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The Tar Heels take on the Virginia Cavaliers at 3:30 at Kenan Stadium. Carolina is 5-1 on the season and is looking to go 3-0 in the ACC after last week’s win over Wake Forest. The Tar Heels’ 2-0 start in conference play is the best the team has seen since 1997. In Mack Brown’s final season as head coach in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels finished 11-1, ranked fourth in the final Coaches Top 25 poll after a win against Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl. Led by future NFL players like Dre Bly and Alge Crumpler, the 1997 group is still the last UNC team to begin ACC play 2-0.
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For the second straight week Larry Fedora and the UNC football team needed a miracle, and for the second straight week they got one.
Nick Weiler’s 54-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tar Heels a 37-35 victory over No. 12 Florida State in Tallahassee, as Fedora earned perhaps his most important win as a head coach.
Not since 2001 had UNC defeated a top-15 team on the road, and with 23 seconds remaining on Saturday it appeared as if that streak was about to continue.
The Seminoles had just taken the lead for the first time all game after trailing 21-0 early on.
UNC needed to drive a little over 40 yards in that short amount of time to even think about a field goal try.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky found Mack Hollins for 23 yards on the first play of the drive, before Florida State helped the Tar Heels out with a 15-yard pass interference penalty two plays later.
With the clock down to four seconds, UNC hadn’t quite made it within Weiler’s range. Unfortunately, there was no other choice but to kick it.
Fedora then sent Weiler out for the biggest kick of his life from 54 yards away, and sure enough, he hit it–then exploded with joy as he ran down the field doing the Seminoles’ signature tomahawk chop.
If last week’s game-winning throw from Trubisky to Bug Howard is known as “The Fade”, then this finish might as well be called “The Kick.”
“I was playing with the grass a little bit [before the final play], and there was no wind,” Weiler said after the game. “Which I was happy with, because I didn’t have to worry about playing the wind at all—and it was a really long kick.
“I just knew if I went and struck it true I’d have the distance for it,” he continued. “I’m just so happy I had a chance to redeem myself.”
It was a poetic ending that saw the Tar Heels find themselves in that position only because Weiler had an extra point blocked just two minutes earlier.
After a 34-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky to running back Thomas Jackson put UNC ahead, it was easy to wonder if it had scored too fast—especially with the Seminole offense finally starting to click.
The extra point mishap only furthered those worries, which would later prove to be warranted.
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois—who threw for 372 yards in the game—found the end zone with a spectacular run on 2nd-and-goal where he escaped sack attempts by two Tar Heels in the backfield.
All hope appeared lost to anyone not on the UNC sideline.
What Fedora saw, though, was a group that never stops believing—and the results certainly back that up.
“The term we use is grit,” Fedora said. “And this team’s got it. No matter what’s going on, they keep persevering, they keep playing hard and they never give up—no matter what the circumstances are.
“They keep playing,” the coach continued. “And they believe in each other and they love each other.”
The finish capped off Trubisky’s third straight 400-yard passing game with no interceptions, as the quarterback overcame an injury to tailback Elijah Hood by asserting his dominance yet again.
His close friend Ryan Switzer put together another spectacular performance of his own—following up on last week’s 16 catch outing with 14 more on Saturday for 158 yards—but make no mistake about it. Trubisky is changing the vibes around UNC football—making the impossible appear routine.
This was the junior’s first true statement victory over one of college football’s elite teams, but many more could easily be on the way.
“I don’t get tired of talking about that, I assure you,” Fedora said, when asked about the latest dazzling effort from his quarterback. “He is what he is, he is what we thought he was, and he’s leading this football team.
“You’re never out of it with him behind center.”
The heroics of Weiler and Trubisky not only improved the team to 4-1 and 2-0 in the ACC for a second straight year, they kept the Tar Heels from suffering the same fate they always seem to find in these marquee games.
Florida State still tallied nearly 600 yards of offense against the struggling UNC defense, but as Fedora said earlier in the week—all that matters is having one more point than the opponent, and as it turned out the Tar Heels got two more.
The Seminoles—at 3-2 and 0-2 in the ACC—are now likely out of the conference title race. UNC, meanwhile, will continue its tough early season schedule with a home game against Virginia Tech next week.
