Gameday: UNC vs. Furman

Inconsistency and crucial mistakes have plagued North Carolina (0-2). It would appear I-AA Furman (2-0) is the perfect opponent for a team off to a sluggish start – but think again, as the Paladins have historically played well against D-I opponents. The two square off Saturday in Kenan Stadium at 7 p.m. (ESPNU).

"Right now at this point in time, I don't think anything is easy," John Bunting said. "It's all hard. We're looking at it game-to-game."

IC's Game Week Coverage


  • Bunting's Teleconference


  • Sexton Will Start Against Furman
  • Bunting PC Quotes + Audio
  • Q&A with Brian Chacos
  • Video Interviews: Sexton & Dailey


  • 10 Key Facts About Furman
  • Wednesday Practice Notebook + Audio


  • Opponent Spotlight: Felton & Gibson


  • Print Your Gameday Guide
  • Carolina put up more total yards and had more first downs than both Rutgers and Virginia Tech in its first two games. Although the game is shorter this season due to new rules regarding clock management, the Hokies' nine first downs last Saturday marked the fewest allowed by a Tar Heel defense since holding Clemson to six in 1997. Tech's 224 total yards tie for the fourth-fewest allowed by a Bunting-coached team.

    UNC's defense is allowing 293.0 yards per game. After two games last season, it was giving up 349.2.

    "I wanted to see a dramatic improvement in our defense last week, and we got some," Bunting said. "But I also want our offense to function and not make mistakes, and I want to see out punt team protected.

    "We want to see if we can play a complete game. We've had a couple of good days of practice, and we're looking forward to seeing if we can put this whole thing together playing well on offense, defense and special teams. We felt like in the first two games we were beating ourselves, and we hope we don't do that this week."

    Offensively, the Tar Heels need to get their running attack out of the chute. Tailbacks Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards are averaging a combined 85 yards per game. The team's third-leading rusher, Joe Dailey (28.0 avg. yards rush), will have to get his yards off the bench if he is to contribute this week, as Cam Sexton gets the starting nod at quarterback.

    Nine failed third down conversions against the Hokies, in which the Tar Heels ran the ball, netted seven yards.

    "We need to help the quarterback as much as we can this week," Bunting said. "As we know from last week, an effective running game helps all quarterbacks."

    On the bright side, UNC quarterbacks have received decent protection. The offense has given up just two sacks.

    "Our protection has been very good," Bunting said. "I don't want to jinx it, but … he can sit back there in that pocket and know he's being protected. There a lot of positives going into this game for Cam, and he needs to take advantage of those."

    So the Carolina mindset this week is not so much on Furman, as it is on fixing itself.

    "A lot of it's about us, and I'm trying to improve us," Bunting said. "Furman just happens to be the next opponent. It's a program that has had a lot of success, and that is recognized. They play very well every year. I have a great deal of respect for their coaches and their program."

    Despite its talented backfield tandem of Jerome Felton and Cedrick Gipson, the Paladins, too, have struggled somewhat offensively, especially through the air. In its two wins, Furman has had to rely heavily on its defense.

    Paladins coach Bobby Lamb said, "We're just focused on trying to get better on the offensive side of the ball and continuing to play as well as we have been on defense."

    It's not lost on the Furman players that the Tar Heels are reeling from two disappointing performances. The Paladins, ranked fourth nationally among I-AA teams, will look to add yet another notch in their belt of notable upsets.

    "Our kids look forward to this type of games," Lamb said. "We're definitely not the caliber of a Virginia Tech or Rutgers – we're a long ways from that. However, we will compete.

    "We had some success two years ago beating Pittsburgh in overtime. Three years ago, we had a five-point game at Clemson. And, of course, in 1999, we were fortunate enough to beat a good North Carolina team."

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