In a position where they have to win all their remaining games, UNC came out on top this Saturday with a 48-20 victory over Georgia Tech. Head coach Larry Fedora sat down and discussed the game in detail.
Elijah Hood is Healthy Again
If this game proved anything, it showed just how crucial Elijah Hood is to North Carolina’s run game. We first learned what it was like without him when the Tar Heels were demolished by Virginia Tech during Hurricane Matthew. Fedora took a moment to discuss Hood’s health, saying that “he’s as close to 100 percent as he’s been all year.” Running for 168 yards with three touchdowns on 12 carries is a good way of proving that you’re healthy.
When asked how a healthy Hood effects the team overall, Fedora had plenty to say in terms of the plays they can call and the situations they end up in.
“Now you get into some third and mediums and know you can still run it. Some third-and-threes and things so you’re tendencies aren’t all passing. To be able to be over 50 percent on third down we’re going to have to be able to run the ball some and be effective that way. It also enables you to be in less third-and-longs because you’re effective running the football on first and second down.”
When he talks like that, it’s clear how much this offense revolves around Elijah Hood, just as much as it does Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer.
The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Fedora didn’t want to give the offense all the credit in Saturday’s win, reminding everyone that Georgia Tech made a good defense so important for them.
“That’s why we talked about somehow besides the turnover that we create, we had to steal a couple possessions. We had to stop them on third-and-short or fourth-and-short, which we did once. We needed to block a field goal, and we did. I think that’s three games now that we’ve blocked field goals.”
One of the team’s biggest plays of the game included Mikey Bart’s forced fumble for a recovery. There was also the blocked punt by D.J. Ford to keep the Yellow Jackets out of the game early. Without these big plays, the offense can only carry the team so far.
Speaking of Bart, Fedora said some amazing things about his senior defensive end that I’m just going to put here in its entirety:
“What Mikey does is Mikey plays the same way every single play. That guy’s got a motor. He never slows down. When he’s on the field he goes as hard as he can every single play. I know you guys think, ‘Well doesn’t everybody do that’? No. Everybody does not do that. If we could get everybody to do that we would be incredible. That’s got to be easy to do, isn’t it? No it’s not. To go out there and play as hard as you can every single snap, a lot of people can’t do it. He just has that motor about him and he does it every time.”
It wasn’t just the defense and special teams who received praise. Fedora even snuck in a complement for the much-maligned offensive line, noting “I thought they blocked on the perimeter well, it was an overall team effort.”
The New Guard
When asked about how this team can be compared to last year’s squad, Fedora paid special attention to the young players replacing important veterans this season. The likes of Cole Holcomb and Andre Smith have really stepped things up in their preparation in order to get themselves comfortable for game time.
Nothing has changed for this team as to how they hold up under pressure:
“This team has a lot of grit, just like last year’s team. They don’t flinch in the face of adversity. They play for each other, they’ve got each other’s back, they play really hard together, they love each other.”
Hearing behind-the-scenes information like this can help fill in the blanks when you see the team’s defense improve over the course of the season. It’s also crucial in the face of the weak offensive line and how they hold things together.
Watch the full interview from Coach Larry Fedora thanks to our friends at Inside Carolina.