Tar Heels hope work during open week corrects early problems
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina coach Larry Fedora hopes during their open week that the Tar Heels have corrected some of the problems that plagued them through a rough opening month.
How well they used that time could determine how things go Saturday night against Virginia Tech and beyond.
“They’re making each day important,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said Monday. “And they know if it’s going to be important on Saturday night, it’s got to be important on Sunday or Monday or whatever day it is. I’m happy with the way they’ve responded.”
The Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) are coming off a 47-10 loss at Miami, a game in which the Hurricanes scored three defensive touchdowns and forced six turnovers. It was an ugly extension of offensive struggles that had plagued the Tar Heels in season-opening losses at California and East Carolina.
UNC ranks among the worst Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin (minus-8), and there’s no easy solution since both quarterbacks have had trouble.
Nathan Elliott, who started the first four games, threw four interceptions at Cal and also had a fumble returned for a touchdown at Miami. And No. 2 quarterback Chazz Surratt threw three interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — against the Hurricanes in his first game back after a suspension for selling team-issued shoes.
Asked if Surratt’s suspension had put him behind in being ready to play, Fedora said: “Well, I hope not. I hope it hasn’t.
“Whether you’re getting the rep or you’re watching the rep, we expect you to be getting a mental rep,” Fedora said. “And you have to always.
“It’s just like if you’re the No. 2 quarterback, you have to prepare yourself to be the starter. You’re an ankle (injury) away from being out on the field. I think when that happens, you find out a lot of times if a guy has prepared himself. And I’m not saying that Chazz hasn’t, I’m saying that he didn’t handle the situation that night very well and just didn’t process things very well.”
Unsurprisingly, Fedora didn’t publicly commit to a starting quarterback to face the Hokies (3-2, 2-0).
There has been one positive example for the Tar Heels of what can happen when they execute well. In their lone win against Pittsburgh, Elliott overcame accuracy struggles to throw for a career-high 313 yards while Antonio Williams became the team’s only 100-yard rusher this season.
UNC had just one turnover in that game, a second-quarter fumble by top receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams.
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said Monday there’s “a little bit of more urgency for us” in preparing for the game knowing the Tar Heels have had an open week to get ready.
“When they take care of the football,” Fuente said, “they’re pretty prolific offensively.”