By Eddy Landreth
No one can be sure exactly what happened on Saturday for the North Carolina football team in a 39-34 loss at Louisville, except that the two halves could not have been more different.
Now the Tar Heels must regroup quickly and be prepared to play an East Carolina team that is always excited and ready to play the Tar Heels.
UNC (1-2) will play the Pirates (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium after consecutive road games in which the Tar Heels had a chance to win but lost.
â€œWeâ€™re 1-2 right now, but we lost a game by one and a game by four,â€ quarterback Bryn Renner said. â€œIt could easily have turned a different page. Weâ€™re on the right path, and weâ€™re not far away. Weâ€™re going to keep pushing.â€
UNC fell behind Louisville 36-7 on Saturday in an abysmal first half, but then held the Cardinals to three points in the second half and actually had a chance to win the game on the Tar Heelsâ€™ final play of the day.
â€œWe settled down and got comfortable and started playing as a unit,â€ senior offensive guard Jonathan Cooper said. â€œWe were having fun together. We were just so tense [in the first half].â€
â€œWe found out we will stick together and we are a very resilient bunch,â€ Cooper said. â€œTo see the defense step up and not only make the game respectable but give us a chance to win, I was very proud of my team as a unit.
â€œIâ€™ve been on some teams where people would give up and have their heads hanging. This group didnâ€™t do that.â€
While all that is true, the Tar Heels still lost the game. The question is whether they build on their second half and begin to put together complete games.
â€œThe game was no different on film,â€ Fedora said. â€œIt was atrocious in the first half, and we played really well in the second half. If we can maybe put two of those together we can have some success.
â€œEach game is a separate entity, but hopefully you do build off of it. You learn something from it, and you grow from it, and you become better from it.â€
As crazy as the first half went, with the Tar Heels committing 18 missed assignments on defense, the troublesome part is no one seems to know why this happened.
â€œI thought we were ready to roll,â€ Renner said. â€œObviously, we didnâ€™t come out with any intensity at all. The second half, we had that intensity. But I donâ€™t know what happened at the beginning of the game.â€
â€œI think in the first half, we were pressing a little bit, trying to find a big play here and there,â€ Renner said. â€œOnce we got our offense in a rhythm, we got to flowing a little bit.â€
Fedora said the answer is playing with the kind of emotion and excitement necessary to compete in college football.
â€œItâ€™s been tough,â€ Fedora said. â€œTrying to figure out what it is and what buttons to push, what the reasons are. Itâ€™s been different in every situation.
â€œYou have to attribute some of that to an intensity level and an energy level. When you donâ€™t play with the right amount of energy, enthusiasm and excitement, somebody is going to make a mistake and something is going to happen. The next play, somebody makes a mistake and it just snowballs. That is what was happening. It wasnâ€™t one guy who made all the mistakes.â€
The difference from the past is that the team stuck together. In the previous decade, Carolina simply quit in several games and took a brutal beating. This time they played with heart, fought back and gave themselves a chance to win the game.
Now they have to get ready to play a full game if they hope to defeat ECU.
â€œIt was about pride and how much you have inside yourself and how much you want to push to make it the best you can,â€ Cooper said. â€œI felt like that was what we did.â€