CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The biggest question for UNC’s defense coming into 2016 was whether or not it could stop the run. After Saturday’s 33-24 loss to Georgia, the answer to that question currently remains a no.
The Bulldogs ran all over the Tar Heels’ defense, accumulating 289 total rushing yards. Georgia running back Nick Chubb rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in his first game back since a knee injury last October.
“We had too many missed tackles,” Fedora said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “[Chubb’s] good, I’m going to give him a lot of credit. He’s a good running back. I’m going to give him his credit where it’s due especially with it being his first game back from that injury. But you’ll see if you look at the film there's a lot of missed tackles.”
Those 17 missed tackles added up as the Bulldogs rushed for 5.6 yards per attempt, including Chubb’s 6.9 yards per carry. Chubb secured the victory with a 55-yard touchdown run on a sweep right with 3:34 left in the game.
Gap integrity was also an issue for the Tar Heels.
“There were some times with their shifting and motioning, that even though we were preparing for all the shifting and motioning, they did some ones that we didn’t prepare for and so they got us out-gaped a few times and it cost us,” Fedora said.
The Tar Heels were lacking key pieces along the defensive line. Defensive end Dajaun Drennon remains sidelined with a foot injury, while defensive tackle Jalen Dalton was limited (ankle). Junior defensive end Tyler Powell took the field for warmups, but didn’t play despite being listed as a starter at defensive end. He missed the game due to personal issues, according to Fedora, and has no timetable for his return.
A silver lining for UNC’s defense was that there weren’t any fatal mistakes. As far as Fedora is concerned, every mishap made in the first game of the season is something that can be fixed as the season rolls on.
“Every issue we had was correctable,” he said. “I’m not happy we made the mistakes we made, but everything was correctable. It’s not like, ‘We’re deficient here, we’re not going to be able to hold up now, what are we going to do scheme-wise to cover that hole,’ you know those kind of things.”
Coach, tell me that it's more than a coincidence that the first play Mack (Hollins) is on the field, you get a kickoff return for a touchdown. That’s more than a coincidence, right?
“I don’t know. I mean he did his job. He had a double team and we had a field return called, and that’s a critical block for us in that return. The one thing you know is that when Mack comes out there on special teams he is going to get his job done. He takes a lot of pride in it and gives those guys a little boost of energy.”
What are the goals for the season following this game?
“Our goals are to win the state championship, win the coastal division, win the ACC championship, and win our last game. That’s it.”
When you look at Illinois with just the one game sample size, are they dramatically different from where they were last year?
“We thought the strength of their team last year was their defensive front and they’re all back. In watching the film last night and this morning, it’s still the strength of this team…. Other than that, the rest of them, I don’t know how much they played against us last year. The scheme is different but watching that game the other day, I can tell you the strength of that defense is in that defensive front.”
How much Lovie Smith film from the NFL do you look at?
“Other than one game against Murray State, everything we’ve based everything on is NFL film. So yeah, we’ve watched a lot of NFL film.
Because of the differences between NFL and college, what are you looking for in that film?
“Well you’re still looking at schemes. I mean techniques may be different with the style of offense we run compared to what (Smith)’s seen in the NFL. But Murray State was a spread team so we were at least able to see one game. One thing I can tell you about Lovie from the past, or what I’ve heard about him, is that he doesn’t get too exotic in what he does. His guys are going to line up, know what to do, and play really hard.”
On true freshman Patrice Rene’s pass interference flags:
“He is in great coverage in both of those plays and I think he panicked. [If] he turns, he’s 6-2, he’s probably going to intercept both of those balls because he’s already there. It’s not like he was trying to catch up and was behind and interfered with the guy. He was in great coverage on the guy, and he just panicked. That will come with experience.”