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Scouting the TarHeels... some news stories.


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After pair of close losses, Tar Heels still learning under Davis

By AARON BEARD

AP Sports Writer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. | Butch Davis has seen his first North Carolina team show enough improvement to be just two field goals away from a 3-0 start.

At the same time, a loss is a loss and Davis isn't talking about moral victories.

Balancing optimism and realism with this young team requires a delicate touch for Davis. He's pushing hard to quickly rebuild the downtrodden program, yet he's also trying to remain patient as the Tar Heels try to absorb everything their new coach is teaching them.

"Our kids are trying to learn," Davis said Monday. "They're trying to do the best they can. We're asking them to master an awful lot of things in a very short amount of time. We've played three ballgames and we're really truly trying to challenge them an awful lot - and maybe in some ways a little too much."

Davis is hardly apologizing for what North Carolina (1-2) has done so far. If anything, the Tar Heels have shown they're ahead of schedule on offense despite having a redshirt freshman at quarterback. That was enough to give them an easy win against James Madison in the opener and keep them in games with East Carolina and Virginia.

But consistency has been a problem, and their defense hasn't done much to stop anybody, either. In a 34-31 loss to the Pirates, the Tar Heels blew a 17-7 lead and allowed Patrick Pinkney to throw for 406 yards in his first start in a game decided by a last-second field goal.

Then, in Saturday's 22-20 loss, Virginia running back Cedric Peerman ran for 186 yards and a touchdown in a game that came down to a 48-yard field goal that was first ruled no good before being overturned after a replay challenge.

Those losses are quite a change from the series of lopsided defeats that came under former coach John Bunting. But things are about to get tougher for the Tar Heels, staring with Saturday's trip to No. 23 South Florida - which is coming off a win at Auburn - followed by games with Virginia Tech, Miami, South Carolina and defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Wake Forest.

It's a tough obstacle for North Carolina to make good on Davis' pledge to have his team improve every week.

"The problem is when 11 guys have to play, eight can handle it and three might not be able to handle something," he said. "So you're always put in a situation as a coach of what's the best: do you try to challenge the three to catch up to the eight or do you try to bring the eight back to the three?"

Still, right tackle Garrett Reynolds said the team remains confident despite its close losses.

"We've played to the last minute in both games we lost," he said, "and we're going to keep playing like that the rest of the season and we're going to start getting some wins."

Also on Monday, Davis said he has requested the ACC review and clarify the challenge procedure that led to the overturned call on the decisive field goal, though he said the third-quarter kick - which barely cleared the crossbar - was good.

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UNC postgame clipboard

Robbi Pickeral, Staff Writer

INSIDE THE GAME

First, a last-second field goal by East Carolina. Then, a failed 2-point conversion against Virginia. UNC (1-2) has been used to losing over the past half-decade. But not like this.

"It's rough, especially being so close," H-back Zack Pianalto said after the 22-20 loss Saturday. "A lot of people say they'd rather get blown out than be right there; it hurts a lot worse. But we're going to learn a lot from this game, just like we learned a lot from last week. We're going to continue to grow."

One of the biggest improvements they need to make: taking care care of the ball. The Tar Heels lost two fumbles and an interception to the Cavaliers but couldn't manage to hop on the ball when Virginia mishandled it twice.

"It has compounding issues that go along with it," coach Butch Davis said Sunday. "Not only do you give the ball away and prevent your offense from opportunities -- all three of our turnovers were in the plus territory, over the 50-yard line, that conceivably could have led to the opportunity of points."

GREAT CALL

Sticking with one tailback. Freshman Johnny White may have gained only 60 yards on 16 carries, but he also gained an awful lot of experience. Sophomore Richie Rich was the only other tailback to get a rush; he had zero yards.

"One of the things with running backs ... he has to get a feel, and he has to see things more than one time to realize 'I should have cut that one back;' or 'I should have cut that one to the outside;' 'I should have stayed in the hole;' 'I was a little impatient,' " said Davis, who had used three tailbacks in the first two games.

THIS WON'T MAKE THE COACH'S SHOW

ACC associate commissioner Mike Finn said Sunday that as a normal course of action, coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads will review the tape of UVa kicker Chris Gould's 48-yard field goal -- which originally was called no good, then overturned after a coach's challenge.

In press box replays, ACC back judge Virgil Valdez appeared to duck as the ball went inside the low left corner of the uprights.

After studying the tape, Finn said, Rhoads will likely talk with the game officials to determine how the miscue occurred, and how they can keep it from happening again. The important thing, Finn pointed out, was that the correct call eventually was made.

MATCHUP THAT MATTERED

Cavs tailback Cedric Peerman vs. UNC's defense. The Tar Heels simply couldn't slow Peerman, who scored a touchdown and shredded UNC for a career-high 186 yards. "As a front seven in general, we didn't play very good run defense at all," Davis said.

LOOKING AHEAD

UNC will travel to No. 23 South Florida -- which is located in Tampa, not actually in the southern part of the state -- for a noon game at Raymond James Stadium. Carolina is 0-1 against the Bulls, losing 37-20 last season. USF is 2-0 this season, but hasn't played since it won at Auburn on Sept. 8.

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I know this is off topic - but how wierd is it that ECU has had two consecutive QBs named Pinkney - who are not related? Is the name that common?

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North Carolina has some young talent, like that WR who ran in that highlight reel TD catch this past weekend and their 5 star D-lineman guy.