For one night, though, Fedora doesn’t mind his guys soaking in what they’ve just accomplished.
“We’re gonna enjoy this one tonight,” Fedora said. “You know I’ll start thinking about it on the plane ride home as far as what we got coming.
“But you go on the road and beat the No. 12 team in the country—and they’ve got a 22-game home winning streak,” the coach added. “[We’ve] accomplished something today.”
UNC will return home next week to face a Virginia Tech team that has played well this year under new head coach Justin Fuente. Dual-threat quarterback Jerod Evans could very easily present a significant problem for the Tar Heel defense.
— Nick Weiler (@NickWeiler24) October 2, 2016
Nick Weiler, folks. pic.twitter.com/HevfOyCA3n
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) October 1, 2016
The NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos—two of the last three Super Bowl Champions—won titles largely because of their fearsome pass defenses, known as the Legion of Boom and the No Fly Zone.
Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, UNC hopes its talented secondary—the “Rude Boyz”—can help elevate the Tar Heels to the top of the ACC in 2016.
In the first year under coordinator Gene Chizik, UNC’s defense rose from the ashes to become the most improved unit in the country. That was largely made possible because the Tar Heels allowed more points than all but eight of the 128 Division I schools in 2014—leaving plenty of room for improvement.
The secondary played a large role in the collapse, as they were continually beat for big plays downfield. Fast forward a year, and all of a sudden that same group lead the ACC in interceptions and passes defended–while finishing among the top 10 nationally in those categories.
Senior cornerback Des Lawrence said after Monday’s practice that 2015 was just the beginning of a Rude Boy resurgence.
“It started way back before Dre Bly and them [in the mid-1990’s],” Lawrence said of the ‘Rude Boyz’ nickname. “It’s just something that’s been trickled down.
“I think we had a drop-off [for a little while],” he continued. “Not that we didn’t have the mentality, we just didn’t have the play. Last year it really showed and resonated with us–and we were able to come out on the field and just be relentless.”
Lawrence will lead a veteran group into 2016 that also returns junior MJ Stewart—a shutdown corner in his own right—and senior Donnie Miles, who led the team in tackles last season as a safety.
Each of these players has meshed perfectly with the message of physicality that Chizik began implementing from the first day he arrived on campus. And as they’ve grown into their roles as elder statesmen on the team, the Rude Boy mentality continues being passed down to the younger members of the unit.
“You can’t only be aggressive in coverage and then let ‘em run the ball on the sideline,” Lawrence said. “That’s one of the things I was telling some of the young guys [in practice]—you have to refuse to be blocked. Because you have to–at some point—set the edge for our defense and come up to make a play.
“Coach Chizik always talks about us as DB’s being linebackers as hitters,” he added.
So far during training camp, the coaching staff has singled out veteran safety Dominique Green and a pair of freshmen cornerbacks—Patrice René and K.J. Sails—as looking very impressive early on.
Head coach Larry Fedora has noticed in those players a direct reflection of the influence that Lawrence, Stewart and Miles bring to the table.
“They’re trying to leave a legacy with those [young] guys, so they want to make sure they teach them the culture that’s been created.” Fedora said of his veteran trio. “They’re doing a great job of that. I would say their confidence in being able to lead has been the biggest change for them.”
As much as Chizik stresses physicality to his defense from the top down, he also has another key focal point for his secondary.
Go after the ball.
He said Monday he doesn’t want his guys to be like robots locked in on people all the time. That certainly got across in 2015, as the Tar Heels caused all kinds of havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
This season, though, it appears Lawrence has taken those words to a whole new level—as he’s learned that you can’t be a robot when it comes to leadership either.
“They’re looking to me,” Lawrence said of his young teammates. “Even when I don’t think they are, they still are. And I have to still be able to give them some juice.
“Even when I’m not feeling it—there’s days I come out here and I don’t have all the juice—I gotta get them going because if I do something wrong, then they’re gonna feel like it’s OK for them to do something [wrong].”
The extra effort they’ve put in when fans aren’t watching, and TV cameras are nowhere to be found, is what truly has the “Rude Boyz” ready to make their biggest splash this season.
Listening to Chizik—the former school teacher—explain it, success isn’t accidental at all when it comes to these guys.
