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August 30, 2013
North Carolina second-year head coach Larry Fedora knew coming in his unranked Tar Heels would have to play 60 minutes of near-perfect football to knock off the sixth-ranked Gamecocks in Williams-Brice Stadium. But he wasn't shocked to be heading back to Chapel Hill Thursday night with a loss considering the Tar Heels' inability to execute when it mattered most.
"We played a really good football team tonight, the No. 6 team in the country," said Fedora after the game. "We've got some really good players and coaches and we didn't play the way we wanted to play, obviously. We knew it would be tough coming in here to their stadium and playing a game in this situation, and I was disappointed in the way we played all three phases of the game."
The Tar Heels drove deep into South Carolina territory on two occasions, settling for a field goal on one and failing to convert a fourth-and-goal on the other. Missed opportunities and failure to execute were among Fedora's primary areas of concern after the game.
"We stalled twice down there we had opportunities to get the ball in, and we didn't do it," Fedora said. "We've still got a long way to go, lot of work to do, and we're in year two and I wish we were farther along than we were, but we're not. This was a measuring stick for us."
Fedora also said he was disappointed with some of his team's costly mistakes Thursday night. The Tar Heels allowed a 65-yard touchdown pass on the South Carolina's third play from scrimmage and failed to stop Gamecock running back Mike Davis from bouncing outside to the sideline for a 75-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.
"We worked a lot on eliminating big plays and limiting big plays, and you can't give up two big plays like that," Fedora said. "You can't do that, you can't drop a punt at the 50-yard line. You can't do a lot of things we did. Those were disappointing."
Despite his displeasure with his own team, Fedora wasn't hesitant to praise Davis' play. The sophomore tallied 115 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries.
"I want to give their running back a lot of credit," Fedora said. "That guy broke some tackles. We hit him in the backfield and he's still picking up four or five yards. He did a really nice job. We've got to do a better job tackling."
Fedora said he had planned to establish an offensive rhythm early enough to mitigate Clowney's effect on the game. Fedora said he tried to get the ball out quicker to frustrate the All-American, while also throwing extra blockers and running backs at him to contain him. Clowney finished with three tackles - none of them for losses - and no sacks.
"We felt like if we moved the chains and executed, we could tire [Clowney] out," Fedora said. "You can probably go back and look and there were times when he was tired out there. He can make plays when he wants to make plays...There's no doubt it; he's a great player."
"We knew they were good on the defensive front," added Fedora, whose offense ran a large number of screen and dump passes away from the defensive line. "Everybody has been telling us how good they were, so it was obvious. We knew we had our work cut out for us on that side."
Asked if he would have called the timeout with five seconds remaining had South Carolina not attempted a long pass downfield with 11 seconds left, Fedora replied "probably not."
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