UNC looks for turnaround in 2nd half of year
North Carolina at least has a realistic chance to turn around the ACC's worst record during the back half of the season.
Among the final six opponents for the last-place Tar Heels (1-5, 0-3) are an FCS team and five conference foes with a combined record of 17-15.
And the turnaround has to start this week against Boston College (3-3, 1-2).
"We're in a tough spot right now in our season with where we are," coach Larry Fedora said Monday. "It's just us. That's it. It's circle the wagons and play hard and practice hard and prepare hard and do the things and find a way to get a win."
That hasn't been easy so far. The Tar Heels have dropped four straight since their only victory, a 40-20 win over Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 7.
"We're not struggling right now. We just can't find a way to win ball games," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "We're having one of those seasons where we're not just making enough plays to win the ball game. It happens sometimes. This is not where we wanted to be, but we're going to fight out of it and have a battle the rest of the six games."
If nothing else, things should be easier the rest of the way because the Tar Heels are through with the top three teams in the ACC's Coastal Division.
The remaining schedule includes three of the other bottom four teams in the Coastal — Duke (5-2), Pittsburgh (4-2) and Virginia (2-5) — plus the Atlantic's last-place team, the Wolfpack (3-3).
"We understand (the difficulty of the schedule so far) but we're not going to use it as a crutch," Renner said. "We go into every game as every game's going to be a battle. We have a tough schedule, but I'd rather play tough teams than play cupcakes, and that's just the way our team is built. Can we lean on that? Yeah, but are we going to? No. I think we're going to battle the next six games."
According to the Sagarin computer rankings, UNC has played the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation.
The five teams that have beaten the Tar Heels are a combined 26-8 and include three nationally ranked teams: No. 20 South Carolina, No. 19 Virginia Tech and most recently No. 7 Miami, which won 27-23 last week after scoring the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left.
"I think we've put it to bed and moved on," Fedora said. "You have to. You realize that when you play like that, you can play with anybody in the country and you've got to build off those things."
Such as the play of freshman T.J. Logan, who was listed as this week's starter at running back.
He ran for 61 yards against Miami — and that counts as a good day by the standards of a team that hasn't produced a 100-yard rusher since Gio Bernard did it last October against N.C. State, and hasn't had anybody match the 69 rushing yards Romar Morris gained in the opener against South Carolina.
Fedora says he plans to continue using a rotation at running back along with senior A.J. Blue and Morris, but said Logan — who missed the first four games due to injuries — "did some really nice things, and he's coming on.
"I still don't think we've seen him where he's going to be," Fedora said of Logan, the North Carolina AP prep player of the year from Greensboro. "Each week he feels a little more comfortable. ... I think he'll just get better each week."