COLUMBIA, S.C. — North Carolina coach Larry Fedora expects big numbers out of receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron this season.
Both got off to a slow start in Thursday’s 27-10 loss to No. 6 South Carolina. Davis caught four passes for 39 yards with a touchdown while Ebron had three catches for 32 yards.
Fedora has thrown around 100 catches as a goal for Davis, the sophomore receiver from Gaffney, S.C., playing in his home state on Thursday night. And Fedora has promised Ebron, a game-changing force in the slot, will deliver 12 touchdowns with an expanded role in the offense.
The Gamecocks’ defense, which ranked 21st nationally last season, was able to pressure UNC quarterback Bryn Renner and force him to make quick throws.
At the end of last season, that meant quick targets to Davis, who caught 38 passes in the final four games of 2012. On Thursday, it was difficult for Renner, who didn’t have much time to find Davis. The touchdown, a 4-yard pass, came with 9 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the second quarter, after Davis didn’t have a ball thrown his way in the first 15 minutes.
Ebron, who caught four touchdowns in 2012, was targeted in the red zone by Renner twice on a third-quarter drive which ended with a 20-yard field goal by Thomas Moore, but the two were unable to connect.
Renner, who completed 26 of 43 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown, was able to get off quicker passes to receiver Mark McNeill and T.J. Thorpe. Some were by design, to throw away from South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and some were because of the pressure generated by South Carolina’s pass rush.
The Tar Heels were able to find more room on the ground. Sophomore running back Romar Morris ran for 69 yards on 15 carries and A.J. Blue ran for 37 yards on eight carries.
But when UNC fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter, there wasn’t much of a chance to establish the ground game, a preseason concern for the Tar Heels who lost leading rusher Gio Bernard to the NFL.
The 10 points were the fewest in 13 games under Fedora. The Tar Heels scored less than 27 points only once last season, an 18-14 win over Miami last October.
The Tar Heels ranked eighth in the country in scoring last season at 40.58 points per game. That impressive average, and the individual numbers for Davis and Ebron, took a hit Thursday.