determined by the Duke-UNC rivalry.

Louisville (No. 8) and Virginia (No. 10) give the ACC four teams ranked among the top 10.

Both the Cardinals and Cavaliers will likely play a major factor in the chase to be the top team in the conference–serving as the top threats to the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

Florida State (No. 20) and NC State (No. 23) round out the league’s top 25 selections.

No other conference had as many teams chosen as the ACC’s six.

Blue Ribbon Preseason Top 25
1.  Duke
2.  Oregon
3.  Kansas
4.  Kentucky
5.  Villanova
6.  Wisconsin
7.  North Carolina
8.  Louisville
9.  Purdue
10. Virginia
11. Michigan State
12. Xavier
13. Arizona
14. Gonzaga
15. Connecticut
16. Butler
17. Saint Mary’s
18. Indiana
19. Creighton
20. Florida State
21. West Virginia
22. UCLA
23. NC State
24. Maryland
25. Rhode Island

Tar Heels Explode Offensively to Fend Off Early JMU Upset Bid

Early on in UNC’s 56-28 win over James Madison on Saturday, it wouldn’t have been easy to tell the difference between the Tar Heel defense and the Grand Canyon.

However, a career day from junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky helped UNC fight through its shortcomings in its home opener—as the Tar Heels made sure there would be no upsets happening on their watch.

James Madison (2-1) entered Saturday’s matchup as the No. 8 team in the lower-tier FCS, with a powerful rushing attack to match. Tailback Khalid Abdullah introduced himself to the Tar Heels (2-1) quickly with a pair of touchdown runs in the first quarter that put the underdogs in control.

Trubisky and his talented trio of receivers—Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins—then decided to shift things into overdrive.

The James Madison ground attack worked wonders against the Tar Heels in the first quarter--building the visitors an early 21-14 advantage. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

The James Madison ground attack worked wonders against the Tar Heels in the first quarter–building the visitors an early 21-14 advantage. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

Down 14-7, UNC called for a flea-flicker on the first play of its next drive. Eleven seconds later, Switzer waltzed into the endzone untouched–while Hollins signaled for a touchdown from the sideline before the pass had ever been thrown.

It turns out Hollins’ gesture was just a symbol of what was to come for the overmatched James Madison defenders—as Trubisky led UNC to touchdowns on each of its first eight drives.

“I just kept telling the guys on the sideline that we just need to do our job and the defense is gonna get their stuff together,” Trubisky told reporters afterward. “So every time we got the ball the goal was to go down there and score—and that’s what we did.

“It was a fun offensive day.”

The offensive outburst was a welcome sign for head coach Larry Fedora, who finally saw his team producing the kind of explosive plays it has become known for in recent years.

Trubisky set a new career-high with 432 yards and set school records with 18 consecutive completions and 156 consecutive passes without an interception. The junior added three touchdown passes, with each of his top receivers grabbing one apiece.

Elijah Hood (34) complemented Trubisky's production with his first 100-yard game of the season on Saturday. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

Elijah Hood (34) complemented Trubisky’s production with his first 100-yard game of the season on Saturday. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

He also got plenty of help from the Tar Heels’ two-headed rushing monster.

Elijah Hood scored twice and topped the 100-yard mark for the first time this season while TJ Logan set his own career-high by taking three of his nine carries into the endzone.

It was the type of performance that shows just how good Fedora’s offense can be when his quarterback has everything clicking on all cylinders.

“As you see him get more comfortable, you’re seeing Mitch Trubisky come out now,” Fedora said. “You’re seeing the guy who can do all the things we think he can do.

“I’m really pleased with the way he played,” the coach continued. “He’s really taking care of the ball well. He [went] through another game and didn’t put a single ball into coverage.”

Even though the offense stole the show as the game wore on, it was obviously not a good sign for the Tar Heels that their defense struggled so much to begin with.

Nazair Jones and Dajaun Drennon—the team’s top two defensive linemen—sat out the game due to injury, but that still doesn’t do much to explain the mental lapses that led to four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Capitalizing on those mistakes, James Madison matched UNC point-for-point throughout the first half—until the surprised Tar Heels finally secured a couple stops close to halftime that allowed them to break the score wide open.

Frustration boiled amongst the UNC defense during that span, largely because they never expected to be in that position to begin with. As a result, a major attitude adjustment was needed–according to Fedora and senior cornerback Des Lawrence.