“They all the love the game, and they all really want to be good,” Chizik said of his secondary. “The guys that make plays on game day are the same ones who make them in practice—and it’s important to them to make [plays] in practice.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/the-rude-boys-lead-a-much-improved-unc-defense-into-2016
“No he’s not! Yes he is!”
Jones Angell exclaimed those words three years ago when Giovani Bernard returned a Wolfpack punt for a game-winning touchdown.
The game, on October 27, 2012, was tied at 35 with 30 seconds left in regulation. NC State punter Wil Baumann stood on his team’s 11 yard line. He took the long-snap, stepped up, and booted the football away.
Fifteen seconds later, Giovani Bernard was running into the end-zone and the Kenan Stadium crowd went wild. It was a good day for Giovani Bernard. This was his third touchdown.
The 73-yard punt return by Giovani Bernard put the Tar Heels up 41-35 over the Wolfpack. A two-point conversion pushed the lead to 43-35. The Wolfpack failed at an onside-kick attempt and then Bryn Renner took a knee to end the game.
SBNation said the game was one of the best of 2012.
Head coach Larry Fedora was in his first year with the Tar Heels. The win was Carolina’s first over NC State after five straight losses.
Giovani Bernard was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. In less than 3 seasons in the NFL, the running back has scored 17 total touchdowns. All of that scoring has come on offense.
In 2015, the Tar Heel football team is beginning to generate the kind of excitement that was seen in Kenan Stadium on October 27, 2012. The Tar Heels are undefeated in the ACC and are 6-1, overall.
Relive the magical play via the ACC Digital Network. We get the call from television at the beginning of the video, so make sure you stick around for the second angle of the play featuring the incredible radio call from Jones Angell.
The North Carolina football team did not pummel Wake Forest Saturday night. The North Carolina program did, with players of all ages, shapes and sizes getting into the game. And that is an important distinction in Larry Fedora’s quest to bring championships back to Chapel Hill in the oblong sport.
Without five players on the defensive two-deep and showing more weapons than the New England Patriots on offense, the Tar Heels took the first quarter off and then scored 50 points over the next 32 minutes against the undermanned and overwhelmed Demon Deacons, who didn’t know what hit them once the blitzkrieg began.
Imagine if Carolina had started playing at 7 p.m. with everyone else and hadn’t called off the dogs over the last 10 minutes. The final might have been 80-14 instead of 50-14, as the Heels opened 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1997 in the Mack Brown era and third time since 1984 in the Dick Crum era. The last time UNC won five of its first six games was 2011, before that season collapsed under interim coach Everett Withers. This season holds no such promise.
Marquise Williams completed his first three passes, two to the guys in the gold helmets and white unies. Then the Marquis de sod had a stern talk with himself on the sideline and, once again, was the best player on the field. He hit his walk-on speedster Mack Hollins with three passes, two bombs and all touchdowns. Waterbug Austin Proehl, whose father starred for Wake Forest (before playing 17 seasons in the NFL) had four catches, one turning into a sideline sprint to the half-yard line, and those guys are like the fourth- and fifth-receivers in Fedora’s big-play playbook.
The quick-strike offense and blundering officials created plenty of noise in the less-than-full, fall-break house during a rare mid-October night game as the points climbed and the temperature dropped at about the same rate in Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels’ seven touchdowns – they averaged 10 yards per snap overall – used up barely eight minutes of clock time, their four second-quarter scores coming on drives that took in 52 seconds, 1:36, :21 and 1:47. By then, the upset-minded Deacons faced their fourth loss of the season against wins over Elon, Army and Boston College. Their ranking as the 15th best total defense in the country proved a sham, a product of their impotent opposition after being shredded for 538 yards, 152 more than Wake had given up in any other game.
Seriously, Carolina might have run up a thousand yards, except that the Deacs’ game plan to hold the ball and keep Carolina off the field worked only in holding down the score. The officials played their part, as well, when they ruled Ryan Switzer called for a fair catch before returning a punt to inside the Wake Forest 10. Switzer never raised either arm before nonchalantly catching the punt and the blasting out of the pack. He was called for delay of game for taking up the refs’ valuable time after supposedly calling for the phantom fair catch. The zebras caught it between the stripes from the home crowd the rest of the game.
