Tar Heels try to clean up mistakes from loss to Gamecocks
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina coach Larry Fedora walked into his weekly news conference Monday knowing the questions wouldn't center on this week's game against North Carolina A&T.
''I'm sure most of you guys' questions are going to be from the game the other night,'' he said, ''so let's go ahead and get those addressed.''
Four days had passed since the Tar Heels' mistake-filled performance turned a winnable game into a frustrating loss against South Carolina. Yet Fedora was still trying to answer for what happened, from the three critical interceptions thrown by a fifth-year quarterback to play-calling that anchored the Tar Heels' best weapon to the sideline in key moments.
''If I could do it over, I'd do a lot of things differently,'' he said. ''But I don't get the option to do that.''
The Tar Heels (0-1) should have had plenty of things to feel good about in the 17-13 loss to the Gamecocks. They rolled to 440 yards, while the defense that gave up the most points and yards in school history played capably in their first season under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
But there were several penalties by a veteran offensive line. Quarterback Marquise Williams threw a pair of interceptions in the end zone - including to end UNC's final late drive - and another on a drive that had pushed to the edge of the red zone.
Then there was the matter of tailback Elijah Hood's workload, or more accurately his lack of it.
The 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore ran for a 138 yards - including a 29-yard run in which he bounced and spun off would-be tacklers on UNC's final drive - but got just 12 carries in a game that left Fedora saying his team needed to do a better job of getting Hood the ball.
Hood also didn't get a carry inside the red zone despite averaging 11.5 yards every time he touched the ball.
''I usually just go in when they call me and come out when they tell me to come out,'' Hood said. ''I just figure I'm a football player. I'm going to trust what the coaches do.''
Regardless, that proved critical on UNC's last possession, when the Tar Heels had a third-and-goal from the 3 with about 4 1/2 minutes left.
Hood stood on the edge of the field with running backs coach Larry Porter holding onto the back of Hood's jersey, looking as though they were waiting for the OK for Hood to re-enter the game. Instead, Hood eventually ended up walking back to rejoin the line of blue jerseys on the sideline.
Williams took a sack, then threw the final interception in the end zone on fourth down to kill UNC's chance for the lead.
Fedora said the team couldn't substitute because they were in hurry-up mode to explain why Hood didn't go back in. But that conflicts with what happened on that series: receiver Ryan Switzer subbed out for tailback Romar Morris after the first-and-goal play, then subbed back in for Morris after the second down.
''Slow it down, you could stop it, you could do a lot of things,'' Fedora said. ''But that's not what we did. We went into a hurry mode and we don't substitute in that situation. If it would've been successful, we wouldn't be talking about these things.''
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