UNC Football vs. Miami

The 8-1 UNC football team will take on Miami in an ACC battle on Saturday, November 14th.  The game kicks off at 3:30 in Kenan Stadium.

You can listen to UNC Football vs. Miami on 97.9 FM and 1360 AM WCHL.

WCHL will broadcast Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts from 12:30 until 2:30 from Hickory Tavern.  The UNC pregame show starts at 2:30 from Kenan Stadium.

The Tar Heels are sitting atop the ACC Coastal division after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 66-31 last Saturday.  Senior quarterback Marquise Williams completed 23-of-35 passes for 494 yards–a new school record–and accounted for five touchdowns in all. He also rushed for 30 yards, to finish with 524 total yards by himself–the first Tar Heel to ever break the 500 yard mark–in what was arguably the best performance ever by a UNC football player.

The performance launched the UNC football team from Number 21 to Number 17 in the AP Poll.  After being unlisted in the College Football Playoff rankings, Carolina is now Number 23.

The Miami Hurricanes will come into Chapel Hill with a 6-3 record.  The team is 2-0 since the firing of head coach Al Golden.  In the ACC Coastal division, Miami is tied for third place with Pittsburgh.


UNC-Duke Football Pregame at Hickory Tavern

UNC-Duke football.  Tobacco Road football that matters in November.

Join WCHL at Hickory Tavern in Carrboro for your Tar Heel Football pregame festivities.

WCHL will be broadcasting “Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts” from 9:00 until 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 7 on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM and online at Chapelboro.com.

The Tar Heels take on the Duke Blue Devils in Kenan Stadium at noon.  Carolina is 7-1 on the season and is looking to go 5-0 in the ACC after last week’s win over Pitt.  Despite Duke’s last-second loss against Miami, this game decides who will be in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal Division.

Hickory Tavern is located on 310-110 East Main Street in Carrboro.

While you are visiting Hickory Tavern, be sure to sign up for our Carolina Basketball Holiday Hoops in Brooklyn Giveaway.




Trubisky Officially Named Starting QB…Finally

Mitch Trubisky has officially been named the starting quarterback for the UNC football opener against Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on September 3.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora announced the move through a release from the university on Friday.

“I thought Mitch did a good job this spring and didn’t just assume he was going to be the starter. He worked extremely hard and earned it. We always want to have competition at every position. Mitch is the QB with the most experience returning, but he worked hard this spring, competed every day and deserves to be the starter.”

Trubisky is a junior from Mentor, Ohio, who has played sparingly but in some big moments for UNC over the last two years backing up Marquise Williams.

Trubisky completed 40 of 47 pass attempts as a sophomore for 555 yards and six touchdowns, while carrying the ball 16 times for just over 100 yards and three touchdowns.

Trubisky’s biggest performance last season came in relief of a struggling Williams in the matchup against Delaware. Trubisky entered the game and led UNC to a 41-14 victory.

Fedora stuck with Williams as the starting quarterback, despite calls from some to give the reins to the sophomore. Williams went on to have one of the most prolific seasons in UNC history while the Tar Heels won the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Championship.

Trubisky will lead a high-powered UNC offense with the return of running backs Elijah Hood and TJ Logan and one of the best groups of wide receivers in the nation led by Mack Hollins, Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer.


UNC Football Preparing For Tough Season

When it comes to repeating as Coastal Division champions this season, Larry Fedora and the UNC football team will have their work cut out for them.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about,” Fedora said. “The Coastal Division just got a lot stronger, just by the coaches that were hired and the pedigrees they have behind them.”

On top of facing perennial ACC powerhouse Florida State at Tallahassee and traveling to Atlanta to take on Georgia, the Tar Heels will also have to deal with the rejuvenated Miami and Virginia Tech programs.

Miami hired Mark Richt, who led Georgia to two SEC titles and a 145-51 record in 15 seasons.

Virginia Tech brought in Justin Fuente, who turned Memphis from a 4-8 team to a 10-3 team in just three seasons.

“It’s pretty amazing the strength of this league as you look at the coaching staffs,” Fedora said. “That makes not only the Coastal Division stronger but the ACC stronger.”

