Fedora, Tar Heels Focus On 1-0
By Emily Fedewa, GoHeels.com
On Tuesday, injured quarterback Bryn Renner said the Carolina football team is rolling right now.
Senior defensive end Kareem Martin couldn't agree more.
After a 1-5 start, UNC has secured two straight victories against ACC opponents - the second one at NC State's Carter-Finely Stadium for the first time in eight years.
In those contests, the Tar Heel defense had allowed just one touchdown apiece and cut down on the explosive plays they had been giving up early in the season.
"There's been a lot less big plays on the back end," Martin said. "And even on the front seven there's been less gaps open. I think that's why we've been so effective these last two weeks."
Martin said that increased efficiency on the defense comes down to more communication in games and a scaled back game plan.
"We've gone into the games with less plays and I think that's worked out for us," Martin said. "Guys, especially on the back end where communication is key, they've been talking a lot more in practice and it's starting to show in games."
The positive energy that Martin and junior cornerback Tim Scott have seen following the wins over BC and NC State has been lessened slightly by the news of Renner's season and career-ending injury.
Scott said the team was "devastated" when they heard that Renner, a fifth year senior who has been the starting quarterback for UNC for three years, had torn the labrum in his left shoulder and had a fracture in his scapula - ending his career at Carolina.
But both Martin and Scott believe back-up quarterback Marquise Williams, who had been splitting snaps with Renner in the last few games, is ready to embrace the starting role.
"We have faith in (Marquise Williams)," Scott said of the new starter. "We know that he's ready to contribute to the team. He's shown leadership in practices so we know he's going to do a good job."
That positive energy and confidence in its new leader will be necessary when Virginia comes to Chapel Hill this weekend for UNC's homecoming game.
The South's Oldest Rivalry, as the game between the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers has been dubbed, will be another test for a Carolina team that is trying to salvage the end of its season.
"We know that they're going to come in, it's our homecoming, so they're going to try to upset us and we've just got to play our hardest," Martin said.
Head coach Larry Fedora said despite the impact of Renner's injury, the Tar Heels are taking this week to prepare for Virginia and the team's emphasis is the same as it always is: winning one game at a time.
"It's been the same way it's been for a while: to be 1-0, that's what the focus is," Fedora said. "(Injuries are) a part of this game. You're an ankle away from being The Guy; everybody prepares that way.
"We're not going to play scared, we're going to play to win and we're going to do whatever it takes to win."