Tar Heel Coach Larry Fedora admits he was sullen, frustrated, a little angry on the plane ride home from Atlanta Saturday after the Tar Heels’ 33-24 loss to Georgia in the Georgia Dome.
But the sun came up Sunday and the video from the game started playing. The more Fedora watched, the brighter his mood became.
“I actually felt some relief watching the film,” he said Monday. “Every problem we had, every mistake we made, is correctable. I’m not happy with the mistakes. But I saw that we’re not deficient in any area, it’s not like there are areas of the team that will not hold up. All of our issues are correctible.”
Fedora cited two pass interference calls against freshman cornerback Patrice Rene that were crucial in a Georgia scoring drive in the third quarter. The 6-2 Rene won a job one corner slot when Carolina goes to nickel (with M.J. Stewart moving inside) with an impressive fall camp, but Georgia sniffed his newness out and attacked it twice. Rene was in position to make a play but instead made contact with the Bulldog receiver.
“He panicked,” Fedora said. “He was right there, and at 6-2 if he just turns around, he makes the interception. It’s not like he was beat and was trying to catch up. Knowing how to make that play will come with experience.”
Fedora’s biggest lament on offense was QB Mitch Trubisky’s failure to connect on several long balls that were available.
“You don’t get many lay-ups during a game, and when you get them you’d better hit them,” Fedora said.
Trubisky added, “We had two deep balls where we got behind them. We’d hit them all week in practice. I just missed. It’s on me. We hit them all summer, hit them all camp. It’s frustrating. Hopefully, I won’t miss the next one.”
That opportunity comes Saturday when Carolina travels to Illinois for a 7:30 (EDT) game with the Illini, who are in the first year of the Coach Lovie Smith regime. Illinois bounced Murray State 52-3 in its opener.
“From what I know of Lovie Smith, they won’t do anything exotic,” Fedora said, “but they will line up and know what to do and they’ll play really hard.”
One bright spot in the Tar Heels’ opener was the play of Australian punter Tom Sheldon, who hit six punts for an average of 42 yards. Given it was his first American college game ever and it came before 75,000 fans, Sheldon performed admirably.
Fedora also noted the Tar Heels’ pass rush, which generated four sacks for 18 yards losses.
“We got some pressure on their quarterback,” Fedora said. “We got him on the ground and hurried him a number of times. I was pleased to see that. What bothered me on defense was too many missed tackles. You’re going to have some against Nick Chubb. He’s a great back. But we had way too many—17 total. We’ve got to improve that this week.”