The North Carolina Tar Heels secured a conference win on Saturday to stay atop the Coastal Division as they move into their bye week. Coach Larry Fedora addressed the media after Carolina’s 35-14 road win against Virginia.
On Injuries and Personnel
UNC is heading into a much-needed bye week as injuries continue to pile up. Fedora said:
It's coming at a great time now. We need it. We need to get some guys healthy, we need to get some guys recovered, and be fresh for the rest of this challenge.
Key injuries to senior wide receiver Mack Hollins and senior offensive guard Caleb Peterson left big questions about the offense. Luckily, the Heels have many options in the passing game. Against Virginia, wide receiver Bug Howard wore Hollins’s #13 jersey as a tribute to his fellow senior wideout and redshirt freshman William Sweet made the start for Peterson. Larry Fedora said that Sweet “did a really nice job throughout the game.”
Defense Steps Up
The Tar Heels defense continues to improve. UNC held UVa to 253 yards of total offense. According to Fedora, it comes down to the defense preparing in practice and executing during the game:
Yeah, they had a great week of practice. I mean they really did. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You really sense it. You can really just see it in their eyes. In meetings and all those things, they feel much better about what they're doing and how they're doing it. So, you know what, they're making the ordinary plays that they make in practice everyday. That's the thing, they've realized that you don't have to do something special, just do your job within the scheme and things will work out.
A key sequence in the second half put Carolina on the path to victory. Defensive end Mikey Bart and linebacker Cole Holcomb made some big defensive plays that kept Virginia off the board and allowed the Carolina offense to stretch the lead. The defensive performances in the last two games are good signs heading into October.
Offensive Performance and Trickery
Fedora said that the offense was “inconsistent, especially in the first half.” Some of this relates to injuries and the rest are underclassmen stepping into bigger roles. Fedora said:
It was more just about becoming more consistent. We had some false start penalties and again, all these new guys in there, it was just little things that you wouldn't notice that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We block a play one way in practice and then they give us the exact same look and then, all of a sudden, one of the guys said ‘I thought this guy was going to get him.’ I mean, we've been blocking it that way in practice all week. Those are young guys, and I try to tell them that they're not young anymore. This is going into our 13th week, so they're not young anymore. It's time to step up and do their job.
This bye week will help those “young guys” get more reps and get more comfortable working with each other.
On Saturday, there were successful trick plays by both teams. Fedora says that each game they have “three or four” trick plays, and will use them “if the right opportunity comes up.” Trick plays can jumpstart the offense and Fedora points to how the players react. He said that “the kids love it, they get excited, they have a good time with it.” It is good to see that Fedora and the Tar Heels are having some fun out there.
Watch the full interview from Coach Larry Fedora thanks to our friends at Inside Carolina.