Renner, Heels struggling to make points
After setting 35 school records on offense a year ago, North Carolina seemed poised to put up even greater numbers in its second season under Coach Larry Fedora.
Instead, UNC’s offense has taken a step back.
“We’ve got a ways to go in our passing game, our screen game, our running game and I don’t know if there’s an aspect of what we’re doing offensively that we feel good about yet,” Fedora said Monday during his weekly news conference.
After totaling at least 410 total yards in every 2012 game, UNC (1-2, 0-1 ACC) hasn’t come close in two of its three games this season, netting 292 yards against South Carolina and 319 against Georgia Tech.
The Gamecocks have had one of the nation’s top defenses in recent years, but UNC’s ineffectiveness on offense especially was glaring in the second half of Saturday’s 28-20 loss to the Yellow Jackets, when it put up just 62 yards.
“I don’t think anybody made anything happen on offense in the second half; I really don’t,” Fedora said. “Whatever we could do to shoot ourselves in the foot and just to hurt ourselves, we did.”
A potential 82-yard touchdown pass from Bryn Renner to freshman Ryan Switzer was called back for holding early in the third quarter. The one time UNC moved the ball across midfield in its four second-half drives, Renner forced a pass to tight end Eric Ebron over the middle that was tipped and intercepted.
Besides Renner, a third-year starter, UNC returned preseason All-ACC picks James Hurst at left tackle and Ebron at tight end, along with leading receiver Quinshad Davis. But the Tar Heels also had to replace three NFL draft picks on the offensive line and running back Giovani Bernard, who has scored three touchdowns in his first three games with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s always tough to score points,” Renner said. “At times last year, we made it look easy because of the caliber of players that we had. ... When you have new guys starting up front and you have new playmakers that are going to emerge, it’s always going to be tough.”
When Fedora was asked if he thought the team would be further along after three games, he responded: “I did. I really did. That’s disappointing. So we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a long season; ... we’ll get there.”
Renner also pointed out that it’s early in the season. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, because of a front-loaded schedule, there’s not much time left for the offense to get on track. UNC’s first three conference games are against the other top teams in the preseason Coastal Division poll — Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
If the offensive struggles continue much longer, the Tar Heels’ chances for a division crown will be gone by the halfway point of the season.
Game times announced
UNC’s game at Virginia Tech on Oct. 5 will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by WRAL, the ACC announced Monday. Four of the Tar Heels’ first five games will start at either noon or 12:30 p.m.
The ACC also announced that UNC’s Thursday night home game against Miami on Oct. 17 will have a kickoff time of 7:45 p.m.
Junior receiver Sean Tapley leads the ACC in kickoff return average at 25.4 yards. ... Sophomore linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, a former walk-on, has a team-leading 29 tackles. ... UNC has played six true freshman so far — tailback Khris Francis of Durham, receivers Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard, safety Dominique Green, defensive back Brian Walker and bandit Mikey Bart. ... Saturday’s game will mark Military Appreciation Day at Kenan Stadium. UNC will wear a special white helmet with the American flag embedded in the interlocking NC logo, and the All Veterans Parachute team will deliver the game ball into the stadium.