Heels Step Out of Conference

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Head coach Butch Davis spoke to reporters following Wednesday's practice, as the Tar Heels prepare for No. 23 Connecticut in non-conference action on Saturday evening.

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Butch Davis Wednesday Post-Practice:

* With North Carolina's next two opponents being Connecticut and Notre Dame, post-practice conversation turned to out-of-conference scheduling. Davis was asked what he was looking for in games outside of the ACC footprint.

"Obviously, you want to win," Davis said. "Start with that… I would personally like to see most of non-conference games to be in September. I don't know if that will ever happen. I know that the conference dictates a lot of that, and I know that television dictates a lot of that… But I think there will be a place for maybe one non-conference game in like maybe the last 6-7-8 weeks of the season, moving forward in the next 10 years or so."

Athletic Director Dick Baddour and Senior Associate Athletic Director Larry Gallo handle the primary scheduling responsibilities, and along with Davis, they had discussions in the spring about future opponents and inquired with several programs about possible interest in any available open dates.

"I know that we sent letters to Penn State and I think that we sent letters to maybe Texas A&M, and I don't know if we sent one to Oklahoma or not," Davis said. "But we tried to find some high-profile games and then tried to find some games to fill the schedule."

One of Davis' first schedule-related actions when he arrived in Chapel Hill was to cancel a home-and-home series with Colorado that was originally set to begin this season. North Carolina replaced the Buffaloes with McNeese State.

The reason for canceling that series dates back to Davis' time at Miami, when the Hurricanes had a 10-year contract with the Pac-10 that required the Hurricanes to play on the West Coast at selected times. Davis' Hurricanes lost to UCLA (31-8) in Pasadena, Calif., in 1995 and were defeated by Washington (34-29) in Seattle in 2000.

"It just seemed like a 5-6-7 hour plane trip from Miami all the way to the West Coast when you don't really recruit out there…," Davis said. "It's hard on your kids. Unlike the NFL when you've got days to recover, these kids have got to get back and go to class, so it's hard."

The Tar Heels host The Citadel (FCS) and East Carolina in 2009, while also traveling to Connecticut for a rematch on Sept. 12. There still remains one open date on the schedule, but UNC's head coach knows as much as the fan base on who exactly that opponent will be.

"I don't even know," Davis said. "I can barely tell you who we play in three weeks, much less next year."

* Following Alabama's 41-30 victory over Georgia on Saturday night, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban referred to the contest as one of the best kinds of wins, because while his team won a big game, they also played poor enough in certain areas that he could get their full attention during practice this week.

Davis agreed with that sentiment on Wednesday.

"I think that sometimes you are fortunate enough to win," Davis said. "And I think the Miami game is in some respects that way, because we played absolutely terrible in special teams and we struggled early. We had some real struggles, especially defensively.

"You want the benefit of the win, but you'd also like the teachable moments for your kids. As long as the coaches and the players deal in reality, and you realize that this was good, this was good and this wasn't good and this wasn't acceptable, [then] it makes everyone stay on point to the things that you need to get better at."

* Speaking of special teams, consider this statistic – Miami's worst field position in the second half of Saturday's game started on the 31-yard line. Two Tar Heel kickoffs yielded Hurricane drives that began on the 40 and 44, respectively.

Davis told reporters after the game that those results were not due to placement kicks, and he went into further detail on the kicking situation following practice on Wednesday.

"First, you always evaluate what you're asking them to do – that's the beginning point," Davis said. "And the second point is [if we] are using the right kids. Is there somebody that would play better? So we've made some adjustments personnel-wise. We've made adjustments in philosophy of what we're asking them to do. I think that maybe we've asked these kids to do too much."

* The scripted game plan against Miami was to give Mike Paulus the first two series at quarterback, and then bring in Cameron Sexton for the third possession, regardless of the score. Davis was asked on Wednesday if a similar system will employed against Connecticut.

"We haven't decided yet," Davis said. "We're just practicing and trying to get ready now."

* North Carolina's depth at secondary was a huge concern during training camp, but the defensive backs have been solid during the first month of the season. The Tar Heels have intercepted nine passes (T-4th nationally) and rank 42nd in the country in pass efficiency defense (109.5).

On Saturday night, the secondary will be challenged a little differently – not against the pass, but against the run.

"We're going to need their help in run defense," Davis said. "But by the same token, one of the things that's very concerning and scary is that a team that runs the ball as well as UConn does, their play-action passing game is lethal because everyone's attention is on Donald Brown.

"And then all of a sudden, it's a fake to him and you've got receivers running wide open on crossing routes and deep routes, so they've really got to be disciplined. They've got to do an excellent job of reading, playing pass first and helping on the run when they can."

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