But Fedora said he thinks his guys are up to the challenge.

They locked up the Coastal Division last year before falling to then-undefeated Clemson in the ACC Championship game.

Fedora said that experience is helping his team get ready for the first kickoff in September.

“You can see in all of their eyes that they’ve tasted it,” he said. “They just got a little taste of what it’s like and so they know what it’s going to take to get there.”

Right now the Tar Heels are working to incorporate expected starter Mitch Trubisky into an offense that returns star running back Elijah Hood and deep threat Mack Hollins.

“They’re aware of that,” Fedora said. “They’re excited about it. They’ve got a pretty good blueprint of what they need to do. Time will tell.”


Chansky’s Notebook: No. 10’s No. 1!

C’mon, Coach, we know No. 10 is your starting quarterback.

Dear Larry Fedora, I know all coaches like to keep the competition for positions open, but Mitch Trubisky is your starter at quarterback by a half mile. Heck, half the fans wanted him to start, or at least play more, last season. Marquise was great, but he had his moments when he needed to be on the sideline standing next to you.

Mitch Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography)

Hasn’t Trubisky completed something like 80 percent of his passes when you have let him play, particularly when he’s gone in on the fly when Marquise lost his helmet or was shaken up? Didn’t he throw a touchdown pass at Virginia, cold off the bench, on third down, and he’s done some other pretty amazing things in cameo roles? And he’s got the receivers, his roomie Switz & the Hollins buster.

So, let’s talk him up and give Kevin Best a chance to promote who could be the best pro prospect we’ve had at the position. The kid stands tall and throws darts. Reports have been coming out of camp for the last three years that he shreds the defense, and if the Tar Heels are going to match, or better, their 11 wins from last season, you have GOT to turn this kid loose.

We know you will, so why are you saying it’s still a dog fight between Trubisky, and Who’s He Henderson and Elliott, and probably Chaz when he shows up this summer. Mitch is the man, and we know it. C’mon, coach, you know it, too. We’re lucky the kid has been such a good sport about not playing the last two years, when others with a bigger ego might have sulked or, worse, packed up.

The Tar Heels have a quarterback that will rule the Coastal and get a chance to show the Atlantic what he can do when you go to Tallahassee early in the season. He’s made for the Fed Spread and even runs it better than everyone thinks.

No. 10 is No. 1 and you know it. He’s the kind of quarterback that people will pay to see, no matter who the early season competition is. We do want to fill Kenan Stadium, right? So let your new rifleman sell some tickets. C’mon, coach!


Offense Wins, Defense Impresses in UNC Football Spring Game

Although the offense won the UNC football spring game 74-70 under an odd scoring system, it was the team’s defense that made the biggest impression at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

With everyone in the stadium focusing on the quarterback position–and how junior Mitch Trubisky would look in his first appearance since the graduation of former starter Marquise Williams—the defense stole the show with four interceptions.

Three of the picks came against backup Caleb Henderson, but senior cornerback Des Lawrence was able to make an impressive play against Trubisky to get one against the starter.

That earned three points for the defense in a confusing scoring system head coach Larry Fedora said was adopted from the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the spring game. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the spring game. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

“I don’t wanna sit here and say one side was better than the other,” Fedora said after the game. “I think that both sides benefited from what we did today.

“That’s the tough thing about a spring game,” he continued. “I thought there were good things in some situations, and I thought there were bad things on both sides of the ball. So we know as a team we’ve got a lot to work on.”

In all, Trubisky completed 13 of his 22 passes for 148 yards, with 111 of those yard–and an 18-yard touchdown pass–going to big-play receiver Mack Hollins.

Playing without starting receiver Bug Howard and starting running back Elijah Hood, the offense was only able to score three touchdowns and two field goals in a game made up of two 45-minute halves and a running clock.

While not impressed with the overall effort offensively, Fedora did like what he saw from Trubisky.

“I thought he had a pretty good command of the offense,” the coach said. “We had one pick on the sideline, Des [Lawrence] made a great play on that ball, but it was a well-thrown ball.

“He didn’t miss many throws,” Fedora added. “I thought he did a good job.”