Wake managed one touchdown in each half, thanks to Gene Chizik’s bend-don’t-break defense, which continues its remarkable turnaround from last season’s sieve-like unit under an entirely different defensive staff. The Tar Heels held Wake to 54 yards in the second half after given up 256 in the first, led by the best linebacker duo in the ACC, Shak Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer, who have noses for the ball and hit whoever has it very hard.
Chiz and Fed make up an equally good coaching combo, the D-coordinator who stays in the box upstairs, glasses on the tip of his nose and calming a slow-starting defense through the headset and the Red-Bull hyped head coach who wears out the sideline like a mad scientist. They have put together a team that can go places after passing the halfway mark on the schedule.
It was a night under the stars and for the stars, from Williams’ fourth pass to Mitch Trubisky’s fake-and-run for the seventh TD before Fedora emptied his thin bench. In between, Elijah Hood ran for 100-plus more yards, exploding for 29 and 36 yards on the 21-second scoring drive. Why not give No. 34 the ball more, the fans want to know and let the running game set up the pass instead of vice versa?
Good question about the seemingly underutilized sophomore from Charlotte, but who can argue with 50 points in a little more than two quarters? The Tar Heels keep steam-rolling through a conducive schedule that has 2-4 Virginia coming up Saturday before what looks like their toughest test at surprising 5-1 Pitt, which dealt ACC Coastal Division favorite Georgia Tech an un-imanageable fifth straight loss Saturday. Clearly, the Coastal is Carolina’s for the taking, if it just will.
That’s what good programs do.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/arts-angle-what-good-programs-do
For UNC, a win would be a decent consolation prize on a season that kicked off with a disappointing 2-4 start. For the Scarlet Knights, it would be a bowl victory for head coach Kyle Flood in the program’s inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten.
Boasting a high powered offense that finished 3rd in the ACC in both scoring and total offense, the Tar Heels know that it is important to stay focused on that side of the ball if they want to have a chance at a victory in Detroit. Quarterback Marquise Williams aims to reach the season milestones of 3,000 yards passing and 750 yards rushing against a Rutgers defense ranked 90th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just under 31 points per game.
Junior receiver Quinshad Davis also looks to add a record of his own in Detroit. By hauling in one touchdown catch, Davis will have 22 for his career, surpassing the record he shares with former wideout Hakeem Nicks.
The defensive side of the ball is where most of the struggles have come for the Heels this season. As a result, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning opted to leave the team and will not be around to coach in the bowl game.
Coach Larry Fedora says in regard to the defensive philosophy against Rutgers, that “we’ve tweaked some things, added a few things, taken other things out, all trying to take advantage of the personnel that we’re going to have out there on the field.”
The Scarlet Knights, if they keep to what they’ve done all season, will look to pound the football up the middle with their pro-style offense, looking to set up the play action pass for 2nd Team All-Big Ten wide receiver Leonte Carroo. The 6’1″ Carroo has been the top target for quarterback Gary Nova, amassing over 1,000 yards already this year.
Cornerbacks coach Dan Disch will take over as the interim defensive coordinator for this game, and so far he likes the effort level that he’s seen in the practices leading up to Detroit. He gives credit to the players for having their minds in the right place, saying that “they understand its a business.”
Motivation has not been scarce during the bowl season as redshirt freshman defensive end Dajuan Drennon says “Coach Disch has a lot of energy, he’s a real amped up guy, and that gets us going.” Drennon also says that although the defense has received the bulk of the criticism for the team failing to meet expectations, “we’re looking at this game as the first game of the 2015 season, so this is just the building block.”
The meeting will be the 7th all time between the two teams, with the all-time series split at three apiece. The Tar Heels have won the last three meetings, including the most recent, a 24-22 win back in September of 2011.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-motivated-motor-city
As the 6-6 UNC football team prepares for the Quick Lane Bowl against Rutgers, the offense looks to stay focused and establish some type of consistency, with hopes of finishing the season with a winning record for the third time under head coach Larry Fedora.
Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell says inconsistency plagued the offense throughout the year, and was the main reason they never reached the level of potential he believes this group could have achieved. However, he still sees plenty of reasons for motivation on his side of the ball; recovering from the devastating regular season-ending loss to NC State being the most influential.
