CHARLOTTE, N.C. – With four minutes to play and North Carolina trailing by four points, assistant head coach for offense Seth Littrell elected against utilizing leading rusher Elijah Hood in his final scoring opportunity.
Hood rushed for a career-high 138 yards on 12 carries in Thursday’s loss, yet didn’t see the field when UNC crossed South Carolina’s 10-yard-line to set up a 1st-and-goal at the 9. He wasn’t on the field for 2nd-and-goal at the 9, nor was he inserted on 3rd-and-goal at the 3.
Hood finally reappeared on 4th-and-goal from the 8 to serve as a blocker. Quarterback Marquise Williams threw an interception on that play to end UNC's chances at a season-opening win.
“He ran hard – most of it was after contact, breaking tackles,” Fedora said. “I think Elijah has proven to us he’s our starter. He’s a guy that showed that all camp. He’s healthy and he feels good… Tonight he played pretty well.”
Fedora was asked about going away from Hood in the red zone on UNC’s last drive, and he offered an odd explanation of his offense getting behind the chains. When pressed if that meant he preferred Hood as a short-yardage back at the goal line, Fedora replied: “Not at all.”
“With the way he ran the ball tonight, I’d like to see him get more carries totally, wherever they are,” the fourth-year UNC head coach said. “If we felt like tonight we could have just stuck it in his hand and let him go and he would have scored, then I’m sure that’s what they would have called.”
Hood’s previous career high was 62 yards against Rutgers in the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl. He also had a career-long 44-yard run against the Gamecocks in the third quarter.
Fedora Postgame Quotes
“We missed an opportunity tonight to win a football game. First you’ve got to give South Carolina credit for doing what they did, they forced four turnovers on the offense, all in the red zone, I believe. I thought defensively we did some good things, I wouldn’t say we’ve arrived, but we did enough things to win a football game tonight. On special teams, we didn’t really create any kind of game-changing plays, we were just solid. So, it wasn’t enough to win a football game tonight, and we’ve got to get much better.”
On what went wrong with Marquise:
“He threw it to the guys in the red and not the blue. I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t have an answer for you. If I would have had an answer I would have gotten it changed. I kept thinking he was going to get it going and early on we did some good things, it just wasn’t consistent enough.”
On playing nickel defense:
“Defensively, they created some problems with so many people at quarterback. I think the defensive staff did a very good job of handling that, because you never know what you’re going to get with a new quarterback. I don’t know how many quarterbacks they played tonight. With (Pharoh Cooper) and (David Williams) a few times and (Perry Orth) and (Connor Mitch), so there were four or five guys out there. They did a good job and found ways to run the football.
On preparation for multiple quarterbacks:
“They prepared for the wildcat with (Pharoh Cooper), they prepared for Connor (Mitch), they didn’t know if the other guys - was it Orth? - that he played also. And when they put the running backs in at quarterback, I don’t know if we prepared for that. Adjustments had to be made on the fly, and I thought they did a pretty good job of adjusting.”
On what win would have done big-picture wise for program:
“I went into the game saying this game wouldn’t define who we were anyway, it’s just going to tell us where we’re at with this team, this 2015 team. So we know where we’ve got to work on now, where we’ve got to get better. It is very disappointing. It’s disappointing because we had opportunities to win this football game. It’d be different if we walked in here and we just got our butt beat and we didn’t have a chance to win. I don’t know, maybe it’s more disappointing that you had opportunities to win and you didn’t get it done, at least for me. But we wanted to win the football game, no doubt about it, we needed to win the football game to get where we wanted to be, and we didn’t get it done.”
On takeaways from defensive side of the ball:
“We’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run, and I think some of that was missed tackles, because it looked like we had guys in position most of the time. I think there were only a couple of runs where I felt like we might have been out of position. We played the pass pretty dang good, we gave up a couple of things there, one time down in the red zone we had a bust, and they scored there, but I thought there was a lot to build on defensively, really a lot. And I don’t think our kids, I’m not going to say they walked out there feeling good about themselves, because we didn’t win the football game, because wanted to win a football game. Their job was to hold them to 12, and they didn’t get that done. Offensively, our job was to score 18, and they didn’t get that done. I think there’s a lot of good things to take from it.
On Nick Weiler’s two field goals:
“He had that entire camp like that. He hit them, whether it was 2-minute or at the end of practice, and we’d have to drive down and kick a field goal, he kicked a 54-yarder one day in that scenario to win the game, there were a lot of scenarios we put him into, and I think he felt really confident going into the game. So I think that was a good sign.”
On if he had spoken to Marquise Williams after the game:
“No, not yet, I haven’t yet, and I won’t until I really break down the film. I’ll talk to him on the bus, and those kind of things, but I’ve got a lot of people to talk to, actually.”
On what he could say to Marquise Williams:
“Well, we’ve got to look and see what caused it. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you what the problem was. We had some miscommunication between him and the center, part of the six illegal procedures we had, or we had a tackle lined up in the backfield on a big third down play, or he lined up and he wasn’t on the line of scrimmage, so those were miscommunications between the quarterback and our O-line when we were doing some of our tempo stuff, and that can’t happen, not with a veteran group.”
On whether it was North Carolina’s offense or South Carolina’s defense responsible for the discrepancy between yards and points:
“You’ve got to give them credit, they’re the ones who made the stops in the red zone. And on the other side, I’m going to say we didn’t execute, and we did a poor job executing, especially in the red zone.”
On Marquise Williams saying he was trying to be the hero:
“That’s something that we have to address all of the time. As a quarterback, your job is to take care of the football, that’s the number one thing. That’s the most important thing you do. After that, it’s just distribute the ball where it’s supposed to go according to what the defense gives you. And if you do that, we’re going to move the chains and we’re going to be successful. If you don’t, then we’re not going to be. Tonight, we didn’t take care of the ball, and so the rest of it didn’t matter.”