UNC Football: What Now?


The shock and pain of Carolina’s first loss has worn off. The frustration and anger from fans towards Marquise Williams, Larry Fedora and those annoying Gamecock fans has subsided by now. And both players and fans alike are ready to take a step back and look ahead both to Carolina’s next game at home and to the rest of the season.

It sometimes is hard to pick up the pieces after that kind of close loss so early in the season. However, fans should not panic or rush towards any silly conclusions after just one game. Yes, Marquise Williams is still UNC’s best quarterback. No, Mitch Trubisky should not start on Saturday against NC A&T. No, Fedora doesn’t need to be fired or anything like that. Both he and Seth Littrell still know what they are doing; those two coaches know more about football, especially offensive football, than you and I ever will.

So the question is, what now? I think there are a lot of positives from the game that Carolina can take and run with. The idea would be to look at the positives and the schedule and move forward from there. Let’s take a look at a few of the positives from Thursday night’s loss, starting with UNC’s biggest problem last season…

The Defense Was Much Better

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina’s defense played pretty well against the Gamecocks’ offense Thursday night. My initial take during the game was that having four true down lineman greatly helped the defense in the run game. SC still rushed for 254 yards, including one long touchdown run. However, this defense just played better.

Carolina still struggled to generate a pass rush. Carolina did not get much pressure at all on Connor Mitch, and the secondary had to do some extra work to make up for the lack of rush. But SC has an above average offensive line, and while Carolina is playing easier teams the next three weekends, I think the pass rush will improve a lot and help the secondary out.

There will still missed tackles by familiar culprits, a friendly reminder that this is still mostly the same roster from last season. But there will no huge breakdowns in communication, a thorny problem during the Koenning era. UNC’s defense even came up with a big stop when they needed it in the fourth quarter on 4th and 1. I don’t think that happens last year.

Overall, the defense did a good job against South Carolina.

The Kicking Game Was Good

This one is pretty simple. Last year, Carolina could not make field goals. Against South Carolina, UNC made two, including a pretty long one from 47 yards out. It looks like the field goal kicking unit will not be a problem for Coach Fedora in 2015. Considering how things went last year, this is a great development.

Bug Howard Looks Like Eric Ebron Lite

Bug Howard played great against South Carolina, catching six passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. Howard reminds me a bit of Eric Ebron. He is fast, long, and able to beat linebackers in space. He doesn’t have the hands or the strength that Ebron did yet, but he will continue to work on both those as the season goes along.

UNC needed a tight end to step up after the graduations of Ebron and Jack Tabb, and it looks like Bug Howard will be the guy there.

Elijah Hood Ran Well 

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I won’t open the can of worms that is overanalyzing Fedora’s play calls late in the red zone. However, I will say that Elijah Hood ran the ball very well on Thursday night. He is powerful enough to break arm tackles and quick enough to hit holes and gain chunks of yardage. I don’t want to put too much stock in one good performance, and a lot of this depends on how the carries are split up and injury health etc., but Hood looked like a running back who could run for 1,000 yards against SC.

Lots of Youngsters Played Well, Especially on D

Sophomore left tackle Bentley Spain was very solid in his first game as starter.

Freshman RB Tyson Williams saw the field and carried the ball once for four yards.

Sophomore corner M.J. Stewart make a great play on the ball at corner and looked very solid.

Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Clarke looked good at DT.

Naz Jones, a sophomore, was Carolina’s best lineman and had six tackles on the night.

That’s just a few of the youngsters that played and played well against South Carolina. People forget that Carolina is still a young football team, and there will be growing pains. It was good to see a lot of freshman and sophomores playing well against very good competition.


UNC plays NC A&T, Illinois and Delaware, all at home, in the next three weekends. Carolina should be able to be 3-1 heading into a big week five matchup against Georgia Tech. These next three games are key because not only will they (hopefully) be easy wins, but they will also give the coaching staff to work out some of the kinks on offense and defense that they saw playing against the Gamecocks.

So what now? Pick up the pieces, look at the positives and look ahead to next week. It is a long season. One bad game doesn’t define a quarterback or a team. UNC still has a lot of talent and the opportunity to make some noise in league play.