As I wrote in my recap of the North Carolina/Georgia Tech the next three weeks are going to be what makes, or breaks, the season for the UNC Football program this campaign. And while most might point to the road game to Virginia Tech on October 5th, and the Thursday night showdown with Miami in Kenan (10/17), I am looking right at this week’s match up for the Tar Heels.
This Saturday at Kenan Stadium, with kickoff being at 12:30 p.m. EST, head coach Larry Fedora’s squad, coming off a hard loss against Georgia Tech, will take on a East Carolina team that barely lost to Virginia Tech in the third week of the season, with the final score being 15 to 10, their seventh loss in a row to a BCS team. From what I have read the Hokies were able to escape with a victory thanks to a pretty stifling defense who gave up just over 200 yards of total offense.
In comparions, in UNC’s only win, which came against Middle Tennessee State, the Heels gave up 411 yards of total offense. Last week, versus GA Tech the defense gave up 428, while in week one, when they lost to South Carolina it was again over 400 mark, this time 406. And while we can say that numbers can be used (or manipulated) one way or the other, there is no denying that somehow, someway everyone has been a bit worried about the defense this, and last, season.
To be put into the equation of Saturday’s game, which is Military Appreciation Day in Chapel Hill, is that the squad had a tough loss on the road, against a divisional foe who they have not been able to beat in quite sometimes, and hopefully the players will not linger on that and move on to this game.
But that might not be the only problem about this game. While all coaches speak of “one game at a time”, sometimes the players are less inclined to do so, and with a pair of monster games my hope is that no one in the UNC Football locker room forgets that the game on Saturday is one that still needs to be played, and won. On the other side a lot of the players that go to ECU are shunned by the “big bad ACC” and these match ups are a way to show the programs in that conference that they were wrong in not giving them a scholarship.
Neither programs might ever say this publicly, but in a lot of ways this is a no win situation for UNC, who is 12-2-1 vs ECU, in that they are expected to win this type of game. And ask anyone that does anything competitive… nothing worst than going up against someone that has nothing to lose, and that is what is up against North Carolina this week.