UNC regroups after devastating loss
Nationally televised game, charged atmosphere, top 10 opponent – all the elements were there for North Carolina to pull off a signature win at Kenan Stadium.
Then Miami went 90 yards and scored a touchdown with 16 seconds left to cap a 27-23 win, ensuring the Hurricanes wouldn’t suffer their first defeat in a week when six of the AP’s top 11 teams lost, and leaving the Tar Heels with a massive missed opportunity.
“If you watched any game on Saturday, you saw all the upsets,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said Monday. “Somebody made a big play at a crucial time in the game to win those games, every single one of them, whether it was a one-handed catch or a catch with three guys draped all over you or whatever it is, somebody made a play. And we didn't make that play down the stretch.”
After playing three teams currently ranked in the top 20, the schedule opens up for the Tar Heels (1-5, 0-3 ACC) – the next three opponents are .500 or worse, starting Saturday at home against Boston College (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Carolinas). UNC still gets to play an FCS opponent (Old Dominion) and leaves the state just once, to play at Pittsburgh.
But UNC can only take advantage of the easier competition if it’s able to regroup from another devastating loss.
Fedora said he told his players in the locker room after the Miami game that it was good that they were hurting.
“When you hurt so bad because you invest so much, that's a good thing,” Fedora said. “That means you're doing things the right way. It should hurt you. It should rip your guts out when something like that happens.
“So what does that mean? You go right back and you do the exact same things and you work harder if you can and you invest more if you can and you find a way to make it happen. Then you don't have that feeling anymore.”
Miami is now ranked seventh, and Fedora said that the Hurricanes game showed how UNC is capable of playing with one of the country’s top teams. But close doesn’t count on your record, and the Tar Heels have lost four in a row heading into Saturday against the Eagles (3-3, 1-2), who led at Clemson after three quarters in their previous game before falling 24-14.
“I want it for the worst way for this football team, for these kids, for the investment that they've put in,” Fedora said. “But what do you do? You circle the wagons, you keep working hard, you keep investing everything you've got, you keep believing in each other, and eventually good things are going to happen.”
A critical factor will be red zone conversions, which doomed the Tar Heels against Miami. UNC’s five trips inside the 20 resulted in just 16 points for the Tar Heels – and seven for the Hurricanes, thanks to a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown.
UNC must bring the same energy and enthusiasm to Saturday’s game than it had last Thursday night on ESPN against the highest-ranked opponent on its schedule.
“What makes it fun is the atmosphere and the hype around it all,” Fedora said. “We won't have that now. Now it boils down to, how bad do you want to win? How bad do you want it? And we're going to find out."
LOGAN STAYS AS STARTING RB
Freshman T.J. Logan was listed as the starting running back against Boston College. Logan made his first start against Miami and ran 16 times for 61 yards. Hillside High School graduate Khris Francis, who didn’t touch the ball versus the Hurricanes, is fourth on the depth chart behind Logan, senior A.J. Blue and sophomore Romar Morris.
ANOTHER EARLY START
UNC’s game at N.C. State on Nov. 2 will start at 12:30 p.m. and will be televised locally on WRAL, the ACC announced Monday. Of the Tar Heels’ first six Saturday games, five will be played at either noon or 12:30 p.m.