If UNC expects to get a major upset Thursday night in Blacksburg against ACC Coastal rival Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels have to play with much more composure than they did in the second half last week.
After building a 17-6 halftime lead and stretching it out to 24-6 early in the third quarter last Thursday night at home against Florida State, the Tar Heels fell apart on both sides of the ball down the stretch, getting outscored by the Seminoles 24-3 on its way to a demoralizing 30-27 loss.
"We've just got to maintain the composure, and just come out like we did in the beginning of the game and finish the game," said junior wide receiver Greg Little. "We didn't capitalize."
"We didn't capitalize on the plays we could have made in the red zone and we only got three points out of it a couple of times. Those have got to be touchdowns," Little added. "We were in the red zone and I felt like we should have gotten seven and we only got three."
"We just didn't hold our composure like we were supposed to. We just didn't do what we were supposed to do. We've got to hold our composure and we didn't deserve to win the second half," said junior cornerback Kendric Burney.
If the Tar Heels expect to have any realistic chance of coming away from Blacksburg with a win over the Hokies, who are themselves coming off a loss along with a bye week, the Tar Heels cannot kill themselves with the same costly penalties and turnovers.
In short, penalties and turnovers against Virginia Tech means a long, long night.
"We can't kill ourselves and expect to win big games like this. Going up to Blacksburg, we can't afford to just have penalties like that. That can't happen in order for us to win," said junior tight end Ed Barham. "We had some good things offensively (against FSU). Of course we had some bad things---we had some penalties---but we're going to come back."
"We've got to learn from our mistakes," said senior defensive end E.J. Wilson. "We've got to be able to take constructive criticism from the coaches. We've got to have thick skin, because there's a lot of things out there that we could have done better."
"Some of the times on defense we were beating ourselves, and we just kept digging ourselves into a bigger and bigger hole that we couldn't climb out of in the end. We're going to have to learn to execute better, communicate better, and be more efficient," Wilson added.
One of the things that the Tar Heels must do defensively is clean up some of the miscommunications that resulted in big plays by Florida State's offense in the second half of this past week's meltdown in Kenan Stadium.
Against a signal-caller with the ability of Virginia Tech 's Tyrod Taylor, any miscommunication by the UNC defenders can prove fatal against the Hokies.
"We didn't ease off the gas (against FSU). We were still hyped, trying to make plays and stuff. It was just miscommunications on some plays," said freshman linebacker Kevin Reddick. "We were still hungry, but we lost our composure."
"It was just so loud you've got to go over there and be able to tell the person," Reddick added. "It was pretty loud in there (Kenan Stadium), so that's probably one of the reasons why the communication was missed, because it was so loud and the other person didn't hear it."
"We've got to put our foot on their throat and just stomp down on it. That's where we kind of messed up at," Reddick continued. "We lost communication on the coverages, and they made a play behind us. We've just got to keep our composure."
"I think it was more miscommunications and maybe mental errors on our part, but they (Florida State) executed and we didn't. They capitalized on those mistakes that we made, so you have to give them credit," said Wilson. "Honestly, I can't really explain the difference between the two halves. I mean, I felt confident coming out there in the second half. When we were in the locker room we made some great corrections. Everyone was talking and communicating. I never saw that coming. I definitely would have expected us to come out and play better in the second half."
"We didn't stay composed and play technique and make tackles like we're supposed to do, and credit them (Florida State) for coming out and doing what they had to do in the second half," said Burney. "We knew they still had the weapons to come back, and they showed exactly what they could do."
"It wasn't really nothing different as far as him (FSU quarterback Christian Ponder) doing anything. We just didn't do what we're supposed to do, and give them credit," Burney added. "He came out the second half and their offense just exploded on us and we didn't do what we needed to do to stop them."
In the end, the Tar Heels somehow, someway have to find a way to put last Thursday night's debacle behind them and prepare for a team that will show them no sympathy on ESPN Thursday Night football on their home field.
"We were talking about it all week---let's go out here and shine on Prime Time. You've got to shine when the cameras are on you. We've just got to make it happen. That's it," said Reddick. "We've got to use this loss to make us pumped up and make us hungrier and have a good week of practice."