By the second half, running room was not as easy to find for James Madison--which was a result of UNC's mental adjustments. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

By the second half, running room was not as easy to find for James Madison–which was a result of UNC’s mental adjustments. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

“We don’t want to rely on our offense to outscore people,” Lawrence said. “It’s kinda like we’re not holding our own weight.

“[Defensive coordinator Gene] Chizik and his staff came in here [last year] and the main thing they wanted to improve on was defense. I think the other three quarters—besides the first quarter—we showed how good we can be.

“But there’s a lot of things we’ve gotta clean up.

In general, the mood amongst the UNC players following the game didn’t exactly fit for a team that just put up video game numbers with ease.

Knowing that the ACC schedule begins next week with a tough matchup against Pittsburgh, it was hard for them not to focus on all the areas that need improvement against more difficult competition.

Still, though, they’ll take this game for what it was—another notch in the win column.

“It probably wasn’t the way we drew it up or the way we wanted it—but winning’s hard these days,” Fedora said.

“You can look across the country and see FCS teams that have beaten FBS teams,” he continued. “So we’re happy about getting the win.”

Up Next:

UNC will stay at home next week, as Pitt and its star running back–James Conner–come in to Kenan Stadium likely looking to attack the Tar Heels’ inconsistent run defense.

Game Notes:

  • Trubisky’s 75-yard flea-flicker to Hollins was the longest completion of his career.
  • In total, UNC was missing three defensive linemen due to injury–and had two more (Jalen Dalton, Jason Strowbridge) leave the game.
  • Switzer finished with five catches for 101 yards–giving him his sixth career 100-yard outing in a Tar Heel uniform.
  • The teams combined for a staggering 1,130 yards on the day. (UNC- 635, JMU- 495)



UNC Men’s Tennis Star Schneider Ranked No. 10 in Preseason

Entering his senior year, Ronnie Schneider is no longer playing second fiddle to anyone.

The UNC men’s tennis star enters 2016 as the No. 10 ranked individual in the nation–just over a month after former teammate Brayden Schnur left school early to turn professional.

Schneider reached as high as No. 10 in the polls last February, but hopes to move up the charts as this season progresses.

For his career, he has a 90-33 record in singles competition–including a 26-8 mark in 2015-16.

Despite Schnur being ranked higher throughout much of the year, Schneider actually went further than any other Tar Heel in the NCAA Men’s Individual Tournament–reaching the Round of 16.

In the doubles rankings, Schneider and teammate Jack Murray also earned the distinction of being among the nation’s top 33 teams–as they were ranked No. 33.

UNC opens its fall season this weekend with a pair of tournaments–one in Cary, NC and the other in Meadowood, California.

The team will be split into two groups in order to play in these events.

Last season’s Tar Heels took home the indoor national championship in February, before eventually falling to Georgia in the NCAA Quarterfinals later on in the year.

This year, they’ll be looking to improve on that performance–with Schneider leading the way.

Artis Scandal Paints a Black Cloud Over UNC Football’s Home Opener

Coming off a convincing win on the road last Saturday, you’d assume the UNC football team would be excited and ready to go for this week’s home opener against James Madison.

However, the news of linebacker Allen Artis being charged with sexual assault has brought a black cloud to Chapel Hill that’s loomed large over the team’s preparations.

Nearly four minutes into his session with the media on Wednesday, UNC head coach Larry Fedora took time to remind reporters that the Tar Heels do, in fact, have a game this weekend.

The problem is this.

His program dealt with the shadow of the NCAA academic scandal for years, then finally began to escape it. Then this year he hired embattled former Illinois coach Tim Beckman during training camp, just weeks before the Artis allegations that have now become the dominant theme.

Head coach Larry Fedora has been forced to do image control for the UNC football program on multiple occasions already this season. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Head coach Larry Fedora has been forced to do image control for the UNC football program on multiple occasions already this season. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Whether he sees it or not, there are plenty of reasons why Fedora has taken on a role he doesn’t particularly enjoy—one revolving around image control–on multiple occasions this season.

“It’s just part of my job is to deal with issues that come up with our football team,” Fedora said. “I don’t know that our image has taken a hit.

“That’s up to you to decide if you feel that way,” the coach continued. “I don’t feel that way.”

By the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice, Fedora also said the Tar Heels had yet to come together as a group to discuss Artis and his situation.

Some members of the team have already come out on social media in support of their suspended teammate—which Fedora said is OK with him as long as they are willing to defend their own opinions.

