Rivalry week in college football is unmatched by any other sport. From the Iron Bowl in Alabama to The Game between Ohio State and Michigan; when this week arrives tension rises amongst rival fans and the smack talk reaches a fever pitch. One such place is on Tobacco Road where the North Carolina Tar Heels met the NC State Wolfpack.
Typically in this game you can throw out the records when these teams meet. However, this year was different. You couldn’t throw out UNC’s record because they came into the game at 10-1, having already clinched the ACC Coastal Division Title. Their record was on the line as they sought to get to 11-1 with a meeting with Clemson next week in the ACC Championship Game that could determine a possible berth into the College Football Playoff. This year, the record mattered.
However, if you’ve been following our interview series with UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora you know the only thing that mattered to his team was beating NC State. Their goal of winning a “State Championship” was on the line; as was a chance to redeem themselves from last year’s game. And redeem themselves they did as they jumped out to a blistering 35-7 lead in the 1st quarter and coasted to a dominant 45-34 victory. For all the blue-collar talk from the Wolfpack it was the Tar Heel linemen that pushed the Wolfpack around at will all night long. The Tar Heels walked off the field with a win over their rivals, an 11-1 record, and their season goals met.
Sports-glutton is happy to bring you the last 2015 regular season installment of our exclusive series, Five with Fedora, as Coach Fedora prepares his 8th-ranked Tar Heels to play #1 ranked Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
FIVE WITH FEDORA – Part 11
1) When you were walking off the field after the game yesterday and into the locker room, what did you see in the eyes and faces of your players? – “A lot of happiness is what you saw. A bunch of guys that knew they had reached their goals and just won 11 games in a row which had never been done here before. The look of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from buying into what their coaches asked of them and all of the hard work they put into this season. They did it for each other and the hard work paid off. What I like about these guys is their focus and ability to stay in the moment. What was fun about staying in the moment yesterday was enjoying that win. Not looking ahead, but enjoying that particular win and reaching one of their main goals that they set back on January 6th. That’s what yesterday was about. Beating NC State and winning the State Championship. What I saw in their eyes was awesome.”
2) When you look up and it’s 35-7 in the 1st quarter, and your linemen are pushing their opponent around at will, do you ever have a moment to say to yourself, “Well, this is a pretty good start right here?” – “Not me. That’s just not the way I’m built. I feel like if I do something like that then somebody around me may sense it. And if that causes them to let up then that would be bad. So no, I just can’t do that. It’s not in my DNA.”
3) Your offense rushed for 374 yards, the most in one game in your tenure at UNC, against a team that was only giving up 123 yards a game. Was that part of the game plan or did your team just go out and beat the guy in front of them? – “I think part of it for our guys was the embarrassment of last season. They wanted to set the story straight for who they really are as a team and an offense. They did a great job of coming off the football and being dominant on the line. The running backs ran extremely hard and the receivers were also very physical in their blocking on the perimeter. They also didn’t give up any sacks to a team that was one of the top units in the nation in sacks. I think Marquise did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly, but the line did a great job. Really, both of our lines played physical and beat their guys. Our defensive line got something like 4 sacks and had pressure on their quarterback all game long. So I just think our guys came into this game determined to set the record straight.”
4) When you thought about the game last night, who were the one or two players that stood out to you as being key playmakers in the win? – “I tell you what. First and foremost to me were the receivers blocking on the perimeter. All of them. They were physical and they controlled the edge for us all game long. That’s why our running backs were able to get into the secondary and score touchdowns. That whole group opened up our offense the minute the game started and got us off to a fast start. Defensively I have to single out Sam Smiley. I think he played one of his best games of the season. I was really happy to see him perform that way and just know how far he’s come as a player and a leader on the defense. And then we had guys play big on special teams that usually don’t get many reps. But when guys got hurt they stepped in and not only did their jobs they did them really well. That says a lot about how those guys prepare themselves and how they’re accountable to their teammates and this team.”
5) Your team is now ranked 8th in the nation. Coastal Division Champs. State Champs. You’re in the national conversation. Have you seen an impact of this success on the recruiting trail over the last month? – “The response has been great. And not just locally, but from all over the surrounding areas and states as well. Everybody is talking about Tar Heel football. Everybody is seeing what this team and what this program is all about. They see what we’re building and that big things are possible if you play here. It really is great to be recognized for being successful because it shows our guys that their hard work is paying off and it shows guys interested in playing at Carolina that they can reach their dreams with hard work. Now we’re playing the championship game in Charlotte this week and guys will be able to watch us again on national television play the #1 team in the country. So it’s been good. It’s been really good ”
BONUS: So rumor has it that Thanksgiving isn’t your favorite holiday. Is that true? If not, what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish and what is your favorite holiday? – “(laughing) Actually, it’s not that I don’t like Thanksgiving. I just don’t like where it is on the calendar. It’s always during a week when we have a really meaningful game and it disrupts our preparation. I like the holiday and I do think and believe you should be thankful year round. The players and coaches think it’s funny and like to give me a hard time about it because they know how uptight I get about it. They all text me “Happy Thanksgiving” because they know I’ll hate returning all of those texts. Blake (Anderson) was the one that started all of that even before we got to Carolina. So it’s been going on for a while. If I had to pick my favorite dish I’d probably go with the pies. I love whatever pies my wife makes. We had cherry pie this year and it was great. And my favorite holiday is Christmas, with July 4th being a close second. Those are the times I can relax with my family and concentrate on them. Sometimes our Christmas holiday can be hectic with bowl games but it’s still a special time to me. In fact, this Thanksgiving was great because my whole family was here for the game and all of them but my son will be at the championship game next weekend. That time with them is what matters most to me.”
Sports-glutton.com would like to thank Coach Fedora for his time and we hope you’ve enjoyed our regular season series of “Five with Fedora.”
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