Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels weren’t going to let a second Conference USA-level opponent sneak up on them again. Back in September, Carolina looked back on four straight wins over East Carolina and failed to bring the requisite focus and passion to its contest in Kenan Stadium, the result being a 55-31 ECU blowout.
Now with Old Dominion, an 8-3 team that is moving into Conference USA in 2014, coming to Chapel Hill last week, Fedora and Heels certainly kept their guard up.
“We challenged our guys and they took it to heart,” Fedora said Monday at his weekly news conference. “They watched the film, watched ODU play East Carolina, Maryland and Pitt, and they realized that was a good football team. We played harder than we did. We did at the beginning and we challenged them at halftime. It’s not an easy thing to do, it’s not easy to be up like that and come back and have the same intensity. But they accepted the challenge and played the same way in the second half.”
The Tar Heels scored 35 unanswered points in the second quarter to bolt to a 49-13 halftime lead and poured on the gas after intermission, leading by the final margin of 80-20 by the end of the third quarter. The victory gave the Heels a 6-5 record and made them bowl eligible—this after starting the season 1-5.
Asked if thought such a winning streak to end the season was out of the question, Fedora was quick to say no.
“No, I never doubted it,” he said. “If we continued to believe, if we continued to have great attitudes, if we pulled together and worked hard, I had no doubt. We focused on being 1-0 each week, finding a way to win and to give one more inch. That’s been our focus every week. It’s obviously paid off.”
With Duke coming to Kenan Stadium for a noon kick-off Saturday, Fedora and his staff will make some subtle reminders to their players of last year’s 33-30 loss in Durham—Carolina’s first loss to Duke in eight years—but he said the real focus will be on themselves.
“Duke is playing extremely well, they’re having an historic season and it should be a heckuva football game,” Fedora said. “But we won’t get too much into last year or anything outside our own locker room. I guess we’ve done a good job brainwashing these guys, getting them each week to be locked into being 1-0 that week, keeping things within our locker room and paying no attention to everything going on outside. That’s worked well the last five weeks and we’ll keep the same approach.”