The Tar Heels (2-2) close their nonconference schedule against the Vandals (0-4), knowing that next week's home contest against Virginia Tech starts a run of seven straight Atlantic Coast Conference games to end Larry Fedora's first season as coach here. But Fedora said he hadn't even thought that there might be a risk of his players looking ahead to the league schedule, not with so much for them to work on in practice.
"It's still about figuring out who we are as a football team - what the identity of our football team is - and that's still an evolving process," Fedora said. "But we do know the best way to get there is to prepare and prepare the right way. It's not so much physical as it is mental."
North Carolina had a wild first month under Fedora.
The Tar Heels opened with a 62-0 win against Championship Subdivision opponent Elon, but lost top rusher Gio Bernard to a knee injury in the first half of that game. Bernard missed the next two games. The Tar Heels lost both.
First they surrendered the winning touchdown with about 2 minutes left in a 28-27 loss at Wake Forest, then they fell behind 29-0 in the first half at Louisville before nearly pulling off a stunning comeback in a 39-34 loss.
But Bernard returned and scored two touchdowns in last week's 27-6 win against East Carolina, which was the first of three straight home games.
Quarterback Bryn Renner has thrown for nearly 700 yards in the past two games and looks like he's comfortable leading Fedora's no-huddle attack, while the defense is coming off a confidence-building performance against the Pirates that included seven sacks.
"It should give us a lot" of confidence, linebacker Kevin Reddick said. "We wanted to get out there and try to have another game like we had last week - or have better."
The Vandals are coming off a 40-37 overtime home loss to Wyoming and have committed seven turnovers in the past two games, including a 63-14 loss at LSU two weeks ago. Last week, Idaho lost three fumbles and gave up three sacks.
Idaho and North Carolina have never met.
"We need more - and less," Idaho coach Robb Akey said. "We need to make that one more play to win the game. We need more of the plays that we have made. We need less of the adversity-creating plays."
Fedora and his players have talked about the importance of the regular season since the program is banned from a bowl this year due to NCAA violations for improper benefits and academic misconduct. They're still working on how to play with more consistency.
"You can't come out one week here at the top and then come out the next week down low," Price said. "The fans see it, your parents see it. My parents critique me the most all the time so you try to have the same energy level every week."