Heels Looking Into The Mirror

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina dropped to 1-3 on the season following Saturday's 37-10 blowout loss to South Florida. After reviewing the game tape, head coach Butch Davis shared his opinions during his Sunday teleconference.

"We looked at the game yesterday, and whether we made some of the plays that we would have liked to have made would have changed the outcome – I don't know if it would or not," Davis said. "But I know this – it would have been a lot more competitive [and] it would have been a lot better game, because we literally missed some opportunities yesterday that we had made in previous games."

For essentially the first time this season, Davis placed a level of responsibility for the Tar Heels' three-game losing streak on his players' shoulders.

"One of the things that this football team has to do is [that] we've got to take a little more personal accountability for each individual's preparation and performance," Davis said. "… One of the most frustrating things that we are having to deal with almost every single week is some of the mental mistakes that we're making."

The first-year UNC coach has talked in previous weeks about his coaching staff walking the fine line between giving this young and inexperienced group of players enough information in game planning to be productive on the playing field and giving them too much data to successfully process, rendering their efforts ineffective.

On Sunday, Davis said that the players have to help out their coaching staff by putting forth more commitment and dedication in game preparation.

"That's where, at certain points of time, the players have to do above and beyond the call of duty," Davis said. "That they have to take some ownership and say 'For us to do the things we need to try to win, I've got to invest a little bit more time and a little bit more film study' and just a variety of those kinds of things that would maybe cut down on some of the mental mistakes where big plays happen or missed opportunities."

A lesser-known advantage of fielding a veteran squad is the ability for those players to assist the staff with sideline adjustments by picking up small details that the coaches otherwise wouldn't see until film study – the day after the ball game.

Davis said it's vital for the players gain enough experience on the field and in film study "where they have a body of football knowledge and intelligence of running these plays that they can be a benefit to helping you in making some adjustments."

The ability for someone to go beyond the call of duty is not necessarily just an innate trait, but it's also something that can be taught over a period of time.

"I think it comes from recruiting football players that are football junkies – that football is extraordinarily important [and] that they want to succeed," Davis said. "I think that's certainly part of the process. I think that creating a culture and an environment with your team and trying to emphasize that during football season, you can only cut the pie so many times.

"If kids are going have their family and their faith, and they're going to have academics and they're going to have football as a priority, how many more things can you have in your life at that particular time and due diligence to those four things that are most important?"

That's another on a long list of lessons that this program is going to have to learn as the 2007 season continues to unfold.

When asked if this turnaround has been more challenging than he originally expected, Davis simply replied, "Probably so, yes."

Additional notes from Davis' teleconference --

On freshman running back Ryan Houston:
"Absolutely I think that we'll try to use him more in the future… He demonstrated some of the things that we saw on tape from his high school days. He was big, he was strong, he was powerful and he ran determined.

"And I think that we would like to try to grow his role in the offense and just kind of see where it goes from there. I think for a freshman in Game Four with no previous college playing experience, I think it was a positive step in the right direction."

On quarterback T.J. Yates' performance:
"He didn't play as well as we need T.J. to play. I think there are several factors – he made some mistakes, he tried to force some balls in that [offensive coordinator] John Shoop and he both would admit that he wishes he had back. I think that getting hit and getting sacked and getting pressured a little bit more was a new experience… and I think he'll certainly learn something from that."

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