"They are trying as hard as they can," Davis said. "Obviously, we've got some shortcomings with this football team that no magic wand is going to fix. It's going to come about as a byproduct of experience and more practice and learning how to do things a little bit better… There are so many things that we'll have a chance to improve on just because now we know the kids, we know the players, [and] we know what they can do and what they can't do."
The intensity on the sideline was not limited to just the players – Davis was active throughout the contest, despite battling a sinus infection that settled in last Thursday. He was hoarse talking to reporters Sunday afternoon, but managed to praise a number of freshmen, including wide receiver-turned-running back Greg Little, defensive end Darius Powell (one sack, one forced fumble), and linebackers Bruce Carter (seven tackles, one tackle for loss) and Quan Sturdivant (five tackles).
Little gained 115 yards on 24 carries in his first significant action in the offensive backfield, but was credited with a 20-yard loss when a miscommunication occurred between T.J. Yates and him on an audible call in the second quarter. The Durham, N.C. native combined speed and elusiveness in his runs throughout the afternoon, while also performing admirably in pass protection against the blitzing strategy employed by the Yellow Jacket defense.
But while Davis commended Little's work, he was hesitant to say if the freshman would remain in the backfield after the Duke game.
"That's going to be decided during the offseason," Davis said. "Certainly, now that we've got a season under Greg and the rest of the guys, we'll be able to better evaluate what we want to do with Greg once we go through January, February, March and April with the current running backs that are here, including Devon Ramsay and Ryan Houston… and then evaluate what happens as far as recruiting is concerned."
The first-year UNC head coach was pleased with various aspects of his offense, but the inability to score deep inside Georgia Tech territory doomed the Tar Heels to lose another close ball game. North Carolina drove in the Yellow Jackets' 25-yard line on five occasions that yielded just 12 points.
"The toughest thing is [that] you get the ball down 1st-and-goal at the [four-yard line], 1st-and-goal at the [six-yard line], and you come away with three points," Davis said. "Those have got to be touchdowns. We just absolutely have to score."
There is no doubt that Davis believes in these kids, and after witnessing their effort on Saturday, the same can be said about the players trusting in this staff. With a number of high-profile job openings ready to be announced in the coming weeks, North Carolina has an opportunity to make a statement nationally by securing Davis and the future of this program with a contract extension that would ward off would-be suitors.
Speculation has surfaced that the University is working diligently towards that end result, but Davis was unwilling to discuss any possible negotiations on Sunday.
"Any time the University's got anything going on, it's just the University's policy to not talk about it," Davis said. "So right now, all we're focused on is trying to get this football team to bounce back emotionally and get ready to play as well as we can against Duke."