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October 27, 2013
On Being 1-0 Each Week
North Carolina's football players and coaches know they can't go back and rewrite the outcomes of previous missed opportunities this fall. Those five losses are there, and they're not going away.
Starting with the 'Zero Dark Thursday' game against Miami, the Tar Heels took an entirely different approach to this season. With all hopes of an ACC Coastal Division title gone, the focus shifted to individual goals, and breaking things down to its simplest measurements.
You see, when a season isn't going the way it should, there has to be simple moments of success to sometimes make it feel like it's all worth it. One way to go about that is to approach each game of the season like it's the first game.
That way, if you win, you can say you're 1-0. At least for that week, anyway.
UNC took that approach into the Miami game and nearly came away with a memorable victory over a Top Ten, undefeated 'Canes program, and they again kept that approach as they went out and manhandled Boston College this Saturday in Chapel Hill, 34-10.
Multiple UNC players spoke after the BC game about the fact that they were 1-0, and now the goal is to have another great week of practice and be 1-0 again next week too.
"We're just focusing on being 1-0. We're 1-0," said true freshman receiver Johnathan Howard, who had two touchdowns for UNC. "It gives us a lot of confidence. We know we're the type of team, our record hasn't shown how good we really are, but we're a really good team."
"I think (the sense of urgency) was huge. I think we carried it over from the Miami game. We looked at the positives (from that game) and said, 'You know, we're an inch away from being a great football team," added fifth-year senior quarterback Bryn Renner.
"It (the BC win) gives us a lot of confidence. We've been talking about being 1-0 each of the past two weeks, even though we didn't get it against Miami. But that's our main focus is just being 1-0 week in and week out," said sophomore QB Marquise Williams.
"It was great. We needed it. It's something that we had to have in order to continue pushing forward," added junior tight end Eric Ebron. "This win was big for people to understand that we still have games to play, and we can still win out and do things that we want to do at the end of the season. It was big, and everybody's getting on board and understanding that."
Immediately after the Tar Heels had gone out on the field at Kenan Stadium and took down Boston College, head coach Larry Fedora spoke in the celebratory postgame locker room about being 1-0 after a hard week of work, and now the goal is to get back to work in order to find themselves 1-0 again after what figures to be an intense struggle in Raleigh against N.C. State next weekend.
"Oh, it was great (the postgame locker room)," said sophomore linebacker Jeff Schoettmer. "We were happy to get that win and get that track. He (Coach Fedora) was just (saying) congratulations, we deserved it and we earned it, and now it's time to move on. And we want to be 1-0 at the end of next week too. He was happy for us."
For a UNC defense that has been much maligned and much criticized for its recent performances, to go out and hold Boston College to just 59 passing yards---the fewest a Tar Heel defense has allowed since the 11-1 1997 squad---is a huge shot in the arm as they start getting prepared for the Wolfpack.
"I think it's big. We've been playing well. Virginia Tech we were close. Miami, we were close. But I think getting this win kind of gets the ball rolling, and we're confident heading into State," Schoettmer said.
"We probably was the favorite to win this game, but this was a worthy opponent. It's good to get one back in the win column," added senior cornerback Jabari Price.
"We want to be respected and feared as a team, you know. We don't want guys taking us lightly as far as like what our record may say. We don't care about that. We play for each other."
While some of the fans may have lost faith in this UNC team and their collective ability to win after the early-season struggles, the fact that the team has held together and proved they can play a complete game for 60 minutes bodes well not only for the remainder of this season, but for the future of this program under Fedora.
"I know everybody questioned the frame of mind of our kids, and it's understandable. But I'm telling you, you come back out and the guys put it (the 1-5 start) behind them, which they'll do this week also. They practiced the same way they've practiced all year. They really have," Fedora said.
The coaches did not meet the bad start with a great deal of compassion.
They've relentlessly stayed after the kids to play hard, play smart, and play with a mission.
Mission accomplished against BC.
1-0 for a week.
"(They've had) great attitudes and we're getting after them in practice, you know. It's not like we're out there putting our arms around them with hugs and kisses," Fedora said.
"We're getting after it, and they've had a great attitude. They really have. And they understand what it's going to take to be successful."
The Tar Heel players don't shy away from their bigger goal of winning its remaining games to ensure a postseason bowl berth, but their comments about 1-0 indicates that they have perspective on how to get there.
It's going to take another week of dedicated work on the practice field.
It's going to take error-free, penalty-free football.
It's going to take determination against a fierce opponent playing for a great deal of pride and bragging rights.
It won't be easy being 1-0 after NCSU week, but the players know they have to have that one if they're to finish out the regular season with a winning record.
"Sometimes the record doesn't show it, but we're going to shock the world this second half of the season. We're just going to win every game from here on out," said Howard.
"We're looking on to State now, and we're trying to run the table and win out," added Schoettmer.