Davis Pleased With Season Opener

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's anticipated season opener is in the books, with a 37-14 win over JMU. After reviewing the game tape, head coach Butch Davis shared his opinions during his Sunday teleconference.

A topic that Davis mentioned repeatedly during training camp was the concern for how this young and inexperienced squad would react when the lights came on and 60,000 fans were cheering in unison.

"One of the things that is enlightening about the first game is that you get to watch how players play when the speed of the game changes from practice tempo to game tempo," Davis said. "It's always kind of enlightening to the players how fast things actually happen, how quick you have to make adjustments and [change] things when the game is going on."

While the team held a walk-through scrimmage during the last week of the preseason, completing a full game week has allowed the coaching staff to show the players every detail that goes into preparing for a game, as well as learning from mistakes after the action.

"It's given us an opportunity to go through our routine," Davis said. "Today I had a little team meeting, and then we had about a 20 minute presentation on special teams, and went through the special teams film. Then both coordinators got an opportunity to address the offense and defense – how they felt like the team did. Then we broke up into individual groups and got a chance to kind of dissect the film with each of the individual position groups."

As expected following a lopsided victory, the coaching staff felt there were some positive things to take away from the film study Sunday morning.

"I was happy with the receivers," Davis said. "They made some plays. Defensively, I was pleased with the turnovers that we created. Special teams did just a great job of creating some great field position for the offense and we were able to capitalize."

Davis said that the running back situation would continue to be evaluated, but indicated that he was pleased with red-shirt freshman Anthony Elzy's play in short-yardage and goal line situations, resulting in two touchdowns. The coaching staff had planned to get Ryan Houston some reps late in the fourth quarter, but the clock did not work in the true freshman's favor.

The Tar Heels only rushed for 100 yards on 34 carries – an area that will have to significantly improve in the weeks to come.

"We would have liked to have had a little bit more success running the football," Davis said. "In part, it was tough to run simply because of the style of defense – they played a lot of eight man fronts, which obviously opened up the opportunities for a lot of big plays in the passing game. So we really didn't feature trying to run the ball… We featured the passing game just really because of the way they did that."

The defensive secondary alleviated concerns about their youth with a number of strong performances, including solid debuts from true freshman cornerback Charles Brown (9 tkl) and red-shirt freshman safety Deunta Williams (1 int).

"I think the secondary played well," Davis said. "That was an area that we felt like they were really going to get challenged in the game just because of their youth and their inexperience… They were young, but they handled the responsibilities pretty well."

Despite the positives taken from the season opener, Davis knows this team has a long way to go before reaching its full potential.

"You're never as good as you think you are, either," Davis said. "Because there are some things that clearly we've got to fix. There's some areas in all three phases that we've got to better, and it's kind of a mantra of mine – and I've believed this my entire coaching career – that the first month of a season, a football team probably makes its biggest amount of improvements in the first couple of ball games.

"Because you get a chance to see yourself on film, you fix it and you try to get better the next week and the next week. Later in the season, you expect to improve, but they probably come incrementally in smaller doses. Hopefully we can fix some of the things that went wrong last night and be a little better this next week against East Carolina."

Notes from Davis' Sunday teleconference:

  • Injury update:
    C Scott Lenahan (right calf strain) and LB Chase Rice (left ankle sprain) are continuing to be evaluated.

  • Game balls:
    The awards went to WR Brooks Foster and OT Garrett Reynolds on offense, DT Kentwan Balmer and SS Trimane Goddard on defense and Ryan Taylor and Garrett White on special teams.

  • On freshman LB Bruce Carter:
    "Bruce had a significant role on special teams prior to Chase getting injured, and he was able to go in as a true freshman and handle not only the continued roles on special teams, but he went in and made some tackles, made some good plays [and] the stage didn't appear to be too big for him."

  • On junior P Terrence Brown:
    "It's too early to give anybody the MVP of a recruiting class, but getting him to come in and somewhat alleviate an enormous hole that we had in special teams. He swung the field position, he handled it with poise, his get-off times were all consistently under two seconds [and] that was a very, very promising first start."

  • On sophomore C Lowell Dyer replacing Lenahan:
    "He did a nice job – made all the right line calls and it was a pretty seamless transition."

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