CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After his team routed Illinois, 48-14, on Saturday, North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora still wasn’t completely satisfied with what he saw on the field.
“After reviewing the film, we did play a complete game in all three phases, but we still left a lot on the field,” Fedora told reporters at his weekly press conference on Monday. “There were a lot of opportunities that we still could have been much better.”
The Tar Heels scored points on offense and special teams, and the defense recovered from a poor early drive to hold the Illini to 14 points. Despite the team playing well in all facets of the game, Fedora pinpointed areas of concern with each unit.
On special teams, the kickoff coverage left plenty to be desired.
“We lost contain on the one that they brought back to the field,” Fedora said. “Our interior guys weren’t getting off blocks like we want them to.”
Fedora also said the punt return unit failed to capitalize on two additional opportunities for scores in addition to Ryan Switzer’s 85-yard punt return for touchdown.
Offensively, Fedora thought the team played well, outside of a few obvious miscues from the receiving unit.
“When you’ve got four or five dropped passes in a game, and one of them is a sure touchdown, you can’t have those things happen,” he said.
And on defense, Fedora cited open field tackling as an issue to work on. Illinois rushed for 227 yards against the Tar Heels.
“Give [Illinois RB Josh Ferguson] credit, because he’s a good player, and he created some problems in the open field,” Fedora said. “And we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
How did you think your defensive line played?
“That’s three weeks in a row that they’ve been solid, they still haven’t met the expectations that Tray (Scott) has for them up front, but they’ve just been solid.”
Has Donnie Miles increased his physicality at the safety spot?
“When he was at the Ram, he played closer to the box. He had to be more physical. So now, as he’s backed up and played at the safety position, the physicality of it is pretty easy for him. But now you’re in more open spaces, so that’s what he’s got to be more careful of, and we’ve got to make sure we put him in good positions. But Donnie’s played really well. He’s tackled well in three games, he’s done a nice job of getting people where they’re supposed to be, so I think his transition has been really good.
How did true freshman linebacker Andre Smith grade out?
“Andre, I don’t know exactly how many plays, but he graded out very well. And so that was a good feeling to know if Dre had to go, if something happened to (Schoettmer), and Dre had to get out there, we didn’t miss a beat. As far as the communication with the rest of the defense, all of the calls that had to be made, he did a really nice job and the played well. Dre went to the Mike and Jeff went to the Sam, so with (Schoettmer), you can do a lot of things with it, because he understands all of it, so you can put him in different positions. So we don’t want to do that with Dre, so we get him in at the Mike, get him a lot of reps there, and that way move Jeff around, and we had Shak (Rashad) and Dre and Jeff all on the field in their base, and when they were in base, those were the three linebackers and I feel like we had our three best linebackers on the field at one time.”
What are your thoughts on playing two FCS teams in a season?
“I don’t really like having two FCS opponents, but it is what it is. We had two Power Five nonconference games, and so it is what it is. I’m okay with having one FCS team, a Power Five nonconference team, and then having a couple of out of conference games where they come from the other five (conferences).”
What are your initial takeaways on Delaware?
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“The film I’ve been looking at right now is just some of the stuff from last year. Defensively, they ran around and made a lot of plays for them, and this school has a lot of tradition. I think they’ve won six national championships at the FCS level, so they know how to win. There’s a tremendous amount of pride and tradition there, so I haven’t gotten far enough into it to into the game planning part to tell you what they are right now.”