While fans and media get wrapped in overall records and trying to project the home stretch, a final W-L total and a possible bowl berth, coaches are obsessive about dealing only in the present.
Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora acknowledge Monday at his weekly press conference he was delighted with his team’s 27-19 win over N.C. State.
“It was a good, solid win over a conference opponent on the road,” he said. “That’s always good. But we’ve put it to bed and now move on to Virginia.”
“Once again this week, our focus is on being 1-0. We need to find a way to get one more win, find one more inch. That’s the way we approach it every week and we’ll continue to do it that way. We’re not changing our approach, no matter what happens.”
In other words, Fedora wasn’t jumping off a ledge when the Heels fell to 1-5 and he’s wary of backslappers now that they’ve won in a row.
The Tar Heels are now 3-5 with Virginia coming to Kenan Stadium Saturday for a 12:30 kick-off. Two noteworthy elements of this team in recent weeks is how the defense has ceased to give up the big play—just one 56-yard run against Boston College in 10 quarters now—and the emergence of freshmen on both sides of the ball making key contributions.
“Early on, the big plays were really hurting our defense,” Fedora said. “Take them out and we were playing pretty sound football. I think our guys have learned that you can never take a mental break, you can never take a play off. Some of that was going on. The guys are maturing, they have more confidence. Every one of them is locked in on every play.”
Freshmen Bug Howard, Ryan Switzer, T.J. Logan and Khris Francis had big plays Saturday in Raleigh on offense, and Mikey Bart, Des Lawrence and Brian Walker contributed on defense.
“The young guys are feeling more comfortable,” Fedora said. “Now they know what to do. They’re not worried about all the people in the stands and all the things that go through a freshman’s mind. Now you’re seeing their athleticism, you’re seeing why you recruited them in the first play. You’re seeing who they are.”