While it may be easy to conclude that players would have their eyes set on winter break after a frustrating season capped with a loss in the NC State game, junior offensive guard Landon Turner says that “nobody has cashed in on this season at all, we’re still 100 percent focused, it’s still 2014, so we’ll worry about 2015 when it gets here.”
Closing the year with a win to rinse out the bad taste left behind from the State game seems to be the dominant theme in the locker room, but there are still other goals to be accomplished for some of the members of the offense.
With a touchdown catch against the Scarlet Knights, junior wide receiver Quinshad Davis would break his tie with Hakeem Nicks atop the school’s list of all-time touchdown receptions, leaving him all alone at the top with 22 for his career.
Also, the game will give promising freshman tailback Elijah Hood a chance to prove that he is fully recovered from the injuries that have cost him the last two months of the season, as well as an opportunity to impress coaches leading into next year’s campaign.
The Quick Lane Bowl will be shown on ESPN at 4:30 P.M. on December 26th from inside the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, Ford Field.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-football-aims-stay-focused-offensively
CHAPEL HILL – The NCAA tells North Carolina athletic officials that it isn’t considering additional charges connected to academic fraud in the university’s African studies department.
The school on Saturday released two emails from Sept. 26 after a records request.
The first is from UNC senior associate athletic director Vince Ille to NCAA associate director of enforcement Mike Zonder. Ille asked whether he correctly assumed the NCAA wasn’t planning additional investigation or charges of irregularities in the school’s African studies department. Zonder replied that “you are correct in your assessment.”
The NCAA sanctioned UNC for academic misconduct within its football program in March 2012.
The school said that August that the NCAA had reviewed irregularities including no-show classes and unauthorized grade changes in classes with significant athlete enrollments and found no rule violations.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/ncaa-finished-with-afam-investigation
CHAPEL HILL–The bye week for the Carolina football team may be coming at just the right time. With two completely different caliber opponents to start the season, it can be tough to judge exactly where the Tar Heels stand.
But senior signal caller Bryn Renner says he thinks the run game will benefit from some extra work in the week away from the big stage.
“I think we just need to take more reps. It’s tough to get a fair assessment after two games, but I think we ran the ball pretty well against South Carolina. […] Those guys up front do a great job protecting me,” Renner says.
Renner says nothing beats getting a win at home and wiping that bad feeling out of the stomach from the South Carolina loss heading into the bye week.
Running back Romar Morris, who scored two touchdowns on Saturday, says he thinks the problem with the overall rushing attack has nothing to do with the offensive line. He says the linemen are improving with each practice.
“The offensive line is getting better and better every week. […] The offensive line is looking good,” Morris says.
Morris says he believes the bye week will help the offense to prepare for the tricky schemes that Georgia Tech offers up on defense.
On the other side of the ball, senior safety Tre Boston, who came up with a momentum-changing interception against Middle Tennessee, says he has seen his teammates developing into stronger defenders. Boston says the defense is ready to show off.
“We want to show how good we are. We know how good we are as a defense. And we know how good we are as a secondary. It’s one of those things as a defense we need to show it. We need to show the people what we are capable of,” Boston says.
GREENSBORO–Tar Heel football fans got a double dose of excitement Monday.
First off, the ACC released its Football Players of the Week and Carolina’s own standout senior James Hurt was named Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Hurst played 80 snaps and totaled a 92 percent grade in Carolina’s 40-20 triumph over Middle Tennessee Saturday. UNC gained 511 total yards of offense and eclipsed 40 points for the sixth time in Coach Larry Fedora’s tenure.
Hurst racked up 12 knockdown blocks and did not allow a single sack or quarterback pressure.
The other news coming out of the ACC is the release of the game times and TV networks for Saturday, Sept. 21.
The Tar Heels will be taking on Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and the pivotal contest will be kicking off at high noon. The game will be broadcast on one of the ESPN networks-ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU. The specific network will be selected by Sept. 15.
Another marquee ACC match-up to look out for that week will see the third-ranked Clemson Tigers play at NC State in the Thursday night feature Sept. 19 on ESPN.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/acc-combo-james-hurst-and-noon-game