CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina coaching staff counted 21 missed tackles during the Tar Heels’ 28-20 loss at Georgia Tech last week. The final count from UNC’s 55-31 loss against ECU on Saturday is likely to be high, too.
The Tar Heels routinely missed tackles Saturday, especially when ECU decided to run. The Pirates, whose rushing offense ranked 118th nationally entering the game, gained 227 yards rushing, with a lot of the yards coming after contact.
“That’s a frustrating thing, when you’re in a position to make a play and you don’t make a play,” said UNC senior defensive tackle Tim Jackson after the loss. “At the end of the day, it comes down to fundamentals. That’s just something that we have to get better at.”
ECU’s Vintavious Cooper, a senior running back, ran for a career-high 186 yards. He also gained 70 yards on eight receptions.
UNC defensive tackle senior Kareem Martin said the defense “really didn’t expect” Cooper to play as large a role.
Martin also expressed frustration in UNC’s inability to make tackles.
“I feel like next week we’ve really got to focus on tackling,” Martin said, “because we can’t have this going into the Virginia Tech game.”
ECU won in Chapel Hill for the first time since 1975, and the Pirates did it by beating the Tar Heels at their own game. UNC attempts to push the pace offensively, but the Tar Heels looked slow Saturday when compared to ECU, which ran 101 plays.
The Pirates pushed the tempo early, averaging less than 20 seconds between plays on their first scoring drive.
The 101 plays were the most any team has ever run against UNC; the previous high was 95 by Maryland in 1992.
ECU’s 603 yards were also the second-most UNC has allowed in Kenan Stadium. Duke gained 656 yards during its 41-0 victory at Kenan in 1989.
Penalties hurt Heels
For the second consecutive week, a penalty wiped away a UNC touchdown.
UNC appeared to cut ECU’s lead to 14-7 late in the first quarter, when A.J. Blue turned a short pass into a 35-yard touchdown. A 15-yard illegal blocking penalty on Caleb Peterson, a freshman left guard, nullified the touchdown. UNC later settled for a field goal.
Last week, in the defeat at Georgia Tech, a holding penalty on Jon Heck, another freshman lineman, erased an 82-yard touchdown pass that could have given UNC a 27-14 lead early in the third quarter. UNC committed nine penalties for 94 yards Saturday.
“I’d have to look at the penalties and see exactly what happened and why they happened,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “I can tell you this, there’s no excuse for personal fouls no matter what happens in a game.”
Bryn Renner threw for a career-high 366 yards in the defeat.… ECU’s 603 yards were the seventh most in school history.… The teams’ 86 combined points were the most in series history, and ECU’s 55 points were the most it has scored in 16 games against UNC.