Head coach Larry Fedora offered a simple answer regarding his defense’s performance during his weekly press conference on Monday.
“Too many missed assignments; way too many missed assignments.”
The Demon Deacons churned out 426 yards of total offense, including a 5.8 yards-per-play average.
Quarterback Tanner, despite playing behind an inexperienced and hobbled offensive line, completed 27 of his 38 passes for a career-high 327 yards and one interception. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro also set career marks with 13 catches for 164 yards.
Fedora told reporters that UNC’s defense gave up too many big plays – five different Wake Forest receivers had plays of 14 yards or more – and indicated the mistaken-laden effort was “totally different” than what the unit had done against Elon.
“This was the first game plan that was installed in a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday and that’s it,” Fedora said. “I think we talked about that earlier in the week and I don’t think we handled that very well. So when you have missed assignments and you start giving up plays because you’re not where you are supposed to be…
“That definitely affected our mental makeup on that side of the ball and that wasn’t good.”
Senior middle linebacker Kevin Reddick pointed to miscommunication amongst the players for the majority of the missed assignments, especially concerning Campanaro’s production. The senior wideout earned his living on crossing routes over the middle.
“Sometimes we were doubling him and guys didn’t double him when they were supposed to or some guys were supposed to pick him up when he came across the middle,” Reddick said. “Just little things and guys didn’t do that.”
Fedora has declined to inform media and fans which defensive coach – associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning or defensive coordinator Dan Disch – is calling plays on game day, but Reddick stressed the issue was not players getting the calls in from the sideline, but rather the players not getting on the same page once the play call was known.
“Some of us were in one coverage and the [defensive backs] were probably in a different one,” Reddick said. “Or the DBs were doing the right thing and the linebackers or defensive line were doing the wrong [thing]. Just different things throughout the game. Once we got the play and the checks – one back, two back – some people checked it as two backs, some people checked it as one back. That goes to miscommunication.”
The defense settled down after halftime, holding Wake Forest to 69 yards on its first five possessions, but the Demon Deacons took advantage of a 15-yard face-masking penalty deep in their own territory to set up their game-winning 93-yard touchdown drive in the final seven minutes of regulation.
Reddick explained the increase in missed assignments due to the defensive game plan expanding. After staying bare-bone basic against Elon, Koenning and Disch dialed up the complexity in hopes of confusing the Demon Deacons. Instead, that plan backfired and only served to confuse the Tar Heels.
“We’re probably going to go back to simpler things rather than doing new stuff this week,” Reddick said.
Last Wednesday, Koenning cautioned against drawing too much from UNC’s performance over Elon.
“It’s a long, long hard climb to the penthouse and a short fall to the outhouse,” Koenning said. “We’re just climbing right now. We’re at the first steps and every week is a season.”
The next season takes place at No. 19 Louisville on Saturday, where the Tar Heels will be tasked with defending dual-threat quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (49-of-60 passing, 576 yards, 2 TD).
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