CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Larry Fedora is a fan of splash plays on special teams, and that includes point-after attempts, where his assortment of formations is designed to keep the opponent engaged after UNC scores a touchdown.
In most situations, the checks are not available for the holder to attempt the two-point try, although Joey Mangili saw what he needed to see in the second quarter of Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh. The senior punter had a swinging gate formation lined up to his left, where he faked the ball and rolled right. With pressure in his face, Mangili threw short of tight end Jake Bargas.
Similar to how the quarterback carries the weight of the decisions in Fedora’s offense, the PAT holder bears similar responsibility in the two-point conversion attempts.
“He has a lot of things he’s supposed to look at and we hold him accountable for it,” Fedora said on his weekly radio show on Tuesday.
UNC installs different formations for different opponents and works on those plays several times each and every Thursday.
“It’s different every week,” Fedora said. “It’s a different set, it’s a different play. So in this game he was making sure that there were not five guys on this side of the center. He was making sure that the defensive end was inside of the kicker, and he was making sure that the guy over the kicker was four yards off of him and shaded to the outside.”
After initial success with the two-point conversions by his holder in 2012, UNC has only converted 33 percent of those attempts (3-of-9) since 2013.
Fedora prefers the approach due to the increased workload for opponents in game prep.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing something like that,” he said. “For one, it causes the defense headaches. I know how much time they have to spend in a week preparing for all those looks that we give them, and then we may not do anything. The time that they spend on that, it takes away from the time they spend working on what we do offensively. Anything we can do to cause more problems for them, we’re going to do.”
The Pitt game had to be the latest that your team has scored to win a game, right?
“I’ve never had a game where the only time we led was the last two seconds of the game. I’ve never done that in my life. I’ve never even seen it.”
Was it tough staying focused on the last kickoff with only two seconds left?
“Well Caleb Peterson grabbed me and hugged me and I thought I was going to knock him out. I was like ‘we’ve got two seconds.’ We were in a prevent-type defense. We were worried that they were going to throw the ball back across the field but Khris Francis was sitting there on the guy so the guy didn’t throw it. Then you worry about them tossing the ball every time before they get tackled. So you’ve got everybody really in a prevent type of deal just to give, give, then make the tackle.”
Ryan Switzer finished the game by tying the school record for catches in a game with 16 grabs. What allowed him to excel?
“(Pitt)’s built to stop the run. They’re going to have everything invested in the run. They blitz probably 75 percent of the time the other night. They were going to stop the run, that was their plan, and they did a nice job of it. We knew going into the game that if that was going to be their game plan than Switz was going to be matched up on one of their safeties. We were going to take advantage of it and we did. He just kind of went off in the game.”
You allowed four sacks throughout the game. What are your thoughts on that?
“I don’t like that, but Ejuan Price, he’s as good as a defensive end that we’ve seen in the five seasons that I’ve been here. He’s really good. So we’ve played the kid from Illinois who’s in the top-10 in the country in sacks, we’ve played (Price), and Demarcus Walker from Florida State is in the top-10 also. In those three games, we’re facing the best defensive end in the country.”
When you have a recruit that’s committed, but backs away from his commitment, do you continue to recruit the individual or is that the end of the relationship?
“It depends on the individual. It depends on if we really want him. It also depends on what happened in the relationship that caused the de-commitment. It’s different every single time, it just depends.”
On the final punt Ryan Switzer called for a fair catch very early against Pittsburgh. From your body language you didn’t seem happy with that. Did you see some type of seam that maybe he didn’t?
“Yes I did. He’s seen it too on film now. There’s a good chance he probably would have scored. They intended to punt the ball into the boundary so all of their cover team was running into the boundary and we had guys on their outside hips. The ball tailed back to the field, he caught the ball outside everyone that was on the cover unit. I mean it was a straight shot. Maybe we would have scored too early, who knows.”
What’s your philosophy on recruiting defensive linemen? It seems like a difficult position to recruit.
“It is difficult. There’s not a lot of 6-foot-3, 310-pounders that can run and play the game. They’re difficult to find. So you’ve got 128 schools all recruiting those guys. For us, they’ve got to be successful academically here. So we weigh all that into every situation. Tray Scott has his work cut out for him and what he’s doing with those guys. They’re young across the board. Nazair Jones is the only one with any experience, so I think he’s doing a heck of a job.”