UNC head coach Larry Fedora spoke with reporters around the Atlantic Coast Conference region Wednesday in the league's weekly teleconference. Fedora gave some insight into this week's opponent East Carolina, touched on running back Gio Bernard, and reflected on last week's tough loss at Louisville.
COACH FEDORA: Yeah, we're excited about getting back into Kenan Stadium, playing in front of our fans. Looking forward to Ruffin McNeill and the East Carolina Pirates coming in here and playing.
Larry, does the way you came back and made it a game against Louisville leave you encouraged?
COACH FEDORA: I don't know if it means that we're close to where we want to be. But it was good to see that we had that never-say-die attitude, that our guys fought all the way to the end. I was proud of that fact. The problem is, why were we in that position in the first place.
How do you address that going forward?
COACH FEDORA: You hope you grow from it and learn from what happened in the second half, that you continue to play with the same intensity level that you did in the second half. You start the game that way. You don't wait for something to happen; you make something happen.
Coach, how is Giovani Bernard shaping up for this week?
COACH FEDORA: He had a great practice yesterday. Had a smile on his face, was moving around really well. I'm excited about it. Hopefully he is, too.
I know you don't get into details of everything, but as far as the injury goes, is it just something that's nagging, you're not going to hurt it any more, or.....
COACH FEDORA: Really, it's hard to tiptoe around the subject. I mean, it's better just to tell you that he's feeling good, had a smile on his face, practiced well yesterday, and we'll just see what happens.
Is there anything specific that you guys are focusing on this week to improve upon from the Louisville game?
COACH FEDORA: Yes. Really still trying to find out who we are as a football team. The focus this week has been on our energy level in everything we do, starting with Sunday night, then yesterday's practice, today's practice. Hopefully today's practice will be as good or better than yesterday's practice. We'll move on from there. It's really about us. We're really looking at ourselves this week.
Did you see anything in practice in the week leading up to that game that would have led you to believe that they might come out a little bit sluggish in the first half or was that a surprise to you?
COACH FEDORA: No, it really was a shock to me, it really was. I thought our guys were prepared. I thought they were ready to go. Ultimately that's my responsibility. So I was the one that failed them.
You've faced the (ECU offensive coordinator) Lincoln Riley offense before when you were at Southern Miss. What is typical of what he likes to do? Are they very similar to what you do on offense at all?
COACH FEDORA: No, not really. Lincoln comes from the Mike Leach system. They're going to throw the ball around. He has no fear of throwing it around, all over the place. They have a very, very solid philosophy, a very sound offense, all their principles. They're going to move the ball around from sideline to sideline, get the ball in a lot of different peoples' hands.
It looks like this year they're probably trying to run the football a little bit more than they have in the past. The one thing about it is, Lincoln knows what he's doing. He's played the position. He's going to do a great job of coaching those quarterbacks and they're going to move it around.
This is a really important game for them from a rivalry standpoint. Do you get a sense from your kids this is something special, a little bit more out of the ordinary because you're playing an in-state rival?
COACH FEDORA: Again, that's one of the things we talked about before the year, something that was going to be important to this football team. It's an in-state team, a very important game for a lot of reasons.
One, because it's the next opportunity for us. You got a bad taste in your mouth. No one likes the way the last one ended. The only way you can change that is to go out and play on Saturday and play the way you're supposed to play the game.
When you put up a lot of offensive numbers, the quarterback gets a lot of attention. How is your offensive line doing for you this year?
COACH FEDORA: I think they've probably been the most consist of all the position groups up there. This last week, I was disappointed with the pre-snap penalties we had, our center/quarterback exchange. Overall, I would say those five guys up front have been the most consistent throughout all three games.
Anyone in particular out of the group that stands out?