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I'm getting sick of "Their in Tampa not really from south Florida"

What grade level is this guy writing for?

Wait, his name is Robbi now I know.

Is North Carolina in the north part of Carolina?

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Tar Heels trying to right the ship at USF

UNC shoring up defense, run game

By: Nicole Lukosius, SportSaturday Editor

Issue date: 9/18/07 Section: Sports

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Media Credit: DTH File/John W. Adkisson

Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell breaks through North Carolina tacklers in Saturday's game. UNC gave up a total 197 net rushing yards that day.

North Carolina has now lost its past two games by an average of 2.5 points and taken both contests down to the wire.

Looking to turn it around on the road, the Tar Heels won't expect things to get any easier as they travel to face No. 23 South Florida on Saturday.

The Bulls (2-0) had a bye this weekend but came out firing the week before, handing then-No. 17 Auburn a disappointing 26-23 overtime loss at home. North Carolina head coach Butch Davis said he is looking forward to the test USF will present because it will give the team a chance to work on aspects that have been problematic.

"This will be a big challenge," Davis said. "For us to become a better football team, we've got to make some strides and improve in some of the areas that have been issues for us."

Some of these issues include tackling and swarming the opponent. Against both East Carolina and Virginia, UNC (1-2, 0-1 ACC) gave up about 100 yards after contact was made.

Junior Cedric Peerman ran all over North Carolina on Saturday, rushing for 186 yards in Virginia's 22-20 victory. That was triple the amount the entire UNC squad earned, which was a dismal 60 yards.

"We've got to do a better job in run defense, and that starts with the tackling aspect of it," Davis said. "We've got to play in kind of a more of a gang-tackling, swarming-type defensive mentality to try to get more guys to limit some of the run after the catch and run after contact."

The Tar Heels will also be trying to get their own running game off the ground. Not only would a successful run game take pressure off the passing game to perform well, it would also allow for the offense to maintain control of the ball longer.

Fortunately for North Carolina, redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates has been able to scramble and come up with some yardage when the play appears to be heading south. And while it's comforting to know playmakers like Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate are on the field, junior offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds said others need to get involved.

"We've got guys ... that can keep us in the game if something does go wrong," Reynolds said. "But you can't always rely on those guys, so that's why we've got to get the running game going and keep the defense off the field."

South Florida has already managed to put up solid rushing numbers in only two games. The Bulls have outrushed UNC by 31 yards - 270 to 239 - and have played one fewer game, so North Carolina will have its hands full once again.

But Reynolds said he is confident the Tar Heels can rush for impressive numbers, too.

"It's there - we've seen on films we've watched after games, it's there," Reynolds said. "We're that close to just having them break away, so we're just going to keep working and hold off those blocks."

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From the Rocky Mount (NC) Telegram

Tar Heels struggle to find the right mix before facing surprise Bulls

By Jessie H. Nunery

Rocky Mount Telegram

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When North Carolina visits No. 23 South Florida on Saturday, the Bulls will undoubtedly present a number of challenges.

But before the Tar Heels venture to Tampa, Fla. in an attempt to knock off the No. 23 team in the nation – a South Florida squad who scored a road victory at Auburn two Saturdays ago – they have some identity searching to do.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis is taking a look at everything from what positions he is using players to the play-calling terminology, as he tries to figure out how to give his team a chance to get over the hump. Davis' squad has lost its last two games to East Carolina and Virginia by a combined five points.

"We're asking them to master a lot of things in an awful short amount of time," Davis said. "Maybe some of it is a little too much. In our exuberance to accelerate this football team, are we asking them to do more than they are ready to do mentally with the amount of inexperience?"

Davis said the team's lack of depth forces him to use some players on both defense and special teams. The Tar Heels (1-2, 0-1 ACC) have played 10 true freshmen this season, the most for any North Carolina team since 2004.

While seniors such as defensive end Hilee Taylor have had productive seasons – Taylor had three sacks Saturday against Virginia – Davis said the Tar Heels do not have a large amount of role models to look to on the team. This team so far has had to learn through losing more than winning.

"We don't have 15 seniors to hold on a pedestal and say, 'watch how he does it, this is what we want you to do,' Davis said. "Slowly, we'll build a body of plays and players you can do that with."

Until then, the Tar Heels will have to grow up on their own. So far, the results have been a mixed bag. Quarterback T.J. Yates has a firm grip on the starting role and has three reliable receivers who have made plays despite a rushing attack that has no true leader.

The Tar Heels' defense, after a good start against James Madison, has allowed 30 or more points in the two losses.

"I know we're a better team," defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer said. "I know we'll get it corrected. We know we should be 3-0. We just keep shooting ourselves in the foot. It's hurting us."

Davis has experienced the agony of close defeats before. As an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, he went through a 1-15 season where the team lost its share of single-digit games.

Davis said the Cowboys learned from those losses and went on to win three Super Bowls. Davis' concern for now, is making sure his players continue to "mine for gold" with the hopes that soon enough, they come up with more than just a few nuggets.

"No one likes not to win," Davis said. "We've tried not to focus the entire season about winning and losing. Ultimately it is about winning and losing, but it's also about getting better and developing the habits that are going to allow you to win. My perception so far is that they're handling that pretty well. I think they are frustrated when they don't have success, which is natural."

Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9951 or jhnunery@coxnc.com

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