Tar Heels hope kickers regroup for bowl push
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) If North Carolina wants to make a late bowl push, the Tar Heels need their kicking game to improve.
They've used senior Thomas Moore and sophomore Nick Weiler to kick field goals this season, though neither has provided reliable production. That's made the kicking job an open competition for much of the past two weeks, heading into Saturday's home game with Pittsburgh.
''That position, you've got to have some confidence,'' coach Larry Fedora said. ''That's all there is to it.''
The Tar Heels (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have made just 5 of 10 field goals this season. That's the lowest total of made kicks and the worst conversion percentage (50 percent) in the league.
Weiler, who joined the team as a walk-on in 2012, spent last year as the kickoff specialist. This year, he's made 5 of 8 kicks - though none longer than 23 yards. Moore has missed both of his attempts.
''You just have to have a short memory whether you make or miss the kick, you can't sit back and think back about anything in the past,'' Weiler said. ''You're only as good as your next kick really.''
Moore has made 22 field goals in his career, including 14 of 19 last year (74 percent). His longest kick was 46 yards as a freshman.
''I think you've got to go back to the success you've had in the past,'' Moore said. ''Just know you've been there and done it before so it's not that big of a deal. Just take all the practice and the reps, the cumulative effect of it all and put it together into one kick.''
North Carolina needs one kicker to step up in hopes of winning two of the final three games to become bowl eligible. The Tar Heels haven't made a field goal in three games, missing kicks of 39 and 43 yards in a 28-27 win at Virginia on Oct. 25.
Fedora increased the pressure on both kickers in practice during the bye week, having them go kick-for-kick while the team watched, made noise and even heckled them. He said that competition would run through at least Thursday's practice.
Receiver Mack Hollins said the competition was no different than any other position challenge.
''If you're not going to step up, you're going to get replaced,'' Hollins said. ''They know that, we all know that, we don't have to tell them that. They know that somebody has to step up because the job's obviously on the table and neither one of them has been kicking as well as I know they can.
''I've seen them both kick 40- or 50-yard field goals, so I know they're capable of doing it.''
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