Tar Heels look to get offense rolling again
North Carolina's high-scoring attack has been the staple of coach Larry Fedora's brief tenure with the Tar Heels. It's why Fedora says his team won't panic after its offensive struggles in the season-opening loss at South Carolina.
The Tar Heels (0-1) finished with just 10 points and 293 total yards, the lowest totals in 13 games under Fedora and far below the record-setting averages of nearly 41 points and 486 yards from last year.
At least some of those deflated numbers could be attributed to the presence of Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The Tar Heels looked more conservative with plenty of screen passes and quick throws to protect quarterback Bryn Renner.
Fedora said Monday there's no need for major adjustments before Saturday's home opener against Middle Tennessee.
"There's not any panic within the offense or the offensive staff or the players," Fedora said. "It's proven. The offense is proven. If you just play within the system and you don't shoot yourself in the foot, you're going to make plays and you're going to make explosive plays."
That didn't happen against South Carolina. While the Tar Heels ran 79 plays with their no-huddle spread offense, they averaged just 3.7 yards per play, nearly 3 yards less than last season's total.
UNC didn't have many downfield throws that would force the line to block longer against the Gamecocks' defensive front. Its longest offensive gain being a 24-yard pass from Renner to Quinshad Davis. And that put the Tar Heels in the position of grinding out long drives — their scoring drives were 16 and 17 plays — instead of their usual quick possessions filled with big plays to increase the pressure on defenses.
"I think when you're going against a great pass rusher and a guy that can be very disruptive, it does take away some things you can do," Renner said. "... He is a great player. We did have to do some different things but hopefully we can put another good game plan together and get a win on Saturday."
The biggest positive for UNC was the offense avoided turnovers, the team's only one coming on T.J. Thorpe's muffed punt return.
Then again, the Tar Heels don't have a team on the regular-season schedule again quite like the Gamecocks. And Fedora said the team could correct its mistakes, from the stalled offense to the defense giving up big plays.
"The approach was the same thing we said going into the game — this game doesn't make or break our season," Fedora said. "It was the first game, yes, it was on a big stage and it was big and we talked about it being a measuring stick to find out where we were.
"Well, we didn't play the way we wanted to, so I don't know if was an adequate measuring stick. But it did show us in my opinion we weren't that far away."