by Turner Walston
•Sixty-seven players saw action in Saturday’s win over Liberty, Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora said in his press conference on Monday. Nine players started a game for the first time at the collegiate level, and 14 freshmen saw the field.
“It was a lot of players, and I’m glad it worked out that way, because we know we’re a young football team,” Fedora said. “Those young kids need to get as many reps as possible, because we know they’re going to have to help us throughout the season.”
•Fedora said both quarterbacks, Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, played very similarly on Saturday. Williams, the starter, went 19-29 passing for 169 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing six times for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Trubisky directed the offense on eight series and finished 10-16 passing with a touchdown and an interception and rushed four times for seven yards. Despite the three interceptions, Fedora said both quarterbacks impressed with their decision-making. “I thought they managed the game pretty well,” he said. Fedora indicated that moving forward, Williams would be the starting quarterback with Trubisky utilized as needed.
The head coach was coy about his quarterback decision last Monday, but Williams said after the game that he’d known he would start for some time. “I found out like two weeks ago, to be honest with you guys,” Williams said. “I just had to keep it under cover. We’re doing what the coaches love to do, keep things under cover and have some fun with it. It had you guys guessing, didn’t it?”
It was always intended that Trubisky would come in on the third series of the game, and the two alternated regularly from there.
•The Tar Heels took the ball away from Liberty six times on Saturday: four fumbles and two interceptions. The team put an emphasis on creating turnovers in the off-season, and that focus paid off. “I really don’t remember us creating that many balls on the ground in the entire season last year, what we accomplished in that one game, actually that one half, basically,” Fedora said. “Sometimes you do things in practice and it doesn’t carry over to the field in a game, and so I think early on it was more about everybody just trying to get a feel for where they were in the game, and then once the game got rolling, then they started doing the things that they had been working on.”
•Despite an injured foot that kept him off the field, wide receiver T.J. Thorpe was instrumental in Carolina’s win over Liberty on Saturday, according to linebacker Jeff Schoettmer. “He wasn’t even playing, but he came into the locker room and was really firing guys up at halftime,” Schoettmer said of Thorpe. “He’s a team-first guy and him and Norkeithus (Otis) really kind of rallied us. Maybe there was some nervousness at the start of the season. I don’t know what it was, but in the second half, we looked good and we’re just going to try to display that energy to start the game.”
A broken foot kept Thorpe out of the lineup for the duration of the 2012 season. He returned to haul in 24 catches for 267 yards and a pair of scores a year ago. Thorpe endured another setback in this summer’s training camp but rather than turn inward in his disappointment, he has elected to be right there with the team.
“A lot of guys that get hurt don’t necessarily like to be around. They like to mope and be in their own world,” said tight end Jack Tabb. “I’ve been there, when I got hurt sophomore year. I felt like I was kind of useless, but he took a big role in getting everyone excited. Just because he was hurt wanted to be with everyone and get everyone more excited so they could play rather than be in the background and just kind of being there with everyone. He actually wanted to be engaged and he got everyone hyped, and it was good, because we needed it.”
•Tabb said it helped to have Caleb Pressley signaling plays in while wearing a Julius Peppers Green Bay Packers jersey. “It was a little weird, but he was easy to see though,” he said. “So that’s good.”