By Eddy Landreth
Carolina must go on the road for the second straight week on Saturday, playing at Louisville in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Tar Heels (1-1) enter this game after a difficult loss at Wake Forest. Carolina staged a strong second-half comeback and appeared to be on its way to a victory when the Deacons put together a late drive to win, 28-27.
â€œWe had too many missed assignments, too many mistakes on both sides of the ball for us to be effective,â€ coach Larry Fedora said. â€œOffensively, we shot ourselves in the foot too many times, killed drives, kicked field goals instead of putting the ball in the end zone.â€
The Tar Heels played without star running back Giovani Bernard, but A.J. Blue and Romar Morris did a fine job in his place. Blue averaged 5.6 yards per carry and gained 106 yards. Morris averaged 5 yards per carry and gained 70 yards. Each ran for a TD.
â€œBoth those running backs did a really nice job,â€ Fedora said. â€œBoth of those kids were impressive to me.â€
This team has already shown it believes in its coaches and the schemes. Bernard is expected to return this week, which gives the Tar Heels three outstanding running backs.
And with the leaders this team has, itâ€™s hard to imagine it will not make significant progress.
The Tar Heels were close to perfect in week one, so they almost had to slip some against the Deacons. They nearly got away with it.
Now the challenge increases.
Louisville has a nice collection of athletes, and the Cardinals are ranked 19th in the Associated Press writersâ€™ poll.
â€œOn defense, you can really see them fly around,â€ Fedora said. â€œThey can run. They have two defensive ends who get off on the ball and can go.â€
For UNCâ€™s defense, Fedora said itâ€™s a matter of handling the quick turnaround of a game week better than it did against Wake Forest.
UNC had all of summer camp to prep for the first game. The Tar Heels had the normal prep time for Wake Forest.
â€œThis was the first game plan installed in a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and thatâ€™s it,â€ Fedora said. â€œI donâ€™t think we handled that very well. When you have missed assignments and you start giving up plays because youâ€™re not where youâ€™re supposed to be, it definitely affected our mental makeup on that side of the ball.â€
But this is another week for a new coach, and a new program, really. Louisville presents a fresh challenge but also a great opportunity.
Starting senior guard Jonathan Cooper said that heâ€™s planning on doing his best to lead this team back to where the players all believe they belong.
â€œIt was a very somber mood [after the loss],â€ Cooper said. â€œBut we rebounded well. We watched the film and were critical of our mistakes, but we were very upbeat.
â€œMy biggest role this week is to lead by example, be positive and show them weâ€™re still in it. Letâ€™s keep our head in it. We need to keep the guys close together into a tight-knit bunch.
â€œWe can move forward. Just tell the guys, â€˜Keep working hard and it will pay dividends.â€™â€