UNC: NO PANIC
North Carolina, which averaged more than 10 points a quarter last season in its first year under coach Larry Fedora, was held to 10 points total in Thursday’s 17-point loss to No. 6 South Carolina.
But in their first comments since that season-opening game, Fedora and quarterback Bryn Renner said they weren’t discouraged by the lack of production.
“There’s not any panic within the offense or the offensive staff or the players or anything like that,” Fedora said Monday. “The offense has proven that if you just play within the system and you don’t shoot yourself in the foot you’re going to make plays and you’re going to make explosive plays. It’s built that way. So there’s no panic. Go back to work and let’s execute better than we did this past week.”
The Tar Heels put together drives of 17, 16 and 13 plays against the Gamecocks, but scored only 10 points in their three trips inside the 2-yard line.
“We’re never going to lose our confidence,” Renner said. “We know we can score very quickly.”
Despite the defeat, Fedora said there were plenty of bright spots heading into Saturday’s home opener against Middle Tennessee State (12:30 p.m., WRAL).
He mentioned the tough running of Romar Morris, who averaged 4.6 yards on his 15 carries, and an offensive line that started two redshirt freshmen but kept South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from touching Renner.
The offense also didn’t commit a turnover, which Fedora thought was partly a sign of maturity for his third-year starting quarterback.
“He took care of the football and that was under a lot of pressure in several situations,” Fedora said. “So just that alone, even though you’re wanting to make a play in the worst way that you don’t throw a ball into coverage when you know you shouldn’t, that’s a tough thing.”
But UNC’s defense didn’t force a turnover, either. Combined with an offense that couldn’t produce big plays — its biggest gain was a 24-yard catch by Quinshad Davis — or capitalize on its red-zone opportunities, it all added up to a nationally televised defeat.
Even though the game was a chance for the Tar Heels to enter the national conversation, Fedora said it wouldn’t affect the team going forward.
“This game doesn’t make or break our season,” Fedora said. “It was the first game.”
Middle Tennessee , which won its opener 45-24 over Western Carolina, showed it was capable of beating ACC competition with a 21-point win over Georgia Tech last season.
But the Blue Raiders are unranked — like every team left on UNC’s schedule.
“Every team we play is going to be tough,” Renner said. “But I don’t think anybody is going to be as tough as the opponent that we just played.”
BLOCK NOT ‘MALICIOUS’
Late in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, freshman right tackle Kiaro Holts dove at Clowney’s legs after Renner had released the ball. While Clowney limped back to the sidelines (he soon returned to the game), Holts was called for a personal foul.
Many considered it to be a dirty play — including the ESPN broadcasters — but Fedora said Holts had “no malicious intent.”
“We disciplined him just like we do all our players who get a personal foul that hurts the football team,” Fedora said. “But if you really look at it, Kiaro got beat and he got beat bad. He’s trying to recover and trying to cut the play. I don’t think he cared who it was but he was trying to keep that guy away from Bryn.
“He doesn’t know that the ball is already thrown. He doesn’t know that the guy is already turning to look down the field. He’s just trying to recover.”
DEPTH CHART MOVES
There were no significant changes to the depth chart after Week 1 except at long snapper, where sophomore Conor Fry will take over for senior Mack Lloyd.
Lloyd, who tore his ACL last year, suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury while covering a punt in the second quarter against the Gameocks. Fry was perfect on deep snaps last season, when he handled extra points and field goals.