North Carolina lost in embarrassing, humiliating fashion on Saturday against East Carolina – a 70-41 defeat that, statistically, goes down as UNC's worst defensive game in school history. I wrote a lot of words about that game, and wrote them in the main story right here, and in another story more focused on the Tar Heels' innumerable defensive breakdowns.
Luke DeCock, our columnist, wrote, too, that ECU's program looks a lot like the one that Fedora said he'd be building in Chapel Hill. We're in Fedora's third season now, and it's becoming fair to question the direction the Tar Heels are headed -- at least in the short term. Certainly, it's fair to question what is going on on defense. Outside of forcing turnovers, UNC has been abysmal this season.
As always, though, there were some stories that didn't make the story last night. This will be a somewhat abbreviated version of what we normally try to do in this space, because all the stories, even the ones that didn't make the final story, tried to explain the most confounding defeat of Fedora's tenure at UNC.
FEDORA, PLAYERS WALK OFF THE FIELD WITH THE LOOK OF SHOCK
Never miss a local story.
There wasn't a lot of head-hanging. Not a lot of looking at the ground. That struck in the moments after the game ended – that most of UNC's players walked off the field with their heads held high, looking straight ahead or up, at the scene surrounding them, rather than down.
Many of the players, though, shared the same kind of expression. Eyes wide open. Blank stares. They wore the look of shock. They wore the look of men who didn't know what to think, how to process what they'd just witnessed.
Some shook their heads. Some muttered words to themselves. Some looked at each other and exchanged quiet conversation. Donnie Miles, the redshirt freshman defensive back, was among the most vocal. He cursed the result. He walked off the field screaming that ECU wasn't the better team.
I wanted to see how Fedora reacted. He walked to midfield to shake hands with Ruffin McNeill, the ECU coach. Then Fedora began his quick walk back to the locker room. He held his head high, too. He seemed not to blink, his eyes were so focused. He stared, for a long while, at the scoreboard before walking into the tunnel.
MARQUISE WILLIAMS: WE COULDN'T FIND OUR DOG
There were a lot of questions afterward about how things turned so dramatically, about how the Tar Heels, gradually, just let the game slip away. That's how it happened. UNC was in it one moment, leading, in fact, and then, the next, the Tar Heels were out of it.
What happened? How did it turn?
Breon Allen's 44-yard touchdown run likely had a lot to do with it. The Pirates were facing a 3rd-and-28 with about four minutes to play before halftime. UNC, at the time, was losing by only a point. Make a stop, get the ball back and, who knows, maybe the Tar Heels go into halftime with the lead.
Instead, though, Allen took a hand-off, ran around the left side and went virtually untouched on his way to the end zone. A 44-yard touchdown run that, just like that, seemed to deflate the Tar Heels. UNC never recovered.
So what happened, exactly?
Marquise Williams, the Tar Heels' quarterback, put it like this afterward:
“Those guys wanted it more. They were hungry … this is their Super Bowl. ECU versus North Carolina is their Super Bowl. And those guys came out wanting it more. And they had the dog in them, and I guess we didn't find our dog.”
That has to be disappointing for Fedora and the coaching staff to hear – that the Pirates “wanted it more.” It's difficult to believe, too, and Williams' comments could be attributable a sporting cliché that seems to be gaining popularity, this notion of the other guys simply “wanting it” more.
Williams’ commentary contradicts the obvious: UNC wanted this. Badly.
The Tar Heels remembered the humiliation from a year ago, when the Pirates came into Chapel Hill and left with a 24-point victory. That defeat, UNC players said often last week, provided all the motivation they needed.
UNC's want-to, though, did seem to fade. The Tar Heels fell and never got back up. T.J. Thorpe, the junior receiver, put it like this:
“We were in the game. And they kicked it to another level of effort. And it wasn't (anything) that they did overly well. They played a heck of a game. But we just got out-efforted on both sides of the ball.”
TIM SCOTT MAKES LIKE ARIAN FOSTER
Arian Foster, the Houston Texans running back, has had a way with reporters. They ask questions. And he gives answers. Short answers that don't really say a lot. Answers, sometimes, that are basically just the questions, repeated.
Deadspin wrote about this a while back.
And apparently, Tim Scott, the UNC senior safety, took note. Or maybe he didn't. It's difficult to know if Foster's routine inspired Scott but, either way, Scott didn't have much to say on Saturday after the defeat.
Reporters asked questions. And he gave answers. Short answers that didn't really say a lot.
A small sampling:
The tackling continues to be a problem, what is going wrong out there?
“We've got to keep practicing.”
What was the most difficult part of facing that offense?
“I don't know. We'll watch on the film.”
Were the tackling issues more a physical issue or because of slow reaction?
“We'll watch it on film.”
Scott did have one insightful thing to say. Asked if ECU did anything different compared to what it did a season ago in Chapel Hill, Scott said, simply, “No, they kept spanking us.”
Andrew Carter is the UNC athletics beat reporter for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewcarter .