CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Balance, by sheer definition, requires an even distribution from multiple elements.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora defines balance a little differently, and that has contributed to his Tar Heels’ success in 2015.
“Balance, for us, is not throwing it 40 and running it 40,” Fedora during his weekly radio show at Top of the Hill. “That’s not what that means.”
For Fedora, balance can’t be defined by a single game. It’s instead measured by how the team performs over a series of games, and what different weapons it utilizes in those matchups.
“If one week, we rush for 100 and throw for 300 and we win the game, and then the next week we rush for 300 and throw for 100,” Fedora said. “That’s balance to me.”
North Carolina has shown off its versatility in its two most recent victories. Against Duke, the Tar Heels launched an aerial assault, passing for 537 yards in a 66-31 rout at Kenan Stadium. A week later, Carolina gashed Miami on the ground for 298 yards in a 59-21 blowout.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to run the ball and being able to throw the ball,” Fedora said.
Having the ability to do both allows his team to respond when a facet of his offense is taken away by opposing defenses.
“I’ve, over the years, come to understand that a defense can take one of them away from you,” Fedora said. “If you’re a run-oriented team, and they stack it up and take the run away from you, then you’re going to have a tough time winning the football game.”
The same applies for a team covering receivers well and taking away the passing game. Neither of those issues have deflated UNC yet, though, for a simple reason: “We’ve always believed that we can do both.”
What makes you say that the Miami game was the most complete performance by your team this season?
“Offensively, other than the first couple of drives, we played pretty well throughout the game, put the ball in the end zone, we had one field goal. The special teams, we had some game-changing plays, we downed a punt inside the five, we downed a kick-off inside the five, we scored on a punt return. And then defensively, we played really well throughout the game, other than about three series. I thought we let down on those three series. It really doesn’t matter how far you’re out in front, you’ve still got to play to a certain standard.”
That win had to be a great way to send out the senior class at Kenan Stadium, right?
“Our guys, and I’ll tell you what, our crowd did a great job sending those seniors out, that was awesome for those guys, it was the last time they’re going step foot in that stadium in a game, so it was really cool. There was a burden of responsibility on our whole team. We talked about that when the seniors went out, the burden of responsibility was to make sure that everybody did their job for those guys. To make sure those guys went out the right way. I’m really proud of that senior class and the legacy that they’re going to be leaving this university and this program.”
What led to your defense having its best game against the run this season against Miami?
“That’s a heck of an accomplishment, to hold those guys under 100 yards. It would have been a lot less than that, we gave them a couple of nice runs there that we shouldn’t have. Didn’t fit it right. But we tackled very well in the open field, and that was something going into the game from the week before that we feel like we hadn’t done as well. The defensive staff really emphasized it all week, and one thing I can say about this football team is that whatever we emphasize, we get. And that says a lot about who they are, and where their focus is. I thought the coaches did a great job with it.”
How do you and your staff use personal fouls as teachable moments?
“We talk to them about being a team player, and not being selfish. That’s the biggest thing. Our guys have done a really good job of that, and the other guys around them do a good job of that, making sure they’re keeping them the way they need to be. We do have some, I wouldn’t call it punishment, just positive reinforcement. Call it what you want it.”
How do you prepare your team for the emotion of Frank Beamer’s last game in Blacksburg?
“It’s going be a great atmosphere. There’s a tribute to Coach Beamer, he’s got four or five hundred former players coming back that they’re going have seated in the end zone. It’s senior day. They’re wearing all black. They need a win to get bowl eligible. They’ve got plenty of motivation. We’re going prepare like we do every week, and we’re going go up there and roll the ball out there and play.”