Tar Heels having trouble gaining the longest yard

UNC has failed to convert short yardage situations in each of its last three games, including four straight tries from the 1-yard line in Saturdays game at Miami

Jasen Vinlove—USA Today Sports
Oct 15

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina football team was back to its old self Saturday while rolling up 461 yards of offense in its 20-13 win at Miami. And yet despite that success, coach Larry Fedora couldn’t get his mind off the one yard his Tar Heels weren’t able to get in the bounceback victory that thrust them back into the thick of the ACC Coastal Division race. It came late in the third quarter when UNC failed to get the ball into the end zone on four straight tries from the 1-yard line, wasting an opportunity to expand on a 10-point lead and put the Hurricanes away. It was a disappointing sequence made all the more disconcerting by the fact that it’s happened multiple times before. This was the third straight game in which the Tar Heels failed to convert short yardage situations. “It’s frustrating, it really is,” Fedora said. “Then you start questioning the things that you do when really you just need to knock some people off the ball and go get a yard.” That hasn’t been as easy as it sounds for UNC lately, even though Fedora and offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic have tried virtually everything in their play book to get that elusive yard in key situations. Against Florida State three weeks ago, they sent power back Elijah Hood over right guard on two straight plays. But he was stopped without any forward progress. A week later, they changed things up on the Tar Heels’ opening possession against Virginia Tech by throwing a third down swing pass to Ryan Switzer — again for no gain — before sending speed back T.J. Logan between the tackles in a failed attempt to extend the drive. Both of those opportunities came in the middle of the field. Saturday, in a goal line situation, Fedora threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Hurricanes defense with an all-too-familiar result. After calling for Mitch Trubisky to run it in from the shotgun formation on first down and having his quarterback roll out and attempt a pass to tight end Carl Tucker on second, Fedora returned to the power game and handed the ball to Hood into the middle of the line on third. Then, having tried virtually everything else, the UNC coach stepped out of character by having Trubisky go under center and attempt a sneak. “I never do them,” Fedora said. “So I thought it might work.” Fedora said that the longer the Tar Heels continue to struggle on short-yardage conversions, the more of an issue it is likely to become. “You start doubting yourself call-wise when it’s happened now in a couple of fourth-down situations,” he said. That’s why, the coach said, the solution to the problem might be limiting the number of available options instead of expanding the play book and making things harder than they really are. “We’ve done a lot,” Fedora said. “Maybe we need to settle in and just do one thing and feel good about it.” According to Trubisky, the solution to the problem isn’t in the play calling. It’s in the attitude of the players being asked to execute it. “It’s more of a will than anything,” Trubisky said. “We’ve just got to have the will to get that one yard. It’s all about who wants it more down there. Credit to Miami for stopping us down there, but we’ve got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone. It’s crucial down there. “We’re going to talk about that this week and find answers what we have to do, whether it’s spreading out, passing it, moving it or just going through someone’s face. Sometimes that’s what you have to do.”