One interesting development came when the clock ran out at the end of each half. The offense was left out there with no time on the clock to run 11 untimed plays in the first half, and another three untimed plays following the second half.

Since the team uses the same scoring system in practices, whichever side loses typically carries the other’s pads back to the locker room.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday, but Lawrence still had some fun with it—saying it was a conspiracy by the coaching staff.

An outline of how the scoring was counted during the spring game. Touchdowns and field goals did not count for points. (UNC Athletics)

An outline of how the scoring was counted during the spring game. Touchdowns and field goals did not count for points. (UNC Athletics)

“They were lucky,” Lawrence said with a smile about his teammates on offense. “I think they wanted the offense to score one more time so they wouldn’t have to carry our pads, but we’ll let them have their fun today.”

The defense actually held a slim lead in the score until a make-shift offense led by reserve quarterback Manny Miles—the fifth man to take snaps for the Tar Heels—pulled ahead on the final drive.

Despite that, junior defensive tackle Naz Jones felt good about the way his unit performed, saying the score was meant more for the fans.

“I think they wanted to get more big plays so the crowd could enjoy it and get more into it” Jones said. “Because they don’t really get up for big defensive stops or anything besides an interception.”

The crowd was lucky enough to be treated to four of those, as the defense did its best to provide some entertainment in a game that otherwise resembled an unorganized scrimmage.

Whether it means anything long-term is unclear given the amount of injuries on the roster, but for one day at least defense was king for the normally high-powered Tar Heels.

Game Notes:

  • Sophomore safety Cameron Albright led the defense with two interceptions.
  • Star wideout Ryan Switzer–a rising senior–was held to just two catches and 10 yards while being matched up with cornerback MJ Stewart.
  • Freshman Jordon Brown–a running back who enrolled in January–had 11 carries for 85 yards.
  • Linebacker Cole Holcomb had 10 tackles, which narrowly edged out Lawrence’s nine for the team lead.

Spring Game Gives Chance for UNC Football’s New Stars to Shine

It may not be exactly the same as it is in the fall—with another team on the opposite sideline ready to do battle—but the UNC football team has plenty of reasons to be excited about Saturday’s spring game at Kenan Stadium.

For fans, coaches, and teammates alike, it seems everyone in Chapel Hill is anxious to see the debut of junior Mitch Trubisky as the team’s starting quarterback.

A rash of injuries has limited the format of the spring game to essentially a glorified offense versus defense practice session, but Trubisky has still put in some time thinking about what he needs to accomplish in order for him to call the day a success.

“One of the goals will be to just manage the offense,” Trubisky said. “Also to make it fun for my family—who’s coming down [from Ohio]—and the fans. And then to put on a good show to show everyone how hard we’ve been working and that we do look good as a team.

Mitch Turbisky (13) scrambles. Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.

Trubisky has proven in his limited playing time that he can both run and throw the ball. (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.)

“I wanna see good plays on offense, on defense, on special teams,” he continued. “And for myself? I just wanna try to complete every ball.”

Although Trubisky will get the nod as the starting quarterback on Saturday, and likely in the regular season too, UNC head coach Larry Fedora has made it a point this spring to never officially call him the starter. It’s been part of the coach’s plan to keep every player on the team competing for their jobs no matter the situation.

But for what reason?

“I want every guy on our football team to feel like they earned what they’ve got,” Fedora said. “Nobody gave them anything. I don’t want them to give anybody anything.

“And so I want [Trubisky] to come out and earn the job,” he continued. “Plus, when you do that it also earns the respect of your teammates.”

If there’s one group of people on Saturday that would like Trubisky–and the talented group of receivers and running backs around him–to have an off day it’s the Tar Heel defense.

All spring the defensive players have been asked about how new guys will step up to fill the shoes of departed leaders Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer—seemingly implying the unit may be due for a step back this season.

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence sees Saturday as a chance to show that despite popular belief the improvements will keep on coming in Gene Chizik’s second year as defensive coordinator.

“Not only do we wanna show our offense, we wanna show ourselves [what we’re capable of],” Lawrence said. “We know what [the offense] is gonna do.

