Tar Heels halfway home

The football team has reached the midpoint of the season

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Sean Tapley scored twice against Virginia Tech Saturday and was named ACC Specialist of the Week.

The North Carolina football team’s slate of 12 games is now halfway complete.

The Tar Heels (4-2, 1-1 ACC) have handled their lesser opponents, namely Elon and Idaho, with considerable ease and put up strong showings in their two conference tilts.

Coach Larry Fedora’s initial assessment reflected just that.

“The good thing is we’ve won four games. The bad — we’ve lost two,” he said jokingly in his weekly press conference Monday at the Kenan Football Center.

“We’re playing as a team with a much better energy level as we did at the beginning of the season. I think our guys are a little bit more comfortable in all three phases with what we’re doing, so they’re able to play a little bit faster.”

That speed has allowed the Tar Heels to be multi-dimensional and they have attacked teams on the ground and through the air by utilizing different weapons in the open field.

This week, both running back Giovani Bernard and wide receiver Sean Tapley earned honors from the ACC as offensive back and specialist of the week, respectively.

“I told (Tapley) he played his butt off,” junior cornerback Jabari Price said. “I haven’t seen that from him since we were freshmen, and I think he’s back.

“You actually see (confidence) in his game. You see it in his everyday life. He’s getting better with every day. He’s building his confidence like no one can stop him. That’s what we need if we want to be successful.”

But speed is just one element of Fedora’s basic and belabored game plan — smart, fast and physical.

And so far this season, the Tar Heels haven’t played as smart as Fedora would like.

In its six games, UNC has committed 46 penalties for more than 400 yards. That’s an average of nearly 70 penalty yards per game.

Many of those penalties have come in the form of false starts, which might be a result of the speed at which the Tar Heels play, but Fedora said the Tar Heels still need to play smarter.

“When you’re handling the cadence the way we’re handling it, sometimes you’re going to have some issue like that,” Fedora said. “We’ve got to do a better job there.

“We’ve got to do a better job with our hands — we’ve had too many holding calls and so our guys have got to play smarter that’s all there is to it.”

Fedora did concede his team is executing well with the parts of his playbook he has unveiled to them so far this year, which is something he noted as important.

The trip to Miami on Saturday will challenge the Tar Heels in ways they haven’t been challenged before as the Hurricanes, who play their own fast brand of football, sit atop the Coastal Division standings with a record of 4-2 and 3-0 in the conference.

But with the schedule now half accomplished, the Tar Heels are both pleased with what they have achieved so far and are looking to continue their growth.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good situation so far and we really want to build on that,” quarterback Bryn Renner said. “The best thing about football is that you get to line up and play another week and get better.”

“After watching the film, we know we can do special things with this team, and I’m looking forward to the (Miami) game.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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