CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 01: Larry Fedora, first-year coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, shakes hands during the Old Well Walk before a game against the Elon Phoenix at Kenan Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
We were promised points. And you can't say UNC didn't deliver. After what we'll call a slow start — the Heels' first series ended with a punt after eight plays and 48 yards — UNC turned the first half into the Giovani Bernard show. It began with a 59-yard touchdown run from scrimmage on the first play of the second series; he followed it with a 6-yard touchdown reception and a 70-yard punt return for a third TD. By that point, less than three minutes had elapsed in the second quarter. The score was 24-0, and it was just getting started.
Elon's defense never had an answer for Larry Fedora's new offense. The Heels only punted the ball twice, and turned it over the same number of times. Every other series — and there were so many series — ending with Carolina points. UNC had 43 first half plays, racking up 336 yards; Elon managed 36 plays and 92 yards. Bernard left the game with five minutes remaining in the half with "discomfort in his left knee" while Bryn Renner followed after one second-half series, logging 236 passing yards, three touchdowns and a pick.
The second string barely broke stride, with two touchdowns (and a ridiculous fumble). Marquise Williams added a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak. There was the typical sloppiness and missed opportunities you'd expect for a first time out. Fedora will have plenty to yell about if he so desires. But his team scored 62 points in the first three quarters. There's a lot to like there.
The defense is harder to judge, because Elon never put up much of a challenge. Their third series they put together a 58-yard series to reach scoring position, only to have Jabari Price intercept a pass along the sideline. It wouldn't be until the end of the 3rd before Elon would put together a series of more than 20 yards. The Heels would force two fumbles and nab a second interception, this one from Tim Scott. More importantly, they showed a renewed intensity after the Phoenix near-score. I still want to see them face the tougher offenses, Georgia Tech especially, but so far things look pretty good.
Overall, it was a good debut for the Fedora era, played out under a rapidly diminishing crowd on an incredibly hot day. The team looked fit and scored at will, and came within three points of matching UNC's scoring record. They obliterated the punt return record, with 260 yards on nine punts. And with the speed Fedora wants to play at (not to mention the yardage — no UNC drive took more than nine plays) a lot of offensive records might fall in the next few years if things continue at this pace. It should be fun to watch, at least.
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