“I think we have–if not the best quarterback in the nation–we have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation,” he added. “So we know what they can do. We know they can put up 40 or 50 points a game, but it’s gonna be on us.

“The spring game is gonna be a testament to what we do [on defense].”

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones, one of just eight healthy defensive linemen for the Tar Heels right now after Dajaun Drennon broke his foot recently, said he expects the game to be extremely exhausting for the defensive players—especially since they won’t be divided into teams.

Shakeel Rashad (42)celebrates with Nazir Jones (90) and Mikey Bart (45). Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.

Naz Jones (right) will be one of the defensive players expected to fill the leadership void left behind by guys like Shakeel Rashad (middle).

That won’t stop him, however, from trying to help Lawrence and the rest of the defense find ways to succeed as best as they can in the scrimmage format.

“We just gotta dominate no matter if they score,” Jones said. “A lot of times they’ll put ‘em on the 2-yard-line, so sometimes they’re gonna score. But what we gotta do as a defensive line—and as a defense in general—is just dominate our position and be aggressive.

“If we do that, then I think we’ll come out successful—no matter what position they put us in.”

While yes, it’s true Saturday won’t exactly be a smash-mouth game, the competition will still be there.

Fans will get a chance to see the kind of environment Fedora creates for his players, while watching those same young men battle for bragging rights within the team.

That, according to Trubisky, is the best part of the whole deal.

“We’re talking smack all the time, but at the end of the day we’re brothers,” Trubisky said. “I think we’re definitely pushing each other.

“Des [Lawrence] and Naz [Jones] are always in my ear, saying ‘Hey throw me a pick, let me get a turnover in front of Coach.’ And I’ll say, ‘Nah I can’t do that.’

“We’re always messing with each other,” he continued. “It’s just good fun.”

Game Time:

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.


Marquise Williams Reacts To National Championship

Usually the one on the big screen, Monday night former UNC quarterback Marquise Williams was walking around Franklin Street, just as sullen as the rest of his now former classmates.

“I wanted to cry man,” he said. “Because I don’t get this back. I don’t get to see them go to another national championship again that I was a student, I was a part of. It hurts man but I know they’ll be back sooner or later.”

During their postseason pushes, both the UNC football team and the men’s basketball team took on the motto “we’ve come too far to only come this far,” but while the two teams came close, neither went as far as they hoped.

Williams career ended with a 48-39 loss to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

His basketball classmates Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James were on the verge of extending their careers by five minutes, before Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating three pointer that will surely go down as one of the greatest shots in college basketball history.

And while neither group got the storybook ending they hoped for, Williams said nobody could question the impact they made.

“The 2011 class left a legacy,” he said. “A legacy for football and basketball.”

Marquise Williams

UNC Quarterback Marquise Williams. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography

The days ahead will be rough for a Tar Heel team that was seconds away from taking home a national championship, but Williams said he thinks with hard work, both teams will get to the place they couldn’t quite reach this year.

“You’ve got to get back to work,” he said. “We came up short, but how can we be national champions next year? The football team, we came up short in the bowl game, but how can we be national champions or in the playoffs next year?”

But sometimes even the promise of a bright future can’t ease the pain of today.

“For all the senior class, it sucks,” Williams said. “They got so far to come up so short. Honestly I was walking down the street with (UNC tailback) Charles Brunson and I was like ‘bro, it’s like a feeling that you want to cry.'”



Spring Practice: Run Defense a Priority for UNC Football

Just over a year ago, UNC head football coach Larry Fedora—seeking a fix for a defense ranked among the worst in the country—went bold and hired defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who masterminded the nation’s most improved unit in his first season on the job.

Now in Year Two of the Chizik Era, the Tar Heels–amidst changing expectations–have an amplified focus on stopping the run during spring practice.

Chizik and head coach Larry Fedora are turning from the bigger picture toward the finer details after winning 11 games and the ACC Coastal Division in 2015.

Gene Chizik looks over practice. (Avery Trendel)

Gene Chizik looks over practice. (Avery Trendel)

Ranked 120th nationally in scoring defense in 2014, allowing 39 points a game, the Tar Heels jumped to 42nd last season, giving up 24.5 per game.

