Untimely Miscues

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina lost its road opener 34-31 to East Carolina Saturday night in an intense rivalry game for the ages. After reviewing the game tape, head coach Butch Davis shared his opinions during his Sunday teleconference.

"There were some good things, some positive things, that did happen during the course of the game," Davis. "Unfortunately, there were enough negative things that don't give you a chance to win the game."

Two North Carolina turnovers only yielded three Pirate points, but those were enough to steal a victory from the Tar Heels in the rivalry's eleventh meeting.

"If you lose the turnover war, there's a reasonably good chance that you're going to have a difficult time winning the game," Davis said. "We turned the ball over twice last night and didn't create any turnovers with our defense, and that's a tough thing to overcome."

East Carolina's average starting field position was at the 41-yard line, due in large part to poor kickoff return coverage by the Tar Heels.

"The other disappointing thing was special teams-wise," Davis said. "With the positive stuff with Brandon's punt return for a touchdown, there [were] too many things on special teams that really, really hurt our effort – probably played as big a role in putting our team in a tough situation."

Davis confirmed the biggest special teams gaffe of the night – a botched 52-yard field goal attempt with 49 seconds remaining that East Carolina turned into the winning score on the other end of the field.

"Yes, it was a little bit of a bobble and the ball got down late," Davis said.

The Tar Heel defense proved solid against ECU's ground game, allowing only 64 yards on a 1.9 yards per carry average, but Pirate quarterback Patrick Pinkney lit up North Carolina through the air, completing 31-of-42 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns.

"Defensively, probably the biggest thing was the inconsistency," Davis said. "We either played really well and got them out or we struggled… Every game that our secondary and linebackers play, we have to hope as coaches that there will be continued growth. We can't give them experience other than actually playing in games and going out and seeing these kinds of offenses."

Davis was most disappointed in the defensive unit's poor tackling, which contributed to over 100 yards of extra offense for the Pirates.

"It changes dramatically how the other team has to play," Davis said. "If you make the tackle, its 2nd-and-eight, if you miss the tackle, it's 2nd-and-three. We've just got to do a better job of that."

Davis did touch on several positive aspects of the ball game, including red-shirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates' strong stat line – 20-of-32 passing for 344 yards with three touchdowns to only one interception.

"T.J.'s doing some good things for a young first-year starter at quarterback," Davis said. "He's been pretty efficient with the ball. He's making a few mistakes and stuff, but for the most part, he's being very efficient with the ball. He's given us some big play opportunities throwing the ball."

The coaching staff also continued to learn more about its running back situation, as Davis indicated that he thought the backs did a good job receiving out of the backfield and in creating extra yards after the catch.

"We were pleased with them," Davis said. "I think we certainly found a little more out about them last night than we did after the very first ball game."

The mood in the locker room following the last-second loss was one of lost opportunities, but Davis said that it's just another learning experience for this young North Carolina program.

"I personally believe that if losing doesn't hurt, then winning doesn't mean very much to you," Davis said. "… There were glimmers of good things in all three phases, but unfortunately, you can't have penalties, you can't have the turnovers [and] you can't have missed opportunities. This football team – it's going to be a dogfight like that probably just about every week. And when you get opportunities to make some plays, you can't miss them."

North Carolina returns home next Saturday to kickoff its ACC schedule against Virginia at noon.

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