Tar Heels to play season home opener

UNC football team will play Middle Tennessee State at home Saturday

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The USC Gamecocks led the UNC Tar Heels by a score of 17-7 at halftime.

It was 1999 and a 36-year-old Larry Fedora had just embarked on his first season as an offensive coordinator.

A former assistant coach at Air Force, Fedora was headed to Murfreesboro, Tenn., — the home of Middle Tennessee State, and North Carolina football’s home opening opponent Saturday.

It’s a place he remembers fondly — the site that laid the foundation for what was to come.

“It’s where the velocity and where the basis of this offense evolved from,” he said.

“That’s where it started.”

Fast forward 14 years .

That fiery 36-year-old is now four days shy of his 51st birthday , and will put that familiar offense to the test yet again Saturday.

With a team anchored by senior quarterback Bryn Renner, Fedora is optimistic despite UNC’s 27-10 season-opening loss to South Carolina last week.

“If we would’ve played a really good football game and walked out of there with the same score, I would’ve been wondering myself,” he said.

“But I’m not wondering now, because you can see it on film, and it’s all correctable.”

Renner had similar feelings of confidence, and added that he’s ready for the hype from the South Carolina game to settle down.

“We have all of our goals in front of us. I think we’re making that game more than it should be,” he said.

“It was the first game — it was a big game — and we wanted to win obviously, but I think we’re going to take all the positives from that and move forward.”

The Blue Raiders come to Kenan Stadium with a 1-0 record after taking their season opener 45-24 against Western Carolina.

Senior defensive end Kareem Martin said preparing for an offense so similar to his own team’s has required focus, but bodes well for his squad.

“We’ve been going against a spread zone read since spring ball through training camp and a lot of our guys are familiar with the block schemes and pass concepts,” he said.

“I think that’s definitely going to help us.”

Fedora urged his team not to take the Blue Raiders — who defeated Georgia Tech last season — lightly.

“First of all, you need to understand this team that’s coming in here — they’ve beaten ACC teams,” he said.

“They did it last year and they’ve done it before.”

But after a week of studying film and making adjustments, he hopes they won’t do it again.

“I wouldn’t think we have anything to be flat about. We have another opponent coming up,” he said.

“We have an opportunity to get a bad taste out of our mouth and that knot out of our stomach. And we’re playing in the Tar Pit — that’s really all it should take.”

sports@dailytarheel.com

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