Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
North Carolina didn't get the opening week victory they were hoping
for last Thursday when they took on South Carolina.
But they didn't' get embarrassed either, which is something some
outside observers fully expect out of ACC teams going up against SEC
Despite the loss, there are things that can be improved upon heading
into Week Two against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.
Let's take a look at some of those needed improvements and other
storylines with the Week Two capsule.
A quick look at Bryn Renner's stats against South Carolina
and you wouldn't think that he played particularly poorly.
He completed 60 percent of his passes, had a touchdown toss and
didn't throw an interception.
But anyone that watched the action on the field knows that Renner was
a little off. Actually, he looked really off.
He overthrew receivers, which can be hard to do with guys like
Quinshad Davis and Eric Ebron going up to get the
ball, and never seemed to develop a good rhythm to get the offense
Without taking Middle Tennessee State too lightly, they aren't the
Gamecock's, especially defensively.
The hardest part about college football is not having a chance to get
warmed up like you do in the NFL with the preseason. Facing a team many
consider to be a contender in the nations deepest conference certainly
isn't a fine-tuning teaching moment.
Something to keep an eye on his the utilization of Renner's legs by
the UNC coaching staff. Renner ran the ball 11 times last week, some of
which were most definitely by design.
ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer seemed dumbfounded that the Tar
Heels would call plays that put Renner in a situation where he would be
asked to run. He noted that Renner, while more athletic than most people
give him credit for, isn't best served in those scenarios.
It will be interesting to see if the playcalling in that area was
because of something that the coaches saw on film in preparing for the
Gamecocks, or if it is something they will look to utilize consistently
throughout the year.
Everybody knows that T.J. Thorpe's muffed punt in the first
half was a big turning point in the loss to South Carolina.
The fans know it. The coaches know it. Most importantly, Thorpe
Coach Larry Fedora talked a great deal this week, both at
his Monday press conference and during his Tuesday radio show, about the
need to keep confidence in Thorpe and believe in his ability to bounce
"You have to. If you don't put him back out there then he feels like
you've lost confidence in him. Then he's not going to have confidence in
himself," said Fedora. "The best thing you can do is put him right back
in the same situation and let him go do what he does, make a play like
"So now, for me, I don't think there is any question that he'll play
better in the next game because he's been there. It was a very
unfortunate situation and it can't happen. He understands that. I made
it clear to him and we move on from it."
Thorpe did follow-up his disastrous first punt return attempt with a
20-yard return, showing the flashes of athleticism that make him so
dangerous to have back there.
He also caught four passes in his first game action in a long time
after battling back from well-document injuries.
Thorpe has all the potential to contribute in a bunch of different
ways and this week's game could be his big shot at redemption.
The Unknown Danger
Larry Fedora has told anyone that will listen
this week that Middle Tennessee State won't be a pushover game.
Middle Tenneesee St (1-0,0-0) vs. North Carolina (0-1,0-0)
Middle Tennessee State at a glance
Nickname: Blue Raiders
Colors: Royal Blue &
Johnny "Red" Floyd (30,788)
Conference USA 2012
Record: 8-4 (6-2) Head
Coach: Rick Stockstill
(44-44 overall, 44-44 at MTSU) Last Game: Defeated Western Carolina 45-24 Official Site |
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Maryland knows that better than anyone, as the Terrapins have lost
twice to the Blue Raiders in recent memories. In even more recent
history just last season, Georgia Tech lost to Middle Tennessee State
"First of all, we need to understand this team that's coming in here,
they've beaten ACC teams. They did it last year, and they've done it
before," said head coach Larry Fedora in Monday's weekly press
"We'll have all of our focus on Middle Tennessee. We won't be worried
about the bye week or what's coming down the road. It will be all about
Fedora has some familiarity with UNC's Week Two opponent. He was a
coach there from 1999-2002 and credits his time spent there as an
"We were there for three years. My youngest daughter was actually
born there---the last one. So we had some really good times there," said
Fedora during his weekly radio show this week. "We had a bunch of kids
that fought really hard for us. It's really where the basis of this
offense started. A lot of good memories there actually."
Tar Heel defense
UNC was decimated by injuries during this year's training camp.
The Tar Heels didn't have a banner year on that side of the ball last
season and many expected them to take a step forward this year, if for
no other reason than because it would be hard to get a ton worse.
UNC has a lot of athletes on defense but still managed to get muscled at
times against South Carolina.
Middle Tennessee State brings with them an offense that racked up 475
yards in their Week One victory over Western Carolina.
They'll have a balanced attack and one that will feature two running
backs who are capable of breaking off big plays.
Jordan Parker had 165 yards rushing and one carry that went
for 65 yards. His running back mate, William Pratcher had 71
yards on just 10 carries.
Senior defensive end Kareem Martin spoke at Monday's press
conference about making sure they don't take the Blue Raiders lightly
and improving upon their past performances.
"Middle Tennessee, which we can't take them lightly. They beat
Georgia Tech last year, and they definitely have the talent to come in
here and upset us, so we definitely have to come out here and play our
'A' game," said Martin. "Morale is still pretty high. We felt like we
beat ourselves (against South Carolina), especially defensively. They
had two big touchdowns, and we felt like we gave them (away to them).
After watching the film morale is still pretty high because we see we're
a pretty good football team when we get everything together."