North Carolina (1-0) delivered the fourth-largest margin of victory in school history and scored the most points in 17 years in its 62-0 thwacking of Elon (0-1) on Saturday. Fedora drew chuckles on Monday, however, when he told reporters that his offense’s tempo is “still not close to where we want it to be.”
Fedora’s not alone in that belief. During his postgame interview, offensive coordinator Blake Anderson offered this: “I thought we played quick, but we didn’t play what I consider fast.”
Fast has quickly become a relative term around Chapel Hill these days. Nobody would classify UNC’s 44 total offensive plays against Georgia Tech in 2009 as fast, but that type of geared down result would likely subject Fedora to a brain aneurysm.
North Carolina ran 74 plays on Saturday despite Fedora instructing Anderson to shut it down midway through the third quarter. For reference, the Tar Heels have eclipsed the 74-play mark just eight times since the 2005 season, including a high of 81 plays against Duke in 2010.
UNC ran 63 plays through three quarters against Elon after failing to surpass 63 total snaps in 36 games over the last five seasons.
There is not a critical mass moment with regard to the play clock, so don’t get sucked into watching those 40 seconds tick away before each play.
“We really don’t talk about a number on the clock,” Fedora said. “We want to go fast. So what is fast? I don’t know. Just go fast …
“We want to get the ball snapped as quickly as possible.”
The typical transition time between the end of a play and when the official sets the ball at the line of scrimmage is 6-8 seconds, according to Fedora, who acknowledged that he would prefer his offense to get the ball snapped once its ready for play.
That requires all 11 players to hustle to the line of scrimmage, possibly in a new formation and communicate with the sideline for the play call and snap count before snapping the ball.
That process didn’t consistently take place on Saturday.
One of the benefits of a huddle is the ability for the quarterback to throw the ball or hand off to his tail back and then relax, knowing that he has 15-20 seconds before his teammates huddle up to discuss the next play. That luxury is no longer available.
“I just got lackadaisical in that,” quarterback Bryn Renner said. “I wanted to watch the play develop a little bit. That’s just a bad habit I was in from last year being able to huddle.”
The blame doesn’t all fall on Renner, though. Part of the issue is a lack of live game action. In practice, the offense typically works from the same line of scrimmage for each play instead of moving up and down the field, allowing the players to stay put for the next snap.
North Carolina ran nine plays for 107 yards and a touchdown on its first two possessions – eating up 2:23 of game clock – and Fedora still made a point to tell Renner to pick up the pace. The first-year UNC head coach reiterated the need to speed up the offense to his quarterback after the first quarter, despite the Tar Heels churning out 216 yards on 21 plays.
Renner, of course, wasn’t the only Tar Heel shuffling through molasses on the Kenan Stadium field.
“[Anderson] said there were times we all sat around and really just watched a play, not really running up to the ball and getting ready for the next play,” running back Gio Bernard said. “There are four or five times where we could have gotten an extra play or two off.”
Renner summed up the slow reaction time with flawless candor, saying, “I can’t be a spectator – I might as well just buy a ticket.”
That’s not to suggest that the tempo was lacking throughout the entire game, however. Late in the second quarter, North Carolina faced a 3rd-and-13 from Elon’s 25-yard line. Renner connected with wide receiver Mark McNeill on a slant pass for 12 yards, just shy of the first down sticks.
The junior signal caller promptly hurried his offense to the line of scrimmage, and while Elon was still trying to get a defensive call in for the 4th-and-1 play, Renner snapped the ball and secured the first down with a two-yard sneak.
That particular play highlighted this offense’s potential in keeping defenses off-balance and out of position. The Tar Heels just have to replicate that urgency throughout the entire 60 minutes of game clock.
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