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September 5, 2013

MTSU-UNC Capsule

Football Preview

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 teams.

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.

Bryn Renner

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 rolling.

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.

T.J. Thorpe

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 knows it.

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 back.

"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 he did.

"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
North Carolina
Game Day
Line: North Caroilna by 18
Date: Saturday, September 7
Time: 12:30 pm
Stadium: Kenan Stadium (63,000)

TV: ACC Network (Watch Online)
(S 136,XM 190)
Weather: Chapel Hill Forecast
Series: First meeting

Middle Tennessee State at a glance
Location: Murfreesboro, TN
Nickname: Blue Raiders
Colors: Royal Blue & White
Stadium: Johnny "Red" Floyd (30,788)
Surface: Synthetic Turf
Conference: 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 | Rivals Site
Roster | Schedule | Stats

Middle Tennessee State Returning Leaders
Passing: Logan Kilgore
(12-18, 144 yds, 1 TD)

Rushing: Jordan Parker
(22 carries, 156 yds, 7.1 avg, 1 TD)

Receiving: Devin Clarke
(2 rec, 34 yds, 17.0 avg, 0 TD)

Middle Tennessee State Rankings
Passing: 205.0 YPG (65th)
Rushing: 270.0 YPG (23rd)
Point For: 45.0 PPG (20th)
Points Against: 24.0 PPG (55th)

North Carolina Returning Leaders
Passing: Bryn Renner
(26-43, 194 yds, 1 TD)
Rushing: Romar Morris
(15 carries, 69 yds, 4.6 avg, 0 TD)
Receiving: Qunishad Davis
(4 rec, 39 yds, 9.8 avg, 1 TD)

North Carolina Rankings
Passing: 194.0 YPG (74th)
Rushing: 99.0 YPG (90th)
Point For: 10.0 PPG (104th)
Points Against: 27.0 PPG (63rd)

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 49-28.

"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 conference.

"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 Middle Tennessee."

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 invaluable experience.

"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."

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