UNC's defense has been dominant during the past six quarters. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — Here are some numbers: 360 yards allowed and 36 points. And: 321 yards and nine points.
The first set of numbers? You might remember those well. That’s what the North Carolina defense allowed in the first half of its 39-34 defeat at Louisville. The second set of numbers? That’s what the Tar Heels have allowed in the six quarters since.
What changed? How did the Tar Heels go from one of their worst defensive halves in recent memory to six straight quarters of keeping their opponents out of the end zone? I wrote about that in a story you can read right here.
The short of it, for those who might not be keen on reading a full 900 or so words? Nothing changed. Well, at least nothing schematically.
“We had an attitude adjustment,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said when I asked him yesterday what might have changed about the defense after that first half at Louisville. “That was about it. Really, scheme-wise, we didn’t do anything differently … Because when we looked back – when we went back and looked in the second half [at Louisville] … it was the same calls.”
Like just about everything else in Fedora’s first season, the defense remains a work in progress. The Tar Heels only began practicing the 4-2-5 in the spring, which seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? But it’s only been about six months.
Building and maintaining confidence is as important as anything, said Vic Koenning, the Heels’ associate head coach for defense.
“They’re not just completely sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Koenning said, “and how they’re supposed to be doing it.”
So maybe that’s how the first half at Louisville happened. One mistake turned into two. And two into three. And before the Heels had time to correct anything, they’d surrendered nearly 400 yards and 40 points in just two quarters.
But the team made some adjustments at halftime of that game – at least mental ones – that have appeared to carry over.