North Carolina's offense wasn't supposed to be a question mark.
The Tar Heels entered Larry Fedora's third season figuring that they would move the ball consistently and put up big scoring totals that could offset some of the defensive problems from last year. And yet, UNC has been up and down heading into Saturday's trip to No. 6 Notre Dame.
To listen to Fedora, the problem isn't the scheme or a question of talent. The problems are the result of small mistakes running throughout the unit, whether it's the footwork by offensive linemen while blocking, the angle a receiver takes in a downfield route or a presnap penalty.
"I would say fine," Fedora said Monday when asked about the confidence of his offensive players. "But I'm not a guy that wavers up and down on my confidence based on one game. I don't know how you do that. There's frustration involved. But I don't think there's a lack of confidence in what we do or how we do things."
The numbers look OK on first glance for the Tar Heels (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). They're in the top third of the league in scoring at 36 points and in the middle of the league in total offense at around 415 yards per game.
But they're near the bottom of the league in rushing yardage and rushing attempts. Their running backs, including touted underclassmen T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood, aren't getting many carries and the ground game is largely reliant on quarterback Marquise Williams.
In addition, the Tar Heels have gone through flat stretches.
They didn't take control of the opener against Liberty until getting a run of four touchdowns in a 4-minute spurt after halftime, aided by several defensive takeaways. They punted on 5 of 7 drives to start the San Diego State win. And against Virginia Tech over the weekend, UNC punted six times and turned it over on downs three others in a 10-possession stretch while falling behind big in the 34-17 loss.
Last year Fedora said that the team's second-half surge began in part because players began to trust that the guy next to them would do their job. It's hard to see how that can happen right now considering the number of small breakdowns adding up in different areas.
"That can kill us because if you try to do someone else's job, you're not going to be able to do your own," offensive guard Landon Turner said. "So I think we need to continue to grind and start trusting each other more and doing our own jobs.
"Like I said, it's that individual battle. Find whatever it is you need to do to fix those little things that you're lacking in."
Fedora said there's only one way to fix the small mistakes.
"You can fix it whenever you decide as an individual you want to fix it," he said. "I've been talking about it from the beginning and will continue to talk about it until those switches do flip."
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