football Edit

Midweek: Players On Regrouping, Duke & More

Sam Howell and five other Tar Heels met with the media Tuesday to discuss their week plus Saturday's foe, Duke.
Sam Howell and five other Tar Heels met with the media Tuesday to discuss their week plus Saturday's foe, Duke. (THI)

CHAPEL HILL - Six Tar Heels met with the media Tuesday evening to discuss how they’re moving on from last weekend’s six-overtime loss at Virginia Tech and gearing up for this weekend’s opponent, rival Duke.

Here are the full interviews and excerpts from what the North Carolina players had to say:

Allen Cater, Sr. LB


*In defensive coordinator Jay Bateman’s defense, Cater is listed as linebacker. While the position is similar to defensive end, which Cater played under the previous regime, it does force him to be more versatile in what he can do on the field.

And, based on his production this season, Cater is thriving in his new role. The Hiram, GA, native has amassed 15 tackles, two of which were for a loss, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup through UNC’s opening seven games. He’s having his most productive season as a Tar Heel, but isn’t solely focused on his own personal stats. He wants the team to succeed first and foremost.

“I’m all over the place, I would say that,” Cater said. “Sometimes I’m playing the three, sometimes I’m playing the four or five. Every now and then I may be in coverage. I’m just doing what coach wants me to do and we’re going to do whatever we can to help this team win.”

He’s also enjoying the versatility that comes along with playing in Bateman’s system.

“To me, it’s fun because I get the best of both worlds,” he said. “Dropping back in coverage, rushing the quarterback, I get to make plays on first and second down. So, I would say it’s a recruit’s perfect world. Come here, you get to play everything.”

Jeremiah Gemmel, Soph. LB

*After Saturday’s 43-41 defeat to Virginia Tech, Gemmel said the loss stung more than previous losses this season. The Tar Heels entered the game as favorites and controlled their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division. Combine that with how the game ultimately ended, and it’s easy to see why the outcome was a tougher pill to swallow for Gemmel and his teammates.

Three days later, the Newnan, GA, native has completely switched his focus over to this weekend’s matchup against Duke and believes putting in extra work could do this team a load of good going into Saturday.

“It’s the next game. We gotta let last week go and pay attention to this game,” Gemmel said. “I think, if everybody on the team just puts in 15, maybe 20 more minutes a day throughout this week, I don’t think we’ll be disappointed on Saturday.”

What does Gemmel specifically mean about putting in more time this week?

“Maybe stay out there (after practice) and catch a couple balls, maybe work block destruction if you’re a linebacker or just stay out there and run yourself through plays and just visualize yourself making plays,” he said.

Dominique Ross, Sr. LB

*Being one of the few seniors on this team, Ross understands the intensity that comes along with playing Duke better than most.

Unfortunately for him, the Tar Heels haven’t beaten the Blue Devils since the 66-31 trouncing in Chapel Hill on Nov. 7, 2015, meaning nearly everyone on the current roster has failed to pick up a win over their crosstown rival. Regardless of the fact, Ross knows the importance of making sure that trend changes in just four days time.

“It’s very important,” he said. “We talk about the fans. As much as it means for us to win these games, it’s as important to the fans. They’ve been coming out to the games, they’ve been showing love so, for us to beat teams in this state and to run the state, it means a lot.”

Brian Anderson, Soph. Center

*Both UNC head coach Mack Brown and Phil Longo said Monday that the offensive line didn’t perform as well against Virginia Tech as they had done in previous weeks. Whatever their reasons may be for the subpar performance, Anderson believes it was a combination of the Hokies’ play defensively and a handful of self-induced problems.

“I think Virginia Tech did a great job all around on defense,” Anderson said. “They made some great plays and a lot of times shut us down. But, I think a lot of the wounds we had were self-inflicted.

“A lot of the times it comes back to fundamentals and that’s something this week we’ve really just been honing in on. Our first basics, the fundamentals that we first learned when we first got here that coach (Stacy) Searels really hammered down on. That’s something that will be big for us this week.”

Michael Carter, Jr. RB

*Carter had his third-best rushing game of the season last Saturday, playing 51 snaps and finishing with 91 yards on 13 carries. His overall production was certainly a positive for UNC, but the outcome was not.

Instead of sulking in his sorrows, however, Carter is learning from it and working to make sure a game like that never happens again.

“Yea, it hurt, but all the losses hurt,” he said. “So, it was just another learning experience. I’ve never been apart of a game that went into that many overtimes. I haven’t even really been in overtime games so it was just taking it for what it was and trying to move on to the next. The lesson I’ve learned from it so far is don’t let one loss beat you twice."

Sam Howell, Fr. QB

*UNC’s loss in Blacksburg took six overtimes to finish, meaning many players were understandably more sore afterwards than they had been after previous games this season. Howell in particular felt the effects of the over four-hour game as he was sacked five times against the Hokies and hit on numerous other occasions.

Despite the length, Howell said he and his teammates are feeling good and preparing well for their matchup with Duke on Saturday.

“I think we’ve been doing a good job,” he said. “It’s hard, when you come from a long game like that that goes down to the end in six overtimes, to recover and get over it. The more we keep thinking about what happened last Saturday, it takes time away from preparing for this Saturday. We’ve got to just put that game behind us and get ready for this weekend.”

The NCAA implemented a new rule this season where, in the fifth and sixth overtime periods of a game, both teams line up on the 3-yard line and have one attempt each at a two-point conversion. The Tar Heels failed to score on both of their attempts against the Hokies last Saturday and Howell spoke on the difficulties of two-point conversion plays in general.

“Two-point plays are tough. I think the percentage is like high 30s, low 40s or something like that in college. The defense kind of loads everybody up and you don’t always know what they’re going to do down there. It’s a hard play call,” Howell said.

In addition, Howell said the offense practices multiple two-point conversion plays every week.

“Coach (Phil) Longo definitely has all these two-point plays that we like and we practice them throughout the week,” he said. “It’s based off what they like to do down there in the red zone.”