Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
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
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
Here are some storylines to pay attention heading into Saturday's
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
"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.
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
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
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."
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 (2-1,0-0) vs. North Carolina (1-2,0-1)
East Carolina at a glance
Colors: Purple & Gold
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000)
Surface: Natural Grass
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 |
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"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
"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.