PITTSBURGH – North Carolina’s secondary picked an ideal time to record a new season-high in pass break ups.
The eight break ups were a key component of Tar Heels’ 26-19 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
“They were all over the ball,” said head coach Larry Fedora after the game.
This performance came against one of the most talented wide receivers in the ACC, Tyler Boyd. Early on, he gave the secondary fits, contributing to an eight-minute, 19-second opening drive that resulted in a field goal for the Panthers.
“Tyler Boyd is a heck of a player, now,” said Fedora. “Because there were other times where they were all over him, and getting their hands on the ball, and he still makes the catch.”
Despite Boyd’s 10-catch, 89-yard performance, the secondary made plays at the key moments. Des Lawrence provided four of the team’s break ups, including two clutch deflections in the endzone on a Pitt drive with less than two minutes to play.
“Our guys played really well in the secondary,” said Fedora. “We gave up some things, and it wasn’t clean as we wanted, too, but they still played really well.”
“Alright, a heck a ballgame tonight. A great match-up and a great game, and I want to give Coach Narduzzi and his team and staff some props, because they played extremely hard, and it was a well-fought battle. We just made a few more plays than they did, and we’re fortunate to get out of here with a win. Really proud of the effort and overall performance of our football team.”
What did you guys do tonight?
“Here’s what we did: It was a short week, we come to Pitt, a team that’s ranked, and leading the Coastal, and we pulled out a victory. And we get it done. Not as pretty as anybody wanted it to happen, but we won. And that’s what matters. And that’s on top of giving up two gamechanging plays on our special teams. And we still won the football game. So I couldn’t be more proud of our players right now.”
How will you handle being in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal?
“We feel like it’s been the same way since the first conference game we played, that we were in the driver’s seat. And that’s the way we’re looking at it the whole time, is that we just take care of our business, one week at a time. We don’t look at it like we’re just now getting there, we felt like that from the beginning of the season, and that was our plan. But we’ve got more games to play, and we’ve got a really important one coming up, but I think our guys will handle it fine. I don’t think they’ll look at it any differently than we did the first week of the season.”
What did you see as far as making sure your team didn’t start out slow?
“It didn’t change my message at halftime, I wish I could tell y’all that what I say at halftime is the difference in a game, but it really has nothing to do with it. Those guys, we point out what the mistakes were, we make sure they see what’s happening against them, and then our kids make those adjustments. It’s all about the players, I promise you it’s all about our players. It’s about the chemistry that we have on this football team, it’s the love they have for each other, it’s the leadership on this team. That’s why we’re having the success that we’re having.”
Is there any concern with the fact that the offense left some points on the field tonight?
“No doubt about it. That’s two weeks in a row, so we’ve got to get that corrected. You have two practices, you only have two real practices and those are both cut down to, for us, 15 periods, there’s not much practice time. It was really more, for me, about making sure our guys got the rest and recovery they needed from last Saturday. I mean, we had guys in this game that played that didn’t take a snap in practice because they were beat up. And then they went out there and battled tonight and played. So, I’m proud that we got the win, that’s all I care about right now.”
Was there any sense that this team was different in August?
“No, I sensed that January 6th when we had the first team meeting. And they got to talk about all the problems that we felt like we had in the past. And we aired it all out, and the maturity, and the leaders in the room saying ‘I’m gonna put it on my back to make sure it doesn’t happen again,’ so you’ve seen a different team from the beginning, actually. How were they gonna perform? I didn’t know. Now? It’s 'I can’t wait to see them on Saturday or Thursday night.' I tell them all the time, ‘I can’t wait to watch you play. Our staff can’t wait to watch you perform.’ We’re excited about these kids, and the way they perform, and how they care about each other. That’s fun. That’s fun.”