GREENVILLE, N.C. — You might remember the last time these two teams met, but Larry Fedora prefers to forget.
The outcome, a 70-41 demolition led by the East Carolina offense, has been ingrained in the minds of North Carolina football fans since that day in 2014. But the head coach stated publicly that he does not remember the contest, although he noted on Wednesday after practice that it was due to his “selective memory.”
Judging by the game played Saturday, a 41-19 ECU victory, Fedora might want to forget this one, too.
“Every loss is discouraging,” Fedora said. “Every loss hurts. You don’t work any less when you don’t have success, I can assure you.”
Fedora will want to forget discouraging moments such as Antonio Williams knocking an opposing player out of the game with a helmet-to-helmet hit with 5:02 remaining in the second quarter and his team down just 14-13.
He will want to forget the targeting ejection of the junior running back, who had already racked up 96 yards on six carries, and who the Pirates had no answer to defensively.
He will want to forget the seven first-half penalties UNC committed, headlined by a late hit on third down by redshirt senior Tyler Powell on the ECU quarterback that gifted the Pirates a first down in the Tar Heel redzone. And that hit on Reid Herring in the second quarter led to the Pirates’ second touchdown of the game.
Or the pass interference call on cornerback Corey Bell Jr. that gave the Pirates a first down late in the second quarter. Or the following play, a 22-yard touchdown pass that put the Pirates in front 21-16.
He will want to forget the 510 total yards his defense gave up, just a week after the unit held California to 279 yards in a 24-17 loss.
“Didn’t execute what we needed to execute, it’s plain and simple,” senior linebacker Cole Holcomb said. “They played their butts off and they played hard, and we thought we were just going to roll it off there and play a football game, and we didn’t execute what we needed to execute.”
Fedora will also want to forget the play calling in the second half. He showed a reluctance to run the ball with junior Jordon Brown against a defense that had given up 147 yards on the ground in the first half.
“I guess I was more surprised that we weren’t able to have the success that we wanted to, because how well we were doing in the first half,” Brown said.
Fedora will want to forget that instead of running the ball after the half against a porous run defense (245.5 yards allowed per game in 2017), he opted to let quarterback Nathan Elliott continue to throw the ball, a decision that resulted in just 78 second half yards and led to the insertion of true first-year quarterback Cade Fortin.
He will want to forget the 48-yard rushing touchdown by Pirate running back Darius Pinnix, and the quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 that turned into a 21-yard touchdown as the Tar Heel defense parted like the Red Sea.
He will want to forget his team’s own inability to convert on fourth down after twice getting stopped on fourth-and-1 on its own 34-yard line in a span of just over two minutes in the fourth quarter.
Or his team’s inability to stop the opposition on third down conversions, as he watched the Pirates repeatedly slice his defense to shreds by executing 11-of-19 third down plays.
He will also want to forget that his team did not score once in the second half, only picking up four first downs after the intermission.
He will want to forget the somber mood after the game, the buzz of negativity from the media and the hopelessness that seemed to envelope the entire football program as he and his players answered questions in a muggy, dark hallway of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
He will want to forget this whole day, one that could have righted the ship of the 2018 season, but instead leaves the head coach and his players staring at a reflection of the 2017 campaign.
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