With the major issue—preventing the other team from having a lot of points–taken care of, Fedora has said he most wants to see improvements against the run on first and second down—an issue that plagued his team in its late-season losses to Clemson and Baylor.

In those games UNC gave up a combined 964 yards on the ground.

With that said, Fedora is aware that fixing the leak up front may not happen overnight.

“I don’t know if [we’ll] have the same level of improvement,” Fedora said. “We came a long way last year. We gotta be better than we were last year. If we keep building that, we’ll keep climbing that ladder and we’ll be a good football team.”

The thing is, the measure of what a “good football team” is for UNC has changed with last season’s success.

To beat high-level teams with elite speed and ground attacks the Tar Heels will need solid output from an inexperienced front seven, which loses linebackers Jeff Schoettmer and Shakeel Rashad–along with linemen Junior Gnonkonde and Justin Thomason—to graduation.

Chizik will have to rely heavily on junior defensive linemen Dajaun Drennon and Naz Jones to lead that effort.

“You’ll hear Coach Chizik say he’s just trying to set a standard,” Jones said after Tuesday’s practice. “We created that standard already so it’s just about getting new guys to live up to that standard.”

One reason the focus on the run has been prioritized is because cornerbacks Des Lawrence and MJ Stewart—expected to form the ACC’s top tandem at their position–are two of three returning starters in the secondary.

UNC ranked 18th in the country in passing yards allowed last year and topped the ACC in interceptions with 17.

Lawrence hasn’t shied away from expectations, admitting he knows he and the rest of the defensive backs will have to help Jones and the inexperienced front.

“We understand that our front seven isn’t the same as what it was last year—not saying that it’s not gonna be better—but we understand that it’s gonna take some time,” Lawrence said. “The experience on the back end has to be even better. That way any miscues they have we can save.”

Cornerback Des Lawrence (2) is one of three returning starters in the UNC secondary--expected to be among the country's best. (Avery Trendel)

Cornerback Des Lawrence (2) is one of three returning starters in the UNC secondary–expected to be among the country’s best. (Avery Trendel)

Another big-time playmaker in the secondary is safety Donnie Miles, a rising senior.

The team’s leading tackler a year ago, Miles has proven to be outstanding in run support. He’s made it a point to complement that ability by working on his coverage skills this spring–as the Tar Heels work toward their ultimate goal of fielding a dominant all-around defense.

“We left a lot of plays out on the field last year—especially in big games,” Miles said. “So that’s our mindset now is just to dominate and make sure we’re getting everything perfected.”

All of the improvement–and potential for improvement–has been made possible by Chizik and his simplistic, no-nonsense approach to coaching.

The former school teacher has gotten the players to fully buy in—no matter how tough he gets on them–and the results are showing.

“He’s definitely gotten to know us, we’ve gotten to know him, and we know that’s just how he is,” Jones said of Chizik’s hard demeanor. “That’s just his personality.

“We’ve kind of all adjusted to each other and feel like we’ve got a good thing going.”


Former UNC Defensive End Junior Gnonkonde Arrested on DWI Charge

Bouhu “Junior” Gnonkonde was arrested for driving while impaired early Wednesday morning, according to Chapel Hill Police.

Gnonkonde has played defensive end for UNC since 2013.

The arrest report says the 22-year-old Gnonkonde was taken into custody just after three o’clock Wednesday morning on a misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired in the area of 411 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, which is between Homestead and Weaver Dairy Roads.

Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says police records show Gnonkonde’s blood-alcohol content was at .10; the legal limit to drive in North Carolina is .08.

Gnonkonde was released under no bond to a sober driver, according to the police report, and has a court appearance scheduled for Monday, March 28.

No further information is available at this time.

Gnonkonde appeared in 11 games during the 2015 season recording 34 tackles, including seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Gnonkonde moved to the United States from the Ivory Coast in 2008, after traveling to San Francisco for a basketball tournament, according to the university’s website. It also states Gnonkonde speaks five languages and is double majoring in African American and Diaspora Studies and Peace, War and Defense at UNC.

Gnonkonde is graduating in May and had previously told the coaching staff that he would not be with the Tar Heel football team this fall.