UNC football sets offensive pace in opener

Tar Heels' scheme fatigued South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

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South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney goes after UNC quarterback Bryn Renner.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney usually gets attention for his hits — not being the recipient of one.

But midway through the second half of North Carolina’s 27-10 loss to the Gamecocks Thursday, offensive tackle Kiaro Holts delivered a hit to Clowney’s legs after the ball was thrown, earning a personal foul and the ire of pundits nationwide for seemingly targeting Clowney.

Coach Larry Fedora said in his weekly press conference Monday that Holts was punished like any UNC player who receives a personal foul during a game, but there was no malicious intent fueling the play.

“All of the conspiracy theories that are out there, there was no truth to any of that,” Fedora said. “The kid was just trying to make a play and he made a poor choice.”

Other than the play in the second half, Clowney’s name was rarely called, but that doesn’t mean that he was ineffective, Fedora said.

“I’m not gonna sit there and tell you that we stopped Clowney, because when you really look at the film, the guy still pressured us,” Fedora said. “He still made us throw the ball before we wanted to throw it. He still did some things.”

His lack of playmaking attracted negative attention, something that Fedora said was a result of lofty expectations placed on the junior.

“I know everybody on that national level and all the talking heads, they go: ‘He didn’t do this, he didn’t do that, he didn’t do this,’” Fedora said. “That’s because everybody built him up to be Superman and he was supposed to jump over every blocker — no matter how many you put on him— and jump on top of the quarterback and beat his head in the ground.”

UNC’s young offensive line showed maturity beyond its years and did its part to humanize a player that was blown up to mythical proportions before the season opener.

“Both Jon (Heck) and Caleb (Peterson) have done a great job in camp and not letting the pressure affect them,” quarterback Bryn Renner said. “I think they did a great job in a tough environment. I don’t think I would have reacted as well as they did on the sideline just communication as far as where everyone was lined up. And they did a great job for their first game.”

Though the offense struggled to put points on the board, it did its part in running Fedora’s rapid scheme — something that will help the Tar Heels throughout the season.

“We accomplished what we wanted,” Renner said. “I think we ran 86 to 89 plays … And they were gassed. That definitely can carry us on through the season — that we can run this tempo and it can affect a lot of teams.”

Clowney was just the first of what the Tar Heels hope is many opposing defensive players to be slowed by UNC’s offense.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Superman, you still get tired,” Fedora said. “Fatigue makes it tough on anybody. I still think the guy’s a great player and he’s gonna do some great things this year. I think everybody was a little bit too hard on him in this first game.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

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