Bunting "encouraged" by what he sees

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--Winless on the season after two games--the second loss in heart-breaking fashion in triple overtime after leading 34-17--UNC head football coach, John Bunting, insists that the team "isn't that far away."

In the season-opener against FSU the offense racked up almost 300 yards, nearly four yards per play, but failed to score a single point. The second week against Syracuse, the offense got on track, but the defense couldn't stop the Orangemen in the second half when it got down to crunch time.

Despite a defense which has given up an average of 535 yards, dead last in Division I football of 117 teams, members of the team suggest that things aren't as bad as they seem to those on the outside looking in.

"As Gary Tranquill told me," Bunting said, "I think he quoted Mark Twain--'There are three kinds of lies: Lies, d--- lies, and statistics.' I'm not going to hang my hat on statistics either. That's for other folks to do. I just want to see our football team get better, and I want our focus to continue to be on the snap at hand and finishing that snap."

Of the 80 offensive plays accounting for 518 yards of total offense by the Orangemen, 224 yards came on only eight plays--eight big plays.

"We call those 'explosive plays,'" defensive end turned tackle, who has recently moved back to defensive end, Isaac Mooring said. "If you eliminate those, we have a pretty good defense. That's one of the things Coach 'Hux' has been emphasizing, stopping those explosive plays. Those are because of a missed tackle or a missed assignment, which we can fix."

"It was in those eight plays that, statistically, we got beat--a big pass, a 35 yard run," defensive tackle Chase Page said. "Those add up and it makes your stats look a lot worse than they are. We did some really good things at times, but we have to eliminate those big plays."

After the loss to Syracuse, Bunting announced that the team is beginning a new season and that the first two games were pre-season games, like in the NFL, with a new beginning.

"Coach Bunting came back and was really positive," Page said. "Personally, I was uplifted. It gave me more confidence, and I could tell that the rest of the guys were like that…

"Coach Huxtable, in defensive meetings, he pulled out this chain and told us that we are only as strong as our weakest link and everyone needs to be strong so that our chain is unbreakable. He gave every guy on defense a link and we have it on our key chain to remind us for everybody to do their job and everybody to be strong. That's what defense is all about."

Bunting has stressed how important it is to win now but that he doesen't want that to be the overwhelming focus to the point that it interferes with the most important short-term goal: getting better every day.

"I'm very encouraged by some of the things I've seen…," Bunting said. "I think we'll be a better football team at the half-way mark than we were at the beginning of the season. That's based on the way we work, how hard we work, our coaching staff, and the way our players react to working… I know where we stand, and I feel good about where we are going. I hope we continue in the positive vein that we have since the opening game. "

Inside Carolina Top Stories