“Don’t know if ‘surprised,’ is the right word, “ head coach Everett Withers said. “If you just play and stay with the plan, we knew we’d have a chance to be successful.
“We are about the journey. (We tell the team), let’s talk about the season at the end.”
Offensive lineman James Hurst said, “Actually, we’re not really surprised. We thought we were going to be a good team, we thought we had a good team last spring. Even in training camp, we thought we had a great training camp.
“We feel like we are where we need to be, we feel like Georgia Tech may have slipped away from us, but that’s over now. All we can do is win out, and that’s our goal.”
Whether it’s due to the way UNC has won, or the level of competition, the players know the path to getting respect in the polls and national press during the second half of the season.
“We not really getting any respect,” cornerback Jabari Price said. “As you can see, we’re 5-1, and we’re still not ranked. In order to make a statement to the world, we have to show up (at this part) of the season.”
Added Hurst, “We try not to pay attention to that stuff. The polls, it’s great to be ranked, but at the same time if you’re not ranked people aren’t putting pressure on you from all different places. All we can do is win our games, and if the media doesn’t think that’s enough, then they don’t. All we can do is go out there on Saturdays and win, that that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
* Withers talked about a discussion he had with star defensive lineman Quinton Coples on Monday morning, during which Coples told Withers that the coach had done a good job at not letting the Tar Heels think too much about their success. “Sometimes in the past we’ve let success go to our heads,” Withers said.
* After the Georgia Tech loss specifically, as well as at other times this season, Withers has seemed more willing to point out deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. He switched that up on Monday when discussing the first half woes against Louisville. “The biggest issue was trying to get off the field on defense,” Withers said.
How do you do that?
“We’ve just got to believe in the play call and run it to perfection,” Price said.
Quarterback Bryn Renner wasn’t quite so willing to point the finger of blame to one side of the ball over the other.
“We have to do our job and so does the defense,” Renner said. “The only thing we can do is focus on the offensive standpoint, but I think the defense played great all day.”
* Renner took four sacks against Louisville. Withers said that not all of those sacks were due to a lack of decisiveness on the part of Renner, as was part of the problem against Georgia Tech. In this case, Withers explained that on at least two occasions the Cardinals were in a “Bear” alignment, with an extra rusher on the line of scrimmage when the Tar Heels were in a “naked,” or no back alignment. “They just had the right call at the right time,” the coach said.
* After seeing a variety of offensive and defensive approaches so far this season, Withers sees a lot of similarities between his squad and the Miami team UNC will face on Saturday.
“(They are) very similar to us,” Withers said. “They are similar in lot of ways schematically.” Miami utilizes a comparable offensive scheme behind the running of Lamar Miller, and also uses a 4-3 base defense.
Withers explained that while the Hurricanes run the ball well inside, the biggest challenge for the Tar Heels is going to be in setting the edge and not letting the Hurricanes’ backs to get outside.
"We've got a big challenge this weekend and we look forward to that challenge," Withers said.
On Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, Withers noted that Harris is second in the ACC in passing efficiency in the ACC, one spot behind Bryn Renner. Harris also brings another dimension to the table: “He’s a guy who can also hurt you with his legs,” Withers said.