North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora, who is in his first season with the Tar Heels (1-0) after spending the last four years at Southern Miss, leads his team into Winston-Salem Saturday to face Wake Forest (1-0) in an ACC opener for the rival programs.
Fedora spoke with members of the media Tuesday about UNC's 62-0 against Elon to kick off the season and Saturday's trip to Wake.
Opening statement: "For our first game I was pleased with the overall effort of the football team throughout the game, and especially our focus throughout the game, especially as the game got a little bit out of hand there in the second half. I was pleased with the way the guys went back out. They weren't sloppy. They went out and executed as we had asked them to."
Your first Big Four game of your coaching career, the rivalry, do you approach these games any differently or any extra focus, because it's an old rival? "The way I've always looked at it is it's the next game on the schedule, and if you say we're going to give this game more focus then what does that mean for the other games? You don't focus?" "So no, I think that we treat each and every game the same. That's the way prepare through the week as we game-plan and the way we practice. We expect to practice a certain way each and every week. It doesn't matter who we play or where we play or what time we play or what the conditions are."
"We try to get our guys to play one way all the time, and that the new Carolina Way."
Obviously a lot of things went well last week. Was there anything you look at and say we've got to correct this? "Oh there's no doubt about it. There's so many different places in the game we got to get better. We've got to get better with our tempo on offense. We still turned the ball over twice. We had three penalties as a team. Defensively we still gave up a few third and longs that we would have not liked to have given up. We had a penalty on special teams. Our kickoff return team was not very good at all. Our coverage team was not very good on our kickoff coverage, so we got a lot to work on."
This week both you and your players have specifically mentioned winning state championships. How important is it with this particular team to have goals like that to keep them focused on what they can accomplish as opposed to because of circumstances cannot accomplish? "Yeah, I think it's extremely important. The first step in the route to success is setting a goal, and I think that's the first thing you've got to do is set a goal and so we have done that, set a couple of goals we feel like we can accomplish this year. One of those is to be state champs, and so this is a part of that goal, so it's very important to our team."
Larry, because you opened with an FCS team how much of a good gauge or was that not for that first week? "I guess that's still to be seen whether it's a good gauge or not. I'm just happy that we got to play another team. It didn't really matter to me who we played or all those things. It was about us. It was about how were we going to go out and execute, how were we going to handle any adversity that happened in the game. Were we going to have multiple penalties? Were we going to turn the football over? Were we going to make mistakes that are uncharacteristic? And you know what we didn't in most of those situations, so I was pleased with our guys' focus."
Coach, Wake's offensive line they're really young, kind of struggling with some injuries up front in there too. With your success Saturday, especially with guys like Sylvester Williams and Kareem Martin and others do you feel like that's an area that you guys could really take advantage of and be successful? If so why? "I haven't looked at that and said their offensive line is a weakness. I haven't done that by any means. They may be younger than some of the other guys on the team, but you've got [Devin] Bolling who's in his fourth year, you've got [Antonio] Ford that's in his third year, you got [Garrick] Williams who's in his fifth year, you got [Frank] Souza who's in his fourth year, you got [Colin] Summers who's in his third year, so I don't really consider that young."
"It may be [young] on Jim's [Grobe] team, because everybody's been redshirted. Now, they may not have had a lot of experience, but they've been developed in his program, so I really don't look at that as a weakness."
You mentioned the tempo of the offense, wanting to get that a little bit better this week. Is there any specific thing that you can kind of pinpoint that will help you guys go faster? "Sure, our quarterback [Bryn Renner] needs to be more conscious of where he is on the field and what's going on, so that he can manage that better. And our offensive linemen need to do a better job of communicating quicker, and our receivers need to get lined up faster. We get those things done we can move a little bit quicker."