After bowl win, UNC fans can be optimistic for 2014
Posted December 28, 2013
Charlotte, N.C. — Addressing the North Carolina fans at Bank of America Stadium Saturday after accepting the Belk Bowl trophy, Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora shouted, “I promise you, next year we will be even better!”
While obviously garnering a loud ovation from the thousands of blue-clad faithful, it also planted a seed. A 7-6 record looks, feels and generally sits with a fan base a lot better than a 6-7 record when they have eight months until the next game.
“I’m really excited about our future,” Fedora said in his postgame press conference before rattling off the names of nearly a dozen true freshmen that made an impact in 2013. “We are going in the right direction. Good things are coming in our future.”
Saturday in Charlotte, freshman scored two of the five touchdowns while sophomore Romar Morris added two more. True freshman Ryan Switzer was named the game’s MVP after his fifth punt return for a score of the season, tying the NCAA FBS record for returns in a season and also matching the career mark at UNC.
“Coming into camp I was third on the depth chart and I was mad,” Switzer admitted after the game. “I took that as a challenge and worked my way up.”
For Fedora and UNC fans alike, optimism isn’t unwarranted headed into 2014 for the simple fact that the team closed the year winners of six out of seven.
“What I’ll remember most about this season is when we were 1-5,” Fedora said. “There was nobody that thought we would be here today when we were 1-5 except the guys in that locker room.”
Another settling point, UNC, unquestionably an offensive-minded team, will lose just four starters on defense next year. A defense that held opponents to 20 points or less in five of the last seven games and gave Cincinnati fits registering a safety and sacking Bearcats quarterback Brendon Kay five times.
“Defensively we played really well in the first half,” Fedora said of the bowl game. “We dominated in the first half really.”
Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville agreed, saying, “They knew we were missing three offensive linemen and they threw the kitchen sink at us.”
Of the 22 starters in the Belk Bowl, just five were seniors while 13 were either freshmen or sophomores.
A hole will need to be filled on the coaching staff after the departure of offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, but any gaps on that side of the ball were not evident Saturday in Charlotte. With eight months to prepare under offensively-driven Fedora, there is no reason to believe the transition will be anything but smooth in filling that role. As far as a timetable for that goes, Fedora said there isn’t one and they will go through the process.
While it was far from a sell-out at Bank of America Stadium Saturday, just two hours down the road from Chapel Hill, closing the season on national television with a win will make for a happier offseason for UNC fans. And as Fedora put it in regards to recruiting, “winning breeds success.”