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August 29, 2013

Searching For Positives

North Carolina allowed South Carolina to score 17 points in the first 15 minutes of the 2013 season Thursday night.

Those 17 points were the most scored by South Carolina in a home opener first quarter since 1996 and the 203 total offensive quarter were more than five times the number of yards UNC offense had in the same quarter.

But a second quarter pseudo-revival kept North Carolina clear of a shutout to start the season, and the Tar Heels refused South Carolina points after a one hour and 44 minute rain-delay fourth-quarter conclusion to reflect a will to fight, despite the 27-10 loss.

The Tar Heels opened the second quarter with a 16-play 70-yard drive that lead to Bryn Renner targeting Quinshad Davis for a four-yard touchdown. But the drive did more than resurrect a suffering offense, it also allowed the defense a chance to prove a bit of capability.

In the Gamecocks drive after UNC's touchdown, the defense allowed South Carolina only four yards and although T.J. Thorpe dropped the three-and-out punt, the defense continued its hold and only allowed the Gamecocks three yards before getting the ball back.

"That was a good thing," Fedora said. "(The defense) didn't let it bother them, they went back out there and played the next play so there was never a situation in the game where I felt like our guys gave up."

"If that was the case, we wouldn't have gone out there after the rain delay and fought."

North Carolina held South Carolina to 406 total offensive yards, allowing the Gamecocks only as many yards over the last three quarters as they did in the first quarter.

On the opposite side of the ball, UNC was proud of its ability to withstand one of the nation's top defenders, Jadeveon Clowney, as the offensive line prevented the South Carolina defensive end and early Heisman candidate from coming in contact with Renner through the entire game.

"I didn't want him to touch the quarterback," UNC left tackle James Hurst said. "That was my goal. I didn't want him to harm our quarterback, and I'm happy about that."

Renner also recognized positive takeaways from the 27-10 loss - most notably, he was as proud of the receivers' and backs' ability to protect the ball over the course of the night as Hurst was of the offensive line's protection of Renner.

"(Our offense) didn't have any turnovers tonight, but we definitely didn't convert enough on third downs," he said. "Good takeaways? We protected the football, didn't turn the ball over, we made good decisions. We almost had a missed cue on a handoff, but we got it back and we did get in the red zone a couple of times."

Play against South Carolina involved a game plan that by design prevented Clowney from easy access to receivers down field and instead utilized screen plays and running options to move the ball, and Renner and Quinshad Davis agreed that the offense still struggled to hit tempo consistently.

But in some moments, UNC showed signs of the right game pace and play pattern.

"At times our tempo looked real good but at times it looked real sucky," Davis said. "But at the times where it was looking good, we had (South Carolina) on their heels."

And Fedora credits the Tar Heels for competing tenaciously and hanging with the game plan while struggling in and out of rhythm, especially against a top-10 opponent.

"That's just who we are, those guys are going to fight all the way to the end, they're going to believe we can win a game no matter what's going on," he said.

"There were some good things out there. We had some young kids make some plays (…) they got a game under their belt in a hostile environment, so that's going to pay off for them. We've just got to get better as a football team."


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