The University of North Carolina is pulling out all the stops. They are marketing this game as one for the ages. In what has been dubbed "Zero Dark Thursday" by the UNC sports marketing staff, this team is ready to challenge the tenth-ranked University of Miami. The team is even trading in its powder blue uniforms for an all-black attire.
They are going from looking like a troop of Smurfs to a bunch of Darth Vader wannabes. No matter what uniforms they are wearing, they are still 1-4 and 0-2 in the conference.
Head Coach Larry Fedora said on Wednesday that he wants to show the country that UNC can play football and that despite its record it is one of the best teams in the ACC. This will not be a North Carolina team that is going to just roll out the red carpet and play at half speed against Miami. They know what is at stake and they know that this game could make their season.
"We're extremely excited about playing in Chapel Hill on Thursday night in front of the entire country against a great Miami team," Fedora said. "We're busily preparing for it and really look forward to this game tomorrow night."
Fedora said that Miami's ability to run the football will dictate how the game is played. The Tar Heels, who have been plagued with an inability to stop the run so far this season, could find themselves staring at the backs of the jerseys belonging to Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford.
"You've got to stop the run. That's where it starts," Fedora said. "You're going to have to stop the run, or they're going to crush you with the run the entire game, and then they're going to take their chances and hit you over the top. That's what they make a living with, the big plays."
Miami has got to show up and bring their top guns. They cannot play down to the level of their opponent and they must strike when they have the chance. UNC is not a good football team, but they do have some weapons at quarterback and tight end. They must be neutralized quickly to take the crowd out of the game. They need for Stephen Morris to bring his accuracy and precision and for Johnson to bring his dancing shoes. He also has to protect the football better than he has in recent weeks.
Fedora said that their safeties are going to have to get more involved in the box and read the receivers eyes better than they have in the past.
"The safeties are going to have to do a great job with their eyes and their reads and we're going to have to play flawless."
UNC's safeties are going to have their hands full with UM's receivers. Look for Philip Dorsett, Allan Hurns and Stacy Coley to take control early. After Morris finds the receivers a few times for big plays, it will leave Clive Walford open on the seam routes all night long. That is after Miami establishes the run early with Johnson and Crawford.
Fedora said that he sees a lot of improvement in this year's Miami team and said that the youth of yesteryear has grown up and that this is a tough team to play, in any environment.
"They made quite a few mistakes last year, and now these guys have grown up on defense. Now they are not making those mistakes,." Fedora said. "They're in a position to make plays and they're making plays when the opportunity arises." Fedora went on to say that defensively, UNC has given up too many big plays and that is an area of concern heading into the ball game.
"Defensively. we've just given up too many big plays and inopportune times," Fedora said. "The problems are all correctable. There's no doubt about it."
Fedora knows that his team cannot repeat the mistakes that it has made in the first five games to have a shot at winning tomorrow night.
"We've had three straight games where we've had a touchdown called back for a penalty. We haven't consistently run the football on offense. If we're unable to do that, that's going to make it very difficult for us," Fedora said. "We've got to be able to run the football and have some success on that side of the ball."
UNC quarterback Bryn Renner, who was proclaimed to be the starter on Tuesday, has looked good in practice and Fedora said that he is not afraid to insert the senior into the ball game.
"He's had a really good week of practice. He moved around great," Fedora said. "He hasn't talked much about any pain. He gets treatment every day and he's doing the things that he's supposed to do and he's practicing the way he is. I expect him to get out there and do a great job."
The coach did say that backup quarterback Marquise Williams will get some snaps and that part of the game plan was developed with him in mind.
"We plan on, Marquise will definitely play in the game," Fedora said. "He's going to be part of the game plan in various ways and so we anticipate him playing tomorrow for sure."
Miami coach Al Golden said on Sunday that while they expected Renner to get the start, they did plan to play against both quarterbacks and have practiced in anticipation that both would play. Miami has evaluated film on both players and Golden said that they are ready for who ever takes the snaps from center.