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December 29, 2013
Three Phases of Production
CHARLOTTE--- North Carolina scored points in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and special teams - meeting the goals coach Larry Fedora set for every game of the season.
The triple threat scoring opportunity secured a winning season in beating Cincinnati 39-17 and also showed exactly the pacing abilities that the Tar Heels consistently strive for.
With tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator in the coaching booth dictating plays in place of former offensive coordinator Blake Anderson instead of coaching from the sidelines, UNC scored its first touchdown of the game on its third possession.
UNC went three-and-out to open the game before regaining possession by recovering a fumble on the punt. North Carolina prevented the Bearcats from scoring and then moved the ball 68 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
The pace of the beginning of the game and that scoring drive was faster than quarterback Marquise Williams as ever gone with UNC, even in consistently practicing at a game pace.
"I never practiced this fast," Williams said. "Those guys (Anderson and Bell) have been 'tempoing' (in practice) like we were in a game, and we didn't ever really tempo like that in practice, like we wanted to do. That was big for us to come out here and see that the guys never even got lined up, they're still on their knees (when we snap). That was the best part right there."
Three drives after North Carolina's fast touchdown, senior defensive end Kareem Martin pushed Cincinnati quarterback into the end zone for a touchback.
The defensive points allowed the offense to maintain pace because of the team's momentum and a quick touchdown by T.J. Logan on a 78-yard kickoff return immediately following the safety furthered the feeling.
"We weren't executing at first, lot of rough mistakes and stuff like that," Williams said. "But we started to get the hang of it. I started getting my little buzz down and the guys started to feel it and it feels good when special teams make plays (and) defense makes plays. It was awesome, man."
North Carolina continued its pace and momentum by scoring on its first possession of the second quarter, further extending its lead to 23-3, the lead the team would hold at the half.
Fedora said his offense operated at a "fifty-fifty," rate over the course of the game, even in its execution and dominance.
The Tar Heels had a 36-17 lead with 14:16 left in the game when T.J. Thorpe fumbled the ball on kickoff return.
Cincinnati was unable to convert on the turnover after Leviticus Payne recovered on the 6-yard line and when UNC got the ball back, it showed ability to control pace in a way that is opposite of the Tar Heels' signature style.
In light of losing veteran offensive lineman James Hurst with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter, the Tar Heels were able to operate effectively in a slower, more sustained manner to burn the clock safely in the fourth quarter to preserve their lead and their win.
"We slowed it down, we let the clock tick off some, we knew (Cincinnati) wasn't using many timeouts, we were just going to keep letting the clock keep running and snap it down with like three seconds to go. But we still ran our tempo," Williams said.
Williams, Logan and freshman tailback Khris Francis worked time off the clock with mostly short runs, and the quarterback attempted only three passes (completing two) as UNC controlled the game for nine minutes and 19 seconds.
"It makes it tougher when you're a tempo team and you're trying to eat clock and slow things down," Fedora said.
"Your team's not used to doing it. We don't practice that way, we don't lift weights that way, we don't do anything that way. So it is tough for those guys."
The difficulty did not show as the 15-play, 74-yard drive drained the clock and sealed the victory as Thomas Moore hit a season-long field goal from the 40-yard line.
"You give the credit to the offensive line and those running backs for the hard running and the perimeter blocking that we were getting. Those guys kept moving those chains and when you do that, you give yourself a great opportunity to win a football game," Fedora said.
"We've done it in games but not very often in a season are you going to go (with a) nine minute drive. It's just not going to happen very often."
But the way that the rare extended drive was achieved was with the same thought process as is utilized in scoring quick points for the offense.
"We just had to take care of the football, that was the main key," Williams said. "Coach Fedora kept coming to me, 'Just take care of the football for me,' and that was all I was going to do. I wasn't going to let him down. So I was just going to keep taking care of the football and do what I needed to do for us to get this W."