Man on Fire

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning was brutally honest Wednesday in dissecting his unit's lack of leadership as well as its poor effort against East Carolina.

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Jabari Price said earlier in the week that he didn't think certain players took East Carolina as seriously as they should have. Did you see that? And if so, what are your thoughts?
"I'd say that and a lot more. All of the credit needs to go to (ECU). They looked like the Green Bay Packers and we made that running back look like Walter Payton. For whatever reason, there's probably a lot of reasons, but reasons are excuses. We played worse than average. We played extremely poor. And that we couldn't flip any kind of switch is a great example of not being able to turn it on when you get to the game. But they kicked our butt at every level. The quarterback was on fire; looked like Brett Favre. We couldn't get to him in time to affect his throws and their receivers were way better than our DB's.

"When the tempo took effect with our guys up front, they cashed it in. They just ran the ball at will. As you saw, it was an ugly, embarrassing performance and one that… I'm responsible for it, but it isn't one that I'll forget as far as that. I wish there were things that I could have done better. The only thing I know I could have done better is just stayed in their grill the whole time last week. I thought we had overcome that after playing hard at least against Georgia Tech. I thought we had learned how to do that, but I guess we didn't."

Have you seen the response this week that you wanted to see?
"I'm fighting them so hard every play to focus and do things right that I haven't been able to step back and see probably the big picture. I try to see that on film, but sometimes you can't. Every play in practice, I'm fighting somebody to get to the ball harder or to focus more. It is like I'm in a fist fight with whoever the heavyweight champion is every day just trying to get these guys to do the right things and do it as fast and hard as they can."

A defensive player said after the game that ECU was scheming away from Norkeithus Otis and Darius Lipford –
"Nah, I don't think so, because we move them around enough. I think they didn't care. They threw it and ran it whichever direction they pretty much wanted to. What the sad part about it is that we had guys at the point of attack. They threw hitch screens into coverages that nobody has ever been able to throw hitch screens into and they blocked us and we didn't tackle them.

"It's hard to explain some of it, but we had guys in position. I've talked to two or three other people that watched the film – either scouts or other coaches – and they said, ‘Heck, you had guys there.' Well, that doesn't help. We've got to continue to try to get better. We're practicing tackling more than I've ever practiced it at any time in my career and more physically during the season. We have been doing that for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, even back into camp.

"So all I know to do is just to keep working hard. I don't know what else you can do besides just keep your nose down and go. The other alternative is not one that anybody wants to talk about."

Is it unusual 16 games into installing your scheme at UNC for there to be this much knocking heads with players?
"Yes it is, to answer your question. Maybe it's because we're playing so many young guys. I think it's a combination of a lot of things. I think it's guys – it's the maturity level or the youth. And there's not very much leadership right now. We're missing [Kevin] Reddick and Sly [Williams] and those guys badly. And so there's nobody from within pulling up. It's like when you try to move a couch. You can get on one end and push and the front legs stick. You get the other end and pull and the back legs stick. You've got to have someone pushing and someone pulling. That's really where it is.

"Those guys in that locker room, if they don't do it eventually, I can't… I can push all I want, but it is what it is with that. We were as simple as we've ever been, and because of the tempo, you have to be, and yet we didn't do things… The guys started getting frustrated doing their own things, so again, it's my responsibility and we've got to find a way to fix it."

Is there anyone in particular that you would like to see step up and fill that leadership void?
"There's 29 guys in that room. That's what you heard me hollering over here [pointing to the practice field]. We messed up in a coverage right here in the two-minute drill and we had a new guy at a new position, but nobody else said anything. And they all knew it. It was the most basic call that we've got in that situation and we've run all year. There were three or four other guys back there in the secondary that should have been trying to help him and nobody said anything. So that type of stuff is what I'm talking about. It's why you heard me say, ‘Nobody cares, blah, blah, blah.' Somebody's got to step it up and be a leader and take it upon themselves to help."

Is something like this frustrating or disappointing?
"Yes ma'am. I went 180 degrees. I went from being very encouraged – not encouraged in a loss to Georgia Tech, but encouraged that we finally played hard. And we played with reckless abandon. And we showed something that we really haven't shown much of. Then all of a sudden, seven days later, it was like the whole other side of it.

"So I'm just going to keep trying as hard as I can and try to find ways. I'm sure Coach Fedora is beyond frustrated. I'm sure the fans are. There's no one more upset or embarrassed about it, I promise you, than us. I wish there was something I could undo or redo or make do, but that's the way it is."

What happened on the play where you only had nine players on the field?
"Our money guy ran off the field for who knows whatever reason. Whether [or not] he thought we were going back to base, but we had said for several days and in the locker room and multiple times that we weren't going to have time to do that unless there was some type of incomplete pass or something like that to stop. And then Norkeithus got hurt and instead of laying down like you see every other team do, whether it's founded or unfounded, he hobbles off the field and his backup didn't go out there. So we've tried to correct Norkeithus and the other guy isn't going to be put in that situation anymore because he's going to be standing on the sidelines."

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