Senior tailback TJ Logan referred to Artis as a brother, saying he hopes eventually Artis will be able to return to the team.

That’s been the hardest part for Logan and the rest of the players. As much as they want to try and stay focused on football, it’s obvious why that’s not exactly the easiest thing to do at the moment.

“It’s kinda tough,” Logan said. “We’re just being reassured by the coaches that there’s a mission on the line, and we gotta come out Saturday and play hard.

“We know what’s going on,” the speedster continued. “But we just gotta try and stay focused on the plan.”

Although Artis rarely made an impact on the field playing strictly on special teams, it’s clear that he developed relationships with teammates that exist far beyond that.

Fedora understands this aspect of the situation, but as it relates to football–he sees this as no different than the team being without linemen Tommy Hatton and Tyler Powell. Both of those players have each have missed time recently dealing with personal issues.

“I think the team, anytime we have anybody go down or we lose them for anything—whether it be Tommy Hatton or any of these guys—I think they all hurt for them,” Fedora said. “But they understand we’ve got a job to do and a game to play.

Senior tailback TJ Logan is among a number of Tar Heel players who have come out and supported Artis since the news broke Tuesday. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Senior tailback TJ Logan is among a number of Tar Heel players who have come out and supported Artis since the news broke Tuesday. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“There’s a ‘next-man-up’ mentality.”

In the time they’ve been able to spend focusing on James Madison, the main takeaway many of the Tar Heels seem to have is simply that the Dukes play hard.

Because it’s an FCS opponent—meaning it competes in a lower division—the fact that James Madison has won its first two games by a combined score of 137-28 doesn’t exactly foreshadow an upset.

What it does show, however, is that if UNC’s head isn’t in the right place, then the Tar Heels could find themselves in a bit of a tricky situation—much like Georgia did last week in a narrow win over Nicholls State.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, what time we play them, where we play them, what the weather’s like—all those things.” Fedora said. “It’s really about us playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played—no matter who we play.

“We won’t prepare for this team any differently than we did for Georgia or Illinois,” he added. “And I’ll be very disappointed in my team if they don’t take that same approach.”

Two UNC Men’s Soccer Players Named to National Team of the Week

Off to an undefeated 4-0 start to its 2016 campaign, the No. 1 UNC men’s soccer team received more great news Tuesday when it was announced that goalie James Pyle and forward Zach Wright each earned national team of the week honors.

Pyle, a redshirt sophomore from Charlotte, was named to Top Drawer Soccer’s team of the week after earning his third shutout in four games in the Tar Heels’ 1-0 road win over No. 2 Clemson last Friday.

He also saved a penalty kick in the first half, which allowed UNC to pull off the victory in the clash between the country’s top two teams.

It was Wright’s goal in the 87th minute against the Tigers that provided the difference, earning the junior from Smithville, Texas a spot on College Soccer News’ team of the week.

Wright–who has a share of the team lead in points this season–also tallied two assists in last Monday’s 3-2 win over VCU.

Lucas Crowley, Andre Smith Earn ACC Honors

As the UNC football team rolled to its first victory of the season Saturday night in a 48-23 blowout of Illinois, a pair of Tar Heels did enough to earn ACC Player of the Week honors at their positions.

Senior center Lucas Crowley took home the conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Week Award for his outstanding contributions to the winning cause.

Crowley had nine knockdown blocks–known as pancakes–graded out at 87 percent and did not allow a sack. UNC also ran for four touchdowns behind its stout offensive line against the Illini.

On the other side of the ball, sophomore linebacker Andre Smith was flying around everywhere Saturday night making play after play after play–earning himself the ACC Linebacker of the Week award.

Three of his career-high 14 tackles this past week came on third down and forced Illinois to punt. He also had a pass breakup while in coverage that helped the Tar Heel secondary limit their opponents to a measly 127 yards through the air.

Both Crowley and Smith are expected to be key contributors down the stretch run for UNC, so it must be a bright sign for head coach Larry Fedora to know they’re each already playing at a very high level.

UNC Cruises Past Illinois 48-23, Picks Up First Win Of 2016

Eager to prove itself following a disappointing loss to Georgia last week, the UNC football team recovered from an early hiccup Saturday night to dominate the Illinois Fighting Illini 48-23 in Champaign.

The Tar Heels moved to 1-1 in 2016 with a stellar performance–both offensively and defensively–that should provide fans with plenty of comfort entering the road ahead.

