After a season-opening loss at California and another loss at East Carolina this past Saturday, UNC coach Larry Fedora said in a press conference Monday that he’s not new to adversity. But he plans to lean on lessons he’s learned from past mistakes going forward.
The Tar Heels (0-2) fell to the Pirates 40-19 and are now 3-11 in their last 14 games dating back to last season.
Here are five takeaways from Fedora’s press conference as the Tar Heels head into Week 3 against Central Florida:
1. QB Cade Fortin could see more time
True freshman quarterback Cade Fortin, who is No. 2 on the Tar Heels’ depth chart behind junior quarterback Nathan Elliott, made his collegiate debut on Saturday against the Pirates. Fortin entered game in the fourth quarter, when it was well out of reach, and was 3-6 for 15 yards.
Fedora said that Fortin’s role could increase this week against UCF.
“We’ve said the last two weeks that we expect Cade to play and I’m going to continue to say that,” Feodra said. “I think he showed that he can do some good things out there, which was promising. And so there would be no reason not to.”
Elliott was better on Saturday, but he still struggled for the second consecutive game. He was 22-38 for 219 yards. He did not throw any interceptions, but also did not throw any touchdowns. Against Cal, Elliott was 15-35 for 137 yards, 1 touchdown and four interceptions.
Sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt is serving a suspension for selling team-issued Air Jordan sneakers and will not return until Sept. 27 against Miami.
2. Without Malik Carney, UNC is looking for a leader on defense
Senior safety J.K. Britt said Saturday that he could tell senior defensive end Malik Carney, who was serving the first of his four-game suspension for selling team-issued sneakers, was not on field against ECU. Carney had eight tackles and two sacks in UNC’s game at Cal and was one of 15 players caught up in the shoe sales.
Fedora said Carney is the team’s emotional leader who does the most talking.
“In his absence, the other leaders, J.K. and Cole (Holcomb), they’ve got to be more vocal, where Malik has been that,” Feodra said. “When all of a sudden that guy is not there, somebody else has got to step up and do it.”
3. Weather could affect Saturday’s game
UNC officials are monitoring the weather as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast. Florence, which was a category four hurricane as of Monday, is expected to hit North Carolina or South Carolina on Thursday morning. A decision on the game will be made based on the safety of fans, officials, UCF and others as they travel to the game.
Fedora said everything is still up in the air, but officials have been meeting and having ongoing discussions about the game.
“I know the university will do what’s right, and I’ll go with whatever they decide,” Fedora said.
4. Fedora sticking to his instincts in wake of tough loss
When asked how he plans to turn the season around, Fedora said he’ll utilize the lessons learned from his past mistakes.
“And you rally your team around what we need to do,” Fedora said. “And that is basically circle the wagons, believe in each other, believe in what we’re doing and not worry about anything else and stay focused on your job and do your job.”
UNC was in a similar situation as recently as last year. The Tar Heels started the season 0-2 and finished 3-9.
“I hate the fact that we’re 0-2 right now, but it is what it is,” Fedora said. “You can’t dismiss it. You got to fight, scratch and claw to overcome it. You go through the obstacle, not around it.”
5. UNC preparing for running UCF team
After finishing last year 13-0, the Knights (2-0) have picked up where they left off.
UCF likes to run the football. So far this season, the Knights have 612 total rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. As a team they average 306 rushing yards per game, which is ninth best in the country. Three players have eclipsed 100 rushing yards this season.
The Knights are coming off a 38-0 win over S.C. State this past Saturday.
Fedora said he watched film on UCF Monday morning.
“They can run at every position,” Fedora said. “They got guys that can run all over the field. A lot of really good athletes.”
“They’ve scored on everybody that they’ve played against. So they do a really good job with their offense.”