UNC defense avoids post-scrimmage run
North Carolina’s defensive players laughed and smiled as they jogged into the locker room at Kenan Stadium.
Behind them, the offensive players ran back and forth twice along the width of the field, punishment for two fumbles earlier in the night.
There was no point in keeping score during Friday’s two-hour scrimmage — sometimes the offense started at the opponent’s 25, other times at its own 2 — but it was clear which unit won. After the offense had its way in the first scrimmage March 28 in Charlotte, the defense made its stand Friday at Kenan.
“We came out with a lot of energy today,” defensive end Kareem Martin said. “We played with a chip on our shoulder. Last week, we went down to Charlotte (and) we feel like we embarrassed ourselves. That was a big thing we focused on this week, and we were able to come out and perform like we know we could.”
The first-team offense actually scored a touchdown on its first possession against the starting defense. Starting 25 yards away, quarterback Bryn Renner found sophomore receiver Kendrick Singleton for a 16-yard pass, and Romar Morris scored two plays later on a 4-yard run.
The second-team offense then scored on its first play against the backup defense, when Hillside graduate Khris Francis burst through the line for a 25-yard score.
But the defense stiffened up on the next possessions, when Martin sacked Renner on third down and redshirt freshman safety Joe Jackson intercepted second-string quarterback Mitch Trubsiky.
The first-team defense didn’t allow a touchdown on the next four possessions.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” said Renner, a third-year starter. “Tonight proved that we’re not where we need to be offensively, just blocking, throwing and running the ball, I think we can do a lot better. Hopefully, this next week we can prove it.”
Coach Larry Fedora credited Martin, defensive tackle Tim Jackson and linebackers Travis Hughes and Nathan Staub for encouraging their teammates and keeping the energy level up on the defense, which graduated leaders Kevin Reddick and Sylvester Williams.
“They played with more passion, and that’s the only way you can play defense,” Fedora said. “You can’t play it any other way. If you don’t play with energy and passion and enthusiasm, you’re going to struggle because offenses are going to make some plays, and you have to be able to put it behind you and move on.”
While the defense raised its level of play, the offense was too inconsistent to generate enough points.
“The whole week in the locker room, they were mad about the first scrimmage,” Renner said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job responding to it. We’re never going to be satisfied with where we are, but tonight showed we need to get a lot better. The defense took it to us a little bit, so hopefully Saturday we can return the favor.”
The team will hold three more practices next week before the spring game, which will take place April 13 at 3 p.m.
Change of venue
Friday’s scrimmage was supposed to be at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, but almost two inches of rain on Thursday left the field unplayable.
Fedora said that Grimsley had standing water on the field and the sidelines at 7 a.m., when the team needed to make its decision.
“I just didn’t want to take a chance getting over there and getting somebody hurt, not having the footing that we were going to need to get a good scrimmage in,” Fedora said. “It was disappointing. I know there were a lot of fans over there that were planning on being there, so I hate that for them.”
UNC had to cancel its public scrimmage in Charlotte a year ago because of inclement weather.