CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In over thirty years of coaching, Larry Fedora has never been called for a penalty. That changed at a critical juncture on Saturday night.
With a minute to play in the third quarter and UNC leading Georgia, 24-21, the Tar Heels had a first down completion wiped away by an ineligible man downfield flag that appeared incorrect on replay. Fedora was livid with the penalty and promptly drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for his reaction.
“I’ve been coaching 30-something years and have never had a flag thrown on me, so it was a surprise for me,” Fedora said on his radio show on Tuesday.
His sideline conduct seemed like standard fare for a coach arguing a call. Three days after the fact, the fifth-year UNC head coach engaged in some heavy sarcasm with the Top of the Hill crowd.
“I’m really disappointed in myself,” Fedora said. “You know, if I’m going to get a flag, I want to really get a flag. I feel like I cheated myself. That’s my first flag and I really feel like I cheated myself.”
It was no laughing matter at the time. The penalty pushed UNC back to the four-yard-line, and a busted screen resulted in Elijah Hood catching a pass in the end zone that Mitch Trubisky was trying to throw away. Hood was tackled in the end zone, giving Georgia safety and cutting UNC’s lead to 24-23.
“That’s my fault,” Fedora said. “I’m listening and giving insight on every play, but I lost my poise there with the penalty so I was not really aware of what we were doing on the next play. It hurt us.”
What did you think of Tom Sheldon’s first game?
“If you really think about that, the guy is 28-years old, and is playing in his first game of his life. And there’s 75,000 people there and 60,000 of them are wearing red and they’re all screaming. I’ll tell you a story. So that’s a pro stadium. Pro numbers are different than college numbers, so they make tick marks for the college numbers. So the game plan was to punt the ball onto the numbers. Well (Sheldon) was punting the ball onto the numbers, but they were the pro numbers… So after about the third time I chewed on him a little bit and he was like ‘No worries mate, but those are the numbers.’”
There’s been a fuss about how much Elijah Hood ran the ball. Would you have liked him to carry the ball more?
“Well sure. We might as well had him carry it every play. But that’s not what happened, so it doesn’t really matter. We would have liked to run the ball more effectively and i know everybody says well ‘Oh, they averaged nine yards a run.’ Well yeah it averages out that way, but we have to be more consistent with four yards a pop, or we get behind the chains and that makes it tough. We’d love to put the ball more in his hands and put it in T.J. Logan’s hands also.”
How did you think Mitch Trubisky played?
“I thought he played average; and he would be the first one to tell you he’s disappointed in the way he played. He’s going to be much better. It was a big stage for him in his first start and he didn’t handle some of the things as well as I wish he would have handled it, but he’ll grow from it and be a better player because of it. I have complete confidence in what he’s going to do.”
It’s worth noting it was Trubisky’s first career start in front of a hostile crowd.
“It’s like I told him, ‘everybody loves the second-team quarterback.’ They loved it when he was the second-team quarterback and now they love Nate Elliott. That’s just the way it works.”
How do you handle a freshman like Patrice Rene who had two pass interference penalties and do you treat him differently than you would a more experienced player?
“Most definitely. Patrice was in great position on both of those plays, he was where he was supposed to be, and he just panicked. I’ve seen it happen with young guys before… You can’t blame the kid. Des (Lawrence) was talking to him right afterwards and was telling him ‘You’re going to be fine.’”
How much of the read option is still a part of what you want to do offensively?
“It’s very much a part of our offense. Mitch can run. I think he ran it one time the other night and he did a great job running it. He is a threat. I think people are going to see that in the future. It just didn’t happen the other night.”