UNC has had a rough go of it lately.
After adding an unexpected loss to their ledger by losing 55-31 to ECU at home two weekends ago, the Tar Heels dropped their third game in a row by losing to Virginia Tech 27-17 in Blacksburg this past Saturday.
Larry Fedora took to the airwaves
Tuesday night for his weekly radio show to talk about the loss to the Hokies and look ahead to what could potentially turnaround UNC's fortunes later in the season.
"First thing you've got to do is give them credit. They (Virginia Tech) played a good football game. They didn't turn the ball over and gave themselves a chance to win," said Fedora. "We turned it over a couple times, a couple big plays on defense and had a game-changing play on special teams. Again, we made some progress but we're still not hitting on all cylinders like we need to be."
Although they didn't get the victory, Fedora did notice more effort from his team, especially on the defensive side of things, and was appreciative of the strides his team made.
"We played with a lot more energy, enthusiasm and our guys played hard all the way until the end. We played like we're supposed to play. We played hard and I was proud of that. Now we've got to cut out the mistakes," said Fedora. "We've got to continue to play with that kind of effort and enthusiasm, we've got to cut out the mistakes and that's when we'll get in the win column."
Asked what his team still needs to work on in order to see better results on the field, Fedora didn't hesitate.
"It's the details. Each and every day.
Whether you're on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the dorms, whatever it is, you do things the right way every single day. You get in the habit of doing that and practicing that and good things will happen."
The Tar Heels were without their starting quarterback Bryn Renner and had to replace him with Charlotte product Marquise Williams. The switch didn't cause UNC to feel outmatched according to Fedora and the head coach was impressed with his backup's abilities in the game and in the lead-up to it.
He also gave some details about what the process was like for the UNC coaching staff as they had to make a decision about Renner and his injured foot and whether he would be able to go against Virginia Tech.
"Sunday, Bryn was in a boot, which is not uncommon for a guy that's got something with his foot because they're going to be very cautious. They put guys in boots now just to keep pressure off the area. So he was out, and they both split reps on Tuesday, he was pretty sore on Wednesday but he still got some reps and they split again there, and then same on Thursday---it was going to be a game day decision," said Fedora. "After warm-ups, Scott came in and said that he (Renner) was out---we need to go with Marquise. It was really pretty cut and dry at that point. To prepare yourself in that situation, that takes some maturity and he did a nice job of that. I thought he handled himself very well in the game. He never got flustered, he never got overwhelmed and that's a top five defense in the country and will be at the end of the season. They're really good and I thought he managed the game well."
Williams had 277 yards passing, which might have come as a surprise to some who haven't seen him in many passing situations before.
He's mostly been used in short yardage situations to pick-up first downs but having to play a full game allowed him to show off his full arsenal of talents.
So was his head coach surprised at all at what he saw Saturday?
"No, not at all. You've got to understand, nobody else has seen it because the situations he's been in in games, we haven't been in a situation where he's been throwing the ball. We took advantage of his legs more when we put him in there. You know, Marquise can throw the ball very well. He proved that on Saturday. He does that every day in practice," said Fedora. "Obviously we added a few quarterback runs for him and to aid in the running game which also created a little bit more of a problem for the defense. I think it got them out of their man coverage's that they like to play and they wanted eyes on the quarterback a little bit more in case he did take off. I think that changed what they were doing a little bit. He's able to, with his legs, to extend some plays and make a play. He did that with the last one to Quinshad. He did, he extended the play and got the ball to him and we got six out of it."
Going forward, Tar Heel fans can expect to see more of Williams as the coaching staff looks to expand his role on game days, even when Renner returns.
"I wouldn't hesitate to put him in a game. There is a good chance that he'll play in each and every game the rest of the way out---to be able to use both of them and the skills that they both have," said Fedora.
When asked about his defense, Fedora mentioned that he was impressed at the renewed determination to become a more productive unit. He talked about the contrast in performances from the ECU game to Virginia Tech.
"Our guys made a commitment to it. One of the points of emphasis, one of the keys to victory was stop the run and make them one-dimensional. We knew they would want to run the football. You hold a team to 48 yards rushing and you're doing some pretty good things," said Fedora. "Now we've got to take it to the next level. Stop the run, we can't give up those big plays, if we can do that we're going to be playing some pretty doo defense.
"Both of the touchdowns were technique oriented. Both guys were out of position and not using the proper technique. One with his eyes in the backfield when he had the guy on the 80-yarder and his eyes shouldn't have been in the backfield, they should have been on the guy. The other was, he was about two to three yards off his area that he should have been in he was squeezing the first receiver inside."
Aside from Renner's inability to go, one of the other major storylines from the weekend was the UNC debut of freshman T.J. Logan, who performed for the first time after dealing with injuries all year long.
"It was good to get him out there and get him some live reps, get him hit, get him tackled and all those things. He made a lot of mistakes. Lots of mistakes. You know, he's just going to get better. We're glad to have him back out there with us and going 100 percent. He's going to play more and more as we go."
Perhaps the most introspective moment of the show came when Fedora compared his team this season to the one he fielded last year during his first season in Chapel Hill.
"That is really hard to pinpoint. Every team that you have is different. There are so many differences because it will never be the same. Some guys leave, new guys step up in new positions and a lot of things," said Fedora. "The chemistry of this team is obviously different from last year's team. We have not had the same success that we had early on last year and when that happens that creates a lot of problems. It magnifies every problem that you have. As a coach, you start looking under every rock, everything to fix every little detail.
"The next thing you find out is that when you look up you don't have a hat hanger. You don't have something that you feel really good about. That's what we're in right now," said Fedora. "I don't know, offensively if we can pick out two or three of our base plays that our guys really feel good that we could do against anybody. I think defensively the same thing and on special teams. We have got to get that consistency before we're ever going to get back there."
Fedora and UNC will have this week as they have their second bye week of the season.
They have a few extra days to practice while preparing for the long-anticipated match-up with Miami next Thursday. Because of this, Fedora won't be hosting his weekly radio show next Tuesday but will return the following week.