Illinois (1-1) suffered its first loss of the season after appearing ready to provide a signature win for new head coach Lovie Smith–in front of its first sellout crowd since 2011–when tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn scampered 65 yards to the endzone on the game’s opening drive.

UNC, however, had other ideas.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky picked up his first career win as a starter on Saturday. He threw for two touchdowns, while running for a pair of scores as well. (AP Photo/ Bradley Leeb)

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky picked up his first career win as a starter on Saturday. He threw for two touchdowns, while running for a pair of scores as well. (AP Photo/ Bradley Leeb)

Junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky didn’t take many risks but was highly efficient in picking up his first career win as the Tar Heel starter–racking up 307 total yards, and four combined touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

On his 54th birthday, UNC head coach Larry Fedora was gifted with big plays from each of his running backs—Elijah Hood and TJ Logan—while his defense completely shut down the Illini attack following the initial miscue.

“It took us really about half of that first quarter to get adjusted to what they were trying to do to us,” Fedora said. “That’s not the things they did against Murray State [last week].

“We talked about it defensively that we were gonna have to get in this game and adjust to whatever they were trying to do,” he continued. “And once we made those adjustments, our kids played well.”

After facing questions all week about the lack of running plays called against Georgia, Fedora made sure that wouldn’t be the case this time around. The Tar Heels gained 197 yards on 37 run plays compared to just 25 passes.

Logan continued his breakout start to the year with a few big bursts of speed, picking up 54 yards on nine carries while also taking a swing pass from Trubisky 24 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

For most of the game, Illinois did a good job limiting Hood’s production by stacking the box.

UNC stayed true to its gameplan, however, and kept pounding.

This eventually led to a 62-yard breakaway score by the junior that put the game on ice with just under seven minutes to play–and allowed him to finish with 88 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

“We knew we wanted to come into the game and be physical, and we wanted to run the football,” Fedora said. “And I’ll tell you what, their D-line is really good. There were a lot of times they hit us in the backfield and made plays.

“I give [offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic],  [quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf], [running backs coach Larry Porter] and those guys credit for sticking with it and continuing to run the football.”

In his second start behind center, Trubisky appeared to be much more comfortable as a dual-threat option. He scored each of UNC’s first two touchdowns with his legs—which helped open up the rest of the offense down the stretch.

The Ohio native also completed 19 of his 24 passes for 265 yards and two scores without turning the ball over, while spreading the ball around effectively.

MJ Stewart (left) led an impressive effort by the Tar Heel secondary. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt completed just half of his pass attempts for only 127 yards. (AP Photo/ Bradley Leeb)

MJ Stewart (left) led an impressive effort by the Tar Heel secondary. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt completed just half of his pass attempts for only 127 yards. (AP Photo/ Bradley Leeb)

By the end of the night, eight different Tar Heels had recorded at least one catch.

“He ran the ball well, he threw the ball well and he never put us in a [bad] situation [with] throws into coverage,” Fedora said of his quarterback. “I thought he took care of the ball well also.”

Defensively, the Tar Heels looked much better stopping the run this week despite allowing Illinois to gain 182 yards on the ground. Much of that came during the early feel-out process of the game, with things tightening up later on.

Cornerbacks Des Lawrence and MJ Stewart also worked in tandem to hold Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt to just 127 yards and a 50 percent completion rate.

Overall, it was an impressive response to last week’s slip-up for UNC in a game where it had a large target on its back. There’s not much more a coach can ask for.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Fedora said after the game. “They went on the road in the Big Ten against a team that’s coming up and had a great crowd tonight. It was hostile and loud.

“I thought our guys overcame the adversity we faced throughout the game, and I thought they did a nice job.”

Up Next:

UNC will open up play at Kenan Stadium with its home opener next weekend against FCS opponent James Madison. That game is scheduled for next Saturday, Sep. 17 at 3:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Mack Hollins’ 20-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was the 17th of his career–good enough for fifth place on UNC’s all-time list.
  • The Tar Heels averaged 7.5 yards per play on their 62 plays in the game. Last season, they led the nation with an average of 7.3 yards per play.
  • Six different UNC receivers caught a pass for at least 20 yards, but none was longer than Bug Howard’s 28-yard reception in the second quarter.
  • Illinois fumbled six times, but recovered five of them.
  • UNC also scored 48 points in last year’s 48-14 drubbing of the Illini in Chapel Hill.