Davis pushes focus to next test
As Saturday's matchup against Virginia approaches, North Carolina football fans hope the Tar Heels can avenge the previous meeting between the two teams.
Last season the Cavaliers handed UNC a 23-0 defeat. While the score itself was disappointing to the Tar Heels, most people remember the contest as the final game before Athletic Director Dick Baddour announced that John Bunting would not return as head coach.
With that memory associated with Saturday's opponent, it might seem like North Carolina would use revenge as a motivational tactic.
But for head coach Butch Davis, last year doesn't exist.
Since Davis took over the coaching position, he has worked to keep his players focused on what's ahead, not what's in the past. For him, no one opponent is more important than another.
"I think every game, this year and probably next year, will give the whole team an opportunity to grow," Davis said. "Every experience that we go through gives us a chance to grow and learn and to get better."
To ensure that the players shift their attention to each new opponent throughout the season, Davis has implemented a 24-hour rule.
Win or lose, the team has one day to think about its last game, then it's history.
That means UNC should have already shaken off last week's heartbreaking loss to East Carolina.
"We would've loved to have last week, but last week's done, and this week is Virginia," junior Mark Paschal said. "I wish we would have had better outcomes, definitely, but it was a good learning experience for all those (young) guys."
For freshman Johnny White, who led UNC in rushing against ECU, the game was an opportunity to become better adjusted to playing at the college level.
"In high school I ran pretty hard, but in college you do have to step it up a notch and turn it up another level to run harder," White said. "We're starting to get more chemistry as we go along. That first game was basically getting the jitterbugs out. The second game I felt more comfortable out there."
Davis said each game shows the Tar Heels different aspects of their game that can be improved.
After a fumbled snap in the ECU game, the coaching staff has worked with members of the special teams during practices to simulate live, pressure-packed situations. Davis said he wants players to learn from their mistakes, but not to focus on them.
"You have to forget it and put it behind you," he said "You have to focus on your mechanics, focus on the mental aspect of it, and then you hope that it never comes back again."
The upcoming game against the Cavaliers marks UNC's first ACC contest of the season. But Davis emphasized that the team won't prepare any differently than it did for its first two games.
"There's no wasted game for us," Davis said. "You could put black helmets and black jerseys with no numbers on all 12 opponents, and it would seem significant as far as I'm concerned."
Contact the Sports Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.