CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Per usual, North Carolina made its corrections in the days following its season-opening loss and put that game to bed, as head coach Larry Fedora is fond of saying. This week, however, the Tar Heels spoke of a lingering foul taste in their mouths that could not be scrubbed clean on the practice field or in the film room.
A proper cleansing needed to occur when their actions actually mattered, and N.C. A&T, in its first ever visit to Kenan Stadium, found itself on the wrong end of that process in Saturday’s 53-14 blowout.
The Tar Heels scored touchdowns on seven of their first nine possessions and added a 48-yard field goal by Nick Weiler on an eighth series, while forcing six punts and three turnovers on N.C. A&T’s first nine drives. UNC led 22-0 after the first quarter, 36-0 at halftime and 53-0 midway through the third quarter before the second- and third-teamers took the field.
“Last week, everybody knows we were supposed to win that game,” who senior tight end Kendrick Singleton, who opened the scoring with a 47-yard touchdown reception. “But we’re mentally and physically tough. We believe in one another and tonight was a great team win. Everybody was determined to get out there. It was a long nine days - a long nine days - to get us to Saturday. It happened and we did what we had to do.”
Whether or not UNC would win against an overmatched FCS opponent was never really a question. Rather, it was how the Tar Heels would respond following the letdown in Charlotte against the Gamecocks. Scoreboard aside, UNC played a clean, efficient game with improvements apparent across the field.
Ten different Tar Heels caught passes, led by Quinshad Davis (4 catches, 40 yards). Eight different Tar Heels carried the ball, led by Elijah Hood (16 rushes, 56 yards, 2 TD). Quarterbacks Marquise Williams (15-of-20, 211 yards, 2 TD) and Mitch Trubisky combined to complete 74 percent of their [20-of-27] passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think, especially coming off last week, we didn’t do what we knew we could do,” Trubisky said. “I think we spread the ball around a lot. The line did a great job up front. The receivers did a great job blocking and catching the ball, and I think the quarterbacks made great decisions. It felt like everyone rallied together so we could just take care of business tonight. It was nice to get a team win.”
Defensively, UNC kept the Aggies out of the red zone until late in the third quarter when the margin stood at 53-0. N.C. A&T managed one series prior to that point that eclipsed 30 yards in length, and that one concluded with an interception. The Tar Heels forced three turnovers – two picks and a fumble – that yielded 14 points.
Special teams rounded out the overall team performance, as Corbin Daly averaged 40.7 yards per punt and Weiler added the aforementioned career-long field goal while notching four touchbacks on kickoffs.
Saturday’s victory by no means erases the season-opening loss. That’s apparent by looking at the win-loss column, which notes UNC is now 1-1 in 2015. What the win does is refresh the mind and lessen the need to linger in the past.
“After a loss, you take what you can from it, you learn from it and you move on to the next game,” senior linebacker Shakeel Rashad said. “But, as competitors, it always sucks when you lost that last game. You try to turn the page and learn what you can from it, but it is there in the back of your mind. So to get a win to kind of flush it out a bit, and there are still things you do wrong in a win, you’re still going to learn from things, but winning is what’s important.”