CHAPEL HILL — We’re now just two days out from Zero Dark Thursday and a showdown with the Hurricanes of Miami. And the growing excitement is certainly palpable at Carolina football practice this week.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says as much as he would like to think his coaching will make a difference Thursday night; it’s ultimately up to the mindset and execution of the players on the big stage.

“You can chase them around and try to lead them out here as best you can, but it boils down to whether or not they really want to do it,” Coach Koenning says.

The rough 1-4 start to the season presents a tedious situation for the Tar Heels teetering on the edge of irrelevancy. In the face of this reality, Coach Koenning says he has been emphasizing consistency and upping the speed of play for his defenders in practice.

“I’m just trying to consistently hold them accountable. We’re trying to go fast and play faster. And we’re doing more things in practice to kind of try and speed up the pace to make them think on the run,” Coach Koenning says.

The Carolina secondary has been torched for huge yardage in numerous games this season. And that’s a scary trend heading into the match-up against Miami. Coach Koenning says the Tar Heels are bracing themselves for the wide open aerial assault of “The Pass Central.”

According to Koenning’s count, Miami throws for fifty or sixty yard bombs regularly over the course of a contest.

A year ago, UNC walked out of Sun Life Stadium with an 18-14 victory. But Coach Koenning says he knows his boys will be facing a more confident Miami team this year, firing on all cylinders.

“I think they weren’t the confident football team that they’ve developed into. […] They played fanatical, played very aggressive, and outhit Florida. They’re an extremely confident football team,” Coach Koenning says.

Not to completely forget about the offensive side of things, the X-factor Thursday may be the dynamic play of quarterback Marquise Williams. And Offensive coordinator Blake Anderson says he’s not holding back with his play calling.

“When he [Williams] sees the field in the future, we’re going to let the playbook be a little more open and let him utilize every aspect of what we do to create the most stress for the defense that we can,” Coach Anderson says.

That wide-open mindset on offense should only add to the excitement in Chapel Hill on Thursday.