The Tar Heels at long last caught a breather the last week in October after a month of training camp in the hottest weather anyone could remember and a run of eight straight games, one of them against an SEC juggernaut and two on the road against nationally ranked Florida teams.
Coach Larry Fedora and his squad would love to have a second chance versus Virginia Tech. But otherwise a 6-2 mark two-thirds of the way through is not bad at all given the Carolina roster is wafer thin in some spots and it added Georgia and Florida State to its non-ACC Coastal Division schedule.
To get their six wins, the Heels have had to win on the road at Illinois, Florida State, Miami and Virginia.
“We talked during our first team meeting back in August that this team would have be ‘road warriors,’” Fedora says. “I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished. They don’t blink no matter what’s in front of them.”
Carolina has always-pesky Georgia Tech set for homecoming the first Saturday in November and then will be favored against Duke, The Citadel and N.C. State.
“I’m looking forward to getting some rest,” tailback Elijah Hood says. “That bye week will be critical for use to get some guys healthy. It’s been a brutal stretch we’ve been through. We’ve played some really tough teams, really good teams. We earned a break.”
With a month to go, the thumbnail on three phases of the ball for the Tar Heels:
* Offense: Prolific as always ... QB Mitch Trubisky certainly the “real deal,” and running backs T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood a double-barreled load of trouble for defenses ... Trubisky has receiving threats all over, including the long Bug Howard and the agile Ryan Switzer, and Austin Proehl and Thomas Jackson have been productive as well ... unfortunately the O-line has been hit hard by injuries with Caleb Peterson lost for the year, and the receiving corps will be without Mack Hollins.
* Defense: Gradually getting better as the line has gotten some stability after early season injury problems and performance inconsistencies ... Naz Jones has had a terrific year inside and has gotten support from Jeremiah Clarke, Aaron Crawford and Jalen Dalton ... the secondary has played well though it’s yet to nail an interception all season ... freshman safety Myles Dorn has gotten more and more playing time as October has evolved.
* Special Teams: Senior Nick Weiler has connected on two field goals of 50-plus yards, and Aussie import Tom Sheldon has shown a strong leg while learning the nuances of American football. Opponents are wary of Switzer’s punt return prowess, but hopefully he’ll get some chances the last month to get that eighth career return touchdown.