T.J. Thorpe, North Carolina's junior receiver, said on Saturday that the Tar Heels were “out-efforted” by East Carolina during UNC's 70-41 defeat. Later, Thorpe told reporters that he thought some of his teammates had quit and given up.
Larry Fedora, in his third season as UNC's coach, disagreed.
“I didn't see anybody give up,” Fedora said on Monday during his usual weekly press conference. “I don't know what he saw. But I didn't see that.”
Fedora acknowledged this much, though: It's troubling, indeed, to hear a player make those kinds of statements.
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“You don't want to ever hear a player say that,” Fedora said. “I'd have to talk to T.J. and find out why he said that. I didn't see that.”
UNC's energy certainly seemed to fade the more lopsided the score became. The Tar Heels were winning in the second quarter, but a couple of quick ECU touchdowns – one on a 3rd-and-28 play from the UNC 44-yard line – turned the momentum in the Pirates' favor.
It stayed there, too. UNC started the second half with possession, but Marquise Williams threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. It didn’t get much prettier after that.
Still, Fedora said UNC's problems weren't related to effort – or a lack of it.
“No, I'm not going to say effort was an issue,” Fedora said. “I think we got some guys that were tired on defense. We really did. And again, when you spread the field and you miss a tackle out in the open field, and you've got guys that are tired, they don't get there as quick and it results in explosive plays. And you saw a bunch of them.”
Andrew Carter is the UNC athletics beat reporter for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewcarter .