Fedora, UNC ready to move on to the next game

After wilting down the stretch against Georgia, Tar Heels dont plan to allow loss to change their season.

Brett Davis—X02835
Sep 3

Larry Fedora didn’t give an impassioned pep talk to his North Carolina football team about the opportunities still available to it after Saturday’s season opening loss to Georgia.He didn’t have to.”No, they do have a little intelligence,” Fedora said at his weekly meeting with the media Monday. “They understand. Yes, we wanted to win the football game and we prepared like that. But we also know it doesn’t make or break our season. It’s on to the next game.”The Tar Heels should be well-versed in the concept of putting a frustrating loss to an SEC opponent in a high-profile opening night game behind them.Though the venue, the opponent and the circumstances were different, their 33-24 setback in Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic was eerily similar to their loss to South Carolina in Charlotte last Labor Day weekend.This one was even more painful because of the 10-point lead UNC squandered over the final 16 minutes.Much of the sting was eased, however, by the knowledge that the Tar Heels were able to bounce back from last years defeat to win their next 11 games, earn their first ACC Coastal Division title and a date with Clemson in the league championship game.”It can be done and we’ve done it,” defensive tackle Nazair Jones said. “But we can’t lean on that to just say, ‘Oh, we did it last year, we’re just going to waltz in and do it again.’ We definitely still have to put that work in to get the job done.”The most pressing task is improving a defense that has been torched for an incredible 1,561 rushing yards over its last four games. On the positive side, the 289 yards Georgia rolled up on the ground Saturday was the lowest total of that forgettable stretch. The negative is that the Tar Heels had no answer for the Bulldogs’ Nick Chubb, who accounted for 222 of those yards and two touchdowns in his first game back from major knee surgery 10 months ago.UNC must also figure out how to do a better job of getting the ball to its playmakers, particularly running back Elijah Hood. The first-team All-ACC selection gained 72 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry.But he only ran the ball 10 times. And in a flashback to last year’s near-miss against South Carolina, Hood didn’t touch the ball in a goal line situation when the Tar Heels had a first-and-goal inside the 5 in the final minute of the first half.Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw three straight incompletions and UNC had to settle for a field goal.Despite those problems and a so-so performance by Trubisky in which the junior missed several open receivers on deep balls while going 24 of 40 for 156 yards in his first career start, Fedora was surprisingly upbeat Monday about both his team’s performance and its prospects moving forward.”You guys may find this hard to believe, but I’m going to say I felt relief, all right?” he said. “Flying home the other night, that’s not the way I felt. After watching the film, I’m like ‘okay, every issue we had was correctable. It’s not like we were deficient here, we’re not going to be able to hold up. Now what are we going to have to do scheme-wise to cover that hole?”One thing the Tar Heels can do better is keep their poise when adversity hits.They didn’t do a good job of that at the Georgia Dome on Saturday and Fedora himself was the main culprit. The fifth-year coach lost his cool when his team was penalized for an ineligible man downfield late in the third quarter, getting a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with officials.Instead of having a key first down, UNC found itself backed up against its own goal line. The situation was then compounded by an ill-advised screen pass that ended up resulting in a safety to pull Georgia to within a point.”Obviously you’d like to have some throws back,” Trubisky said. “But if I had two throws back it would be a different ballgame.”Fedora didn’t address either the penalty or the play call at Monday’s press conference. He did express his regret in an interview with GoHeels.com.”One call that I would go back, if we could, and not make was the screen call out of our end zone. There was a lot going on with that sequence with the completion being called back and the commotion of the penalties. If I could go back, I would have changed that call, which is why I told the guys that this game is on me.”No news on Tyler Smith’s status: Junior Tyler Powell was listed as a starter at defensive end for the Tar Heels on Saturday. But even though he made the trip to Atlanta, he didn’t play a down.Fedora addressed the situation Monday, saying that “he’s dealing with some personal issues right now.” Powell’s status for Saturday’s game at Illinois is still up in the air. “I don’t know what that situation will be.”Powell was starting in the spot normally manned by Dajuan Drennon, who is still out after suffering a foot injury in spring practice. Sophomore Malik Carney is listed as the starter at the position. He had five tackles and a half sack against Georgia.