DuPree column: On good day, Heels a little fuzzy on coin flip
Coaches in every sport at every level have one common theme for their team: Attention to detail.
Saturday’s game at Kenan Stadium started as one big learning session on that subject for the North Carolina football team.
The Tar Heels didn’t make it pass the pregame coin toss without a breakdown in communication that led to the unusual situation of UNC kicking off to Middle Tennesse at the start of both halves.
It didn’t matter in the end, as the Tar Heels finished the day with what could be characterized as a comfortable 40-20 win over the over-matched Blue Raiders.
“That was our strategy going into the game,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said, a wry smile barely masking his true feelings. “We felt like, you know, we should help them out. We wanted to see if we could get more time for the defense on the field.”
Here’s what happened: Middle Tennessee won the coin toss and chose to defer receiving the kickoff until the second half, thus choosing which goal the Blue Raiders would defend.
That left UNC’s captains — Quinshad Davis, Tre Boston, Jack Tabb and Norkeithus Otis — with the decision to kick off or to receive the ball.
Then things got a little fuzzy for the Tar Heels.
Boston said that referee Ron Cherry wasn’t clear when he asked what UNC wanted to do.
“I think the official confused Quinshad (Davis) a little bit; confused (me) even,” Boston said. “We thought we made the right call because Quinshad said, ‘We want to return it.’ And then (Cherry) questioned him, ‘What?’
“So that’s when Quinshad was thinking, ‘OK, maybe I didn’t make the right call.’ ... It was just a little mental mistake.”
Fedora said he couldn’t remember who told him about the snafu. He wasn’t so cloudy about his reaction.
“I wasn’t real happy,” Fedora said before explaining his embarrassment. “I’m not really sure when I realized (what happened). I was talking to guys on the sideline about getting ’em ready, getting ’em ready, then all of a sudden, somebody said, ‘We’re kicking off.’ ...
“Then Ron Cherry was looking at me like I was an idiot. I didn’t know why he kept looking at me like that. Then I found out why.”
Middle Tennessee drove down the field after the kickoff, and a third-down pass from the UNC 20 initially was signalled as a touchdown. After a review, the receiver was ruled down and the Blue Raiders continued with first-and-goal at the 1-yard line
But UNC’s defense pushed Middle Tennessee back to the 7-yard line on a pair of stops, and Boston intercepted the third-down pass in the end zone to kill the drive. The Tar Heels needed just six plays to take a lead they never would relinquish.
Fedora said there is much to be learned from UNC’s home opener, which evened the Tar Heels’ record at 1-1.
“When we go back and look at the film, that’s all we’re doing is dissecting each and every play, and that wasn’t a good play,” Fedora said of the coin toss. “We’re looking at the details on every single play and every phase, everything that happens in a game. That is a big thing, to have that type of miscommunication ... happen in a game.”
Boston has a simple solution.
“I know ... I’m going to tell Coach Fedora, ‘Let me do it next week,’” Boston said.
For his part, Cherry is no stranger to unusual situations in college football. His “giving him the business” penalty against N.C. State in its 2007 game against Maryland is a youtube.com legend, having drawn more than 500,000 views. Perhaps he could have been more clear with his query, but Boston implied that he thought it was automatic.
“I’ve never heard that before,” Boston said. “I just thought, like, when they defer, we receive.
“You’ve got to pay attention to details. It’s something that I know can happen, but it never should happen again because we’re paying attention to details and will learn from that mistake.”
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-419-6674.