Football defense rounds out

Scoring a school-record 66 points against Idaho, the North Carolina offense stole the show on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium.

But in his weekly press conference Monday, coach Larry Fedora wanted to make sure his defensive unit, which posted its second shutout of the season against the Vandals, didn’t go unnoticed.

In close losses against Wake Forest and Louisville, UNC (3-2, 0-1 ACC) chalked its defensive mistakes up to missed assignments. But this time around, Fedora saw very few of those errors.

“We played very well in a lot of places,” Fedora said. “We had minimal mistakes, minimal missed assignments, minimal missed tackles. We did what we should have done, and I’m proud of them for doing that.”

The Tar Heels, who are 16th in the nation in total defense, allow an average of 296 yards per game. Coupled with its 62-0 season-opening victory against Elon on Sept. 1, UNC has posted two shutouts in a single season for the first time since 1996.

And when the Tar Heels aren’t keeping their opponents off the scoreboard completely, they’re at least keeping them out of the end zone.

UNC hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters, the last one scored Sept. 15 by Louisville in the second quarter. Even more impressive, the Tar Heels haven’t allowed a single touchdown in Kenan Stadium this season, holding East Carolina to just a pair of field goals.

Having done it during preseason scrimmages, quarterback Bryn Renner knows firsthand what it’s like to face UNC’s defensive unit. That’s precisely why he’s glad they’re the ones backing him up.

“We have a good feel of how good they can be,” Renner said. “It’s a relief that they’re helping us out. We haven’t been scoring like we should’ve … If we do have to punt or we turn it over, they’re going to stop them and pick us up.”

The Tar Heel defense was dominant on all fronts, intercepting four passes and blocking two punts.

“Their man stepped up, and right then I knew they blew something,” said Pete Mangum, who had UNC’s first blocked punt. “Once I saw that, I took off and got lucky and got to the ball.”

The Tar Heels will try to continue their defensive streak Saturday against Virginia Tech, as they look for their first victory against the Coastal Division opponent at Kenan Stadium since 1938. But as far as Fedora is concerned, his defenders need to do more than just keep the Hokies from scoring.

They are also charged with protecting their hallowed turf.

“We’ve got to defend this place,” Fedora said. “We’re trying to build something about playing at home and what it means. We want to continue with what we’ve done, and that’s very important to us as we build this program to where we want it to be.”

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