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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football looks to reignite offense after Georgia loss

That’s been the message all week during tough practices following the Tar Heels’ 33-24 loss to Georgia on Saturday.

UNC didn’t perform poorly against the Bulldogs, per se. North Carolina had 315 yards of total offense, including 159 yards of rushing. But there were a lot of chances when the team had opportunities to make big plays but the passes just weren’t completed.

Coach Larry Fedora attributed some of the misses on longer throws to quarterback Mitch Trubisky being too worried about taking care of the ball. Trubisky didn’t throw any interceptions against Georgia — but he didn’t throw any touchdowns, either.

“I think he was really, really concerned with taking care of the football,” Fedora said. “That was probably the first thing through his mind, and it ought to be, but you’ve still got to play. You can’t be afraid to play.”

One thing Trubisky did do well in his first start was making all the right reads in the Tar Heels’ run-pass option plays, or RPOs, which factor heavily into UNC’s offense.

Quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf describes RPOs as two-for-one, or combination, plays. They’re running plays by design, but if the defense brings an extra linebacker or defensive back closer to stop the run, North Carolina has passing options tied in to exploit what the defense tries to do.

“Based on what the defense gives us, how they react, is going to dictate whether it’s a run or pass ...,” Heckendorf said. “Sometimes they are going to be more throws, sometimes they are going to be more runs. And that’s kind of the nature of the beast with those types of plays.”

It’s not a new concept within North Carolina’s offense. The Marquise Williams versions of the Tar Heel offense featured a variety of RPOs with screen passes optioned onto inside runs. But UNC has evolved to add more downfield passing options into the RPOs, opening up opportunities for big plays through the air.

The chances were there against Georgia, but North Carolina didn’t quite connect like it did so many times last season.

“We didn’t execute when we had the opportunities for those big plays,” said offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic. “And that’s what we have to make happen. That’s the way this offense is built when they give you a play — you’ve got to take it, and that’s the thing we’ve really got to work on.”

The Tar Heels were so explosive last season, it seemed like they could score on any play from anywhere on the field. That spark was missing Saturday.

But if UNC fixes a few of the little things and capitalizes downfield, the offensive fireworks fans saw last season will be as explosive as ever.

“We’re going to continue to build our confidence level,” Heckendorf said. “And go into this next game ready to roll.”

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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