CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The toughest part of North Carolina’s schedule is behind the Tar Heels. Now they hope the wins start coming.
Coach Larry Fedora’s team looks for its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory when North Carolina (1-5, 0-3) plays host to Boston College today.
The Tar Heels have lost four straight with the last two coming against nationally ranked Coastal Division rivals Virginia Tech and Miami.
Things should ease up on them during the last six weeks of the season — the five remaining Bowl Subdivision opponents are a combined 17-15.
“I think about everything and what we can do and trying to turn over every stone to make sure we can get this thing turned because I want it for the worst way for this football team, for these kids, for the investment that they’ve put in,” Fedora said. “You circle the wagons, you keep working hard, you keep investing everything you’ve got, you keep believing in each other, and eventually good things are going to happen.
“I wish I could say that they’re going to happen today, but I don’t have that control. But I do believe it’s going to happen.”
The Tar Heels will try to make it happen against BC (3-3, 1-2) — which has lost three of four but remains the only team to finish within two touchdowns of No. 3 Florida State.
The Eagles haven’t beaten North Carolina since joining the league in 2005, have never won in Chapel Hill and haven’t won an ACC road game since 2011.
“We need to go do that. That has to happen,” first-year coach Steve Addazio said. “You talk about the journey we’re on, if you will. Part of that to me is to go on the road and win a road game.”
Five things to know about BC’s first visit to Chapel Hill since 2008:
ANDRE ALL DAY: The Tar Heels’ beleaguered run defense can’t catch a break. They’re the only ACC team that’s giving up more than 200 yards per game on the ground, and they allowed Miami backup Dallas Crawford to rush for 137 yards in relief of Duke Johnson, the league’s No. 2 rusher who was hurt early in that game. Now comes BC’s Andre Williams, who averages a league-leading 139.7 yards and had last week off. Addazio said his tailback “has really blossomed and he plays a position and a style where I just hope we can keep him healthy.”
DEFENSELESS: Then again, North Carolina struggles just as much to stop the pass. The Tar Heels rank last in the league in all four major defensive stat categories — total defense, scoring defense and defending the run and pass — and are giving up averages of 456 total yards and 30.7 points per game. “We’re making strides. We’re getting better,” Fedora said. “When you play with a lot of energy, usually you’re going to make some things happen.”
LOOKING FOR EBRON: Eric Ebron has been the most dependable component of the Tar Heels’ offense. He set a school record for tight ends with 199 yards receiving against Miami and is nine receptions from the single-season school record of 40 that he set last year. He also leads ACC tight ends with averages of 5.2 catches and 88.7 yards. “Some of those catches that Eric makes, Eric is the only one that is going to make those catches,” Fedora said.
RUNNING EASY: Maybe North Carolina can get its sputtering rushing offense going against a BC team that’s nearly as bad at stopping the run as the Tar Heels are. The Eagles are 13th and UNC is 14th in the conference against the run, with BC allowing 195 yards per game. North Carolina has struggled all year to find a replacement for Gio Bernard, and hasn’t produced a 100-yard rusher since Bernard did it 12 full months ago.
FLAG DAY: If there’s a penalty flag on the field at Kenan Stadium, chances are it will be on North Carolina. BC leads the conference with just 22 penalties and an average of 31.8 yards per game while the Tar Heels are among the most penalized teams in the conference, having been flagged 45 times in six games for an average of 63.2 yards.