Current Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2014 10:12:40 -0400
Prior to Georgia Tech’s 18-point trouncing of North Carolina, the Tar Heels had two weeks to practice.
This time they’ll only have four days to prepare for a Thursday night trip to Charlottesville, Va.
But the short week might play to the Tar Heels’ advantage.
“I think the best thing about it is, it’s coming quick,” coach Larry Fedora said. “There’s only one way to get that taste out of your mouth and that’s to get back on the field.”
The Tar Heels will have to quickly shift gears away from focusing all their attention on the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense to learning to defend a surging Virginia team.
“It’s just like you start over,” Fedora said. “You just stop what you were doing and you start over and do something totally new.”
The short week of practice will be devoted to defending a team that put up 74 points in its last two games.
After starting its season with two wins, the Cavaliers lost six straight games.
But after the bye week, the Cavaliers bounced back to handily defeat N.C. State and rallied to beat Miami.
Virginia will not only have the momentum going into the game, but it will also have the added bonus of hosting the nationally televised game.
The Tar Heels have historically struggled in Charlottesville, only winning once in the last 31 years.
But that lone win came in UNC’s last trip to Charlottesville in 2010.
Wide receiver Dwight Jones scored on North Carolina’s first play of the game en route to a 44-10 win.
If UNC hopes to duplicate that success, it will have to execute a similar game plan to take away Virginia’s momentum as early as possible.
“One thing about college football is that it is all about momentum,” quarterback Bryn Renner said. “And I think if we control that early and make some big plays, big stops on defense and good plays on special teams, then we’ll be okay the rest of the game.”
Renner has a special connection with the 2010 win as he completed the first pass of his career in Charlottesville — a 14 yard completion to Ed Barham.
Though his action was limited, Renner remembers the win well.
“That was a big step for us as a program. I remember that game pretty well,” Renner said. “Dwight scored on the first play of the game, and it was good to get off to a good start.”
That season, the Tar Heels went on to the Music City Bowl and defeated Tennessee in a double overtime thriller.
This season, however, North Carolina doesn’t have the option of playing in a bowl game after the NCAA-imposed bowl ban.
But while the team isn’t playing for a postseason spot, it can focus its energy on preventing other teams, like Virginia, from becoming bowl-eligible — a task that tailback Giovani Bernard says the team savors.
“We’re all about spoiling other people’s stuff, I guess,” Bernard said. “We don’t have a Christmas present, we want to try to take away other people’s Christmas presents.”
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