The Tar Heels' turnover margin through three games is flat-eight gained, eight lost. That puts them, predictably, in the middle of the national rankings.
Carolina offensive coordinator John Shoop bristles thinking of the eight balls the Tar Heels have given to the opposition. Two occurred on freak exchange mishaps. Two were by tight ends following catches. One was by a receiver who was in some observers' minds already down when the ball was stripped. And the lone interception bounced off the receiver's hands.
"We have to get over these unforced errors," Shoop says as the Tar Heels enter Saturday's 3:30 kick-off against East Carolina. "I'm not convinced anyone has stopped us in three games. We've just stopped ourselves. Until we get that under control, I'm not happy."
Shoop and offensive line coach Sam Pittman will continue to play eight players on a regular basis across the blocking front--tackles James Hurst, Carl Gaskins, Mike Ingersoll and Brennan Williams; center Cam Holland; left guard Jon Cooper; right guard/center Alan Pelc; and right guard Travis Bond.
"Coop had his best game against Rutgers," Shoop says. "He got up in the team meeting Friday night and said his goal was to have not one mental mistake in the game. It wasn't that he wanted to bash someone's head in--it was just he wanted to play with no mental errors. And he did that--no mental busts. I appreciate him being big enough to say that."
The Pirate offense is molded after the "Air Raid" attack of Mike Leach at Texas Tech and features Dominique Davis at quarterback. He averages 40 throws a game and has thrown for nine touchdowns this year. Davis started three games as a red-shirt freshman at Boston College in 2008 as a replacement for injured starter Chris Crane, then transferred to a junior college for one year and then moved to ECU.
"Playing at team like ECU, it's even more incumbent on us to protect the football," Shoop says. "They throw it a lot and score a lot of points. You can get into high-scoring games with them. Every possession is important. You have to value every single one. We can't give them anything."