ACC Teleconference: North Carolina coach Larry Fedora
COACH FEDORA: We are preparing for another very important road game for us in our quest. We’ve got a team that we know that is playing better than they were at the beginning of season. They are probably playing their best football right now. I think they have bought into the system now and are playing extremely hard. So we’re looking forward to a very good football team.
Q. When you have a passing offense like yours and the guys are watching film of how Virginia has struggled in pass defense — do their eyes light up a little bit and do you have to sell them on the fact that Virginia does have some capabilities on pass defense and rein them in?
COACH FEDORA: No, we don’t have to rein them in. Our guys look at tape as students of the game. They don’t really look at it as fans. They are looking at techniques, they are looking at coverages. They are looking at all the different things that are going to be important to them in a football game.
So they don’t look at numbers. They are not looking at the numbers of what somebody’s done. It’s how do I defeat this defender and this coverage, what the coverages look like, so I can recognize coverages.
I think I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that they can’t play pass defense. I don’t look at it that way.
Q. On the flipside of the ball, what have you seen from your run defense and what do you need to improve there?
COACH FEDORA: Well, I think we’ve gotten a little bit better each and every week. And so Virginia gives you a little unique deal with the big splits and the offensive line and the things that they are trying to do in the running game.
So it adds a little bit to what you have to do scheme-wise defensively. So our guys are going to have to make tackles in space. That’s going to be the big thing.
Q. You guys obviously have a deep core of receivers but can you talk about losing Hollins and what that means to the passing game?
COACH FEDORA: Yeah, I think overall, the biggest thing is losing Mack’s leadership. He was probably one of the strongest leaders on our football team. Not having him out on the field; Mack will still be there leading as best he can but he won’t be out there, and losing him on the field, lose a guy that’s got a lot of experience and a lot of confidence, a guy that can definitely stretch the field. And so somebody else is going to have to step up in that role.
Q. And obviously right now, Ryan Switzer is leading the league in receiving. Can you talk about the job he’s doing? He’s always been known as a punt returner but he’s really emerged as a top receiver in the conference this year.
COACH FEDORA: Well and if you think back to Ryan never played receiver in high school. He was a running back, and so his progression has been really tremendous in learning how to run routes, how to get open, how to recognize coverages, where the weaknesses in the coverages, how the concepts fit, all of those things. I mean, it’s been leaps and bounds how far he’s come.
Q. Do you feel like the defensive performance against Miami is something that can really be a springboard for the guys and give them some momentum here down the stretch?
COACH FEDORA: I hope so. I think our guys, they have gained a lot of confidence in what they have done the last few weeks defensively. I think that they have been slowly getting a little bit better, maybe not the numbers game but just in the way they have played. I think they have gained a little bit of confidence each and every week. I think this was really big for us, what they did last week, and hopefully they can do the same type of thing this week, which will give them a lot of confidence going into the open week.
Q. Do you feel like it was almost something where making the play to help win the game at the end was needed just for the psychological aspect.
COACH FEDORA: I think that always helps. We’ve been talking about it for the last couple of weeks because the offense had been put in those positions at the end of a couple of games and had success.
You know, just prior to that, the last two weeks of practice on Wednesdays when we do our two-minute situation, the defense had won both, and we talked about it after practice that, hey, your time is coming. You’re going to be out there. We don’t know when. It’s going to come and it happened last Saturday and they stepped up.
Q. I guess the records show that you have never lost a game to Virginia including the two games Southern Miss. Is there a particular game that you remember, maybe the game two years ago when you came back on them?
COACH FEDORA: I’m not sure what the question is.
Q. With your success against Virginia, is there a game that you remember fondly?
COACH FEDORA: Yeah, I would say probably the first time we played when we were Southern Miss. They were as pretty a team as you ever would see, and they came in there and put it on us in the first half. And then I think the heat and humidity got to them down there in Southern Mississippi and they kind of melted in the second half, and our guys just gained a lot of strength from that.
Q. I see where you came back from 34-17 to win the game.
COACH FEDORA: Yes, that’s correct.
Q. How about the game two years ago when they had you by two touchdowns?
COACH FEDORA: Yeah, you know, I mean, then you’re talking about Mitch Trubisky coming in and throwing a touchdown pass when Marquise’s helmet was it was knocked off. As you look back over Mitch’s career, I mean, when you started seeing him come into situations like that, it’s third and seven I think, Marquise’s helmet gets knocked off.
We’ve got a time-out to use but don’t use it because was confident that the kid could make the play and he went in and one play and throws a touchdown pass. You know, that’s the points we needed to win the game.
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