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September 25, 2013

ECU-UNC Capsule

Football Preview

North Carolina fell just a little bit short in their ACC opener last weekend against Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels suffered a 28-20 loss to the run-heavy Yellow Jackets.

They get a stark contrast in style from their opponents, transitioning from the triple-option attack seen in Atlanta, to trying to slow down the pass-happy air raid system employed by the Pirates of ECU.

The Tar Heels are looking to even up their record with a victory of their in-state "rivals" before getting back into the thick of things in the ACC.

Here are some storylines to pay attention heading into Saturday's match-up.


Larry Fedora may have a different mentality than some of the posters on UNC's message boards. He definitely knows that although ECU might not be the first team that comes to mind when mentioning UNC's rivals, their team certainly circles the Tar Heels from the day the schedule comes out and will be ready to create an upset on UNC's home turf.

"I can promise you their going to come into Kenan Stadium and they're going to want to win this game more any other one they play," said Fedora during his weekly radio show this week.

If nothing else, the Tar Heels have made it a priority to keep high-end in-state talent from seeking their college landing spots outside the borders, and winning games against in-state competition during the season is a big part of building a brand and unifying the state behind one dominant program.

This game is a part of the "State Championship" Fedora has mentioned in the past---referring to winning all games against fellow North Carolina programs N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke and ECU.

Only the best rivalries are created equally, and while this one is nowhere near as storied as the games against N.C. State or Duke, if UNC doesn't treat it as an equal to those contests they could be in for a rough outing Saturday afternoon.

Similar Styles

UNC has had two games---against Georgia Tech and South Carolina---where their opponents put a heavy emphasis on running the ball, keeping the Tar Heel offense off the field.

They won't have to worry about getting touches this week.

ECU employs a similar fast-break style of offense that prioritizes scoring as often as possible over time of possession, something that could help UNC get in a rhythm and stay in it throughout the game.

Fedora has long been an admirer of ECU's offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and even thought about hiring him once upon a time.

I knew Lincoln when he was out at Texas Tech, and did a nice job out there. And then actually I visited with him a little when I was at Southern Miss, and then he joined up with Ruffin (McNeill at East Carolina)," said Fedora during a teleconference on Wednesday. "So I've known Lincoln. I know he's a young coach that started out there (at Texas Tech) in Mike Leach's system, and really did a nice job with them. And now he's brought it to East Carolina and he's doing a heck of a job over there."

ECU's quarterback Shane Carden got some praise from Fedora this week that sounds like something the UNC coach would say about his own quarterback Bryn Renner.

Well, he moves the ball all over the field. I think he does a great job of distributing it, of putting it where it needs to go. He's got some weapons out there, wide receivers, and I think he's very comfortable in what he's doing," said Fedora. "Lincoln (Riley)'s got him coached up well and they're spreading him out really well. They're not afraid to put it in multiple receivers' hands and I think they're executing pretty well. You look at the three games they've played and they've moved the ball and done a nice job."

Running Game

Unless a late development happens between the time of this writing and the opening kick, it looks like prized freshman T.J. Logan will still be unavailable for action this week.

The Tar Heels could really use his potential instant offense as the look to get their running game on track.

East Carolina
North Carolina
Game Day
Line: North Carolina by 12.5
Date: Saturday, September 28
Time: 12:30 pm
Stadium: Kenan Stadium (63,000)

TV: ACC Network (Watch Online)
(S 135,XM 196)
Weather: Chapel Hill Forecast
Series: UNC leads the all-time series 12-2-1
Last Meeting: UNC won 27-6 on September 22, 2012 in Chapel Hill

East Carolina at a glance
Location: Greenville, N.C.
Nickname: Pirates
Colors: Purple & Gold
Stadium: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000)
Surface: Natural Grass
Conference: Conference USA
2012 Record: 8-5 (7-1)
Head Coach: Ruffin McNeil (22-20 overall, 21-20 at ECU)
Last Game: Lost to Virginia Tech, 15-10, on September 14 in Greenville

Official Site | Rivals Site
Roster | Schedule | Stats

East Carolina Returning Leaders
Passing: Shane Carden
(82-110, 796 yds, 8 TD)

Rushing: Vintavious Cooper
(40 carries, 161 yds, 4.0 avg, 1 TD)

Receiving: Justin Hardy
(26 rec, 258 yds, 9.9 avg, 1 TD)

East Carolina Rankings
Passing: 269.0 YPG (39th)
Rushing: 63.3 YPG (118th)
Point For: 31.0 PPG (62nd)
Points Against: 22.0 PPG (51st)

North Carolina Returning Leaders
Passing: Bryn Renner
(63-106, 751 yds, 4 TD)
Rushing: Romar Morris
(36 carries, 169 yds, 4.7 avg, 3 TD)
Receiving: Eric Ebron
(13 rec, 200 yds, 15.4 avg, 1 TD)

North Carolina Rankings
Passing: 263.0 YPG (42nd)
Rushing: 111.3 YPG (104th)
Point For: 23.3 PPG (92nd)
Points Against: 25.0 PPG (63rd)

"It's not up to our standards, I'll put it like that, so we've still got a ways to go. We've got a ways to go on our passing game, our screen game, our running game ... I don't know if there's an aspect of what we're doing offensively that we feel good about yet," said Fedora.

The running game not being much of a factor so far---the Tar Heels rank 104 in the nation in rushing---has gotten the entire offense out of whack, something that has concerned Fedora as the season has gone along.

Although it is a concern, it's not something he thinks is unfixable.

"Well we're not playing as well offensively, we're just not playing as well, it's as simple as that. It would be easy if it was just one thing," said Fedora. "If it was one thing, we'd get that one thing corrected, but there's a lot of things involved. We're still just not gelling as an offense yet.

"Some of it is the continuity up front and the young guys up front, I think there's a lot of different pieces. We're not getting in a flow, you've got to keep moving the chains to get into a flow offensively and for everyone involved. From a penalty here to a missed block here to a misread here, it's always one guy. That's the thing on offense, all 11 have got to be doing it at the same time."

ECU's rushing game has been even less effective than UNC's, ranking 118 in the nation in the rushing department. However, Fedora isn't sleeping on the Pirates and their shifty running back Vintavious Cooper.

"But they do have a good running back. The guy is very shifty, fast and he can make you miss, which makes it tough," said Fedora. "You spread the field like they do with four wide receivers, you cannot miss tackles. You better make a tackle or it turns into a big play."

With both teams feeling confident in their aerial attacks, it will probably come down to who can keep the chains moving on the ground that comes out with the W on Saturday.

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