Project 28: Football vs. Elon
Project 28 continues with a trip to Kenan Stadium for Carolina football's season opener against Elon. If you're reading this, you almost definitely know what happened (and you very likely might have been there), but particularly for displaced Carolina fans, here's a taste of what it's like to attend a football game.
Home of the Tar Heels
Kenan Stadium has been the home of Tar Heel football since 1927. It is considered one of the most beautiful settings in college football, set among the pines with a view of the Bell Tower to the northeast. Kenan Stadium has undergone expansions in recent years and has a capacity of 63,000.
Carolina football is under the direction of first-year head coach Larry Fedora, who came to Carolina after four successful seasons at Southern Miss. The Tar Heels are led on offense by junior quarterback Bryn Renner, sophomore running back Giovani Bernard, senior receiver Erik Highsmith and a veteran offensive line. Seniors Kevin Reddick (linebacker) and Sylvester Williams (defensive line) headline the defense. Due to NCAA sanctions, Carolina is on probation for three years and will be ineligible for postseason play in 2012.
Fedora and his coordinators have implemented new schemes on both sides of the ball. Blake Anderson's offense features a fast-paced no-huddle attack that spreads the field. The aggressive defense under Dan Disch and Vic Koenning is in a 4-2-5 alignment, with two hybrid positions new to Carolina, the ram and bandit.
Saturday's game, the first of the Fedora era, was a 62-0 romp for the Tar Heels. Carolina struck early and often and led by 41 points at halftime. No Tar Heel scoring drive took longer than 3:30, and the Tar Heel offense used 14 different receivers on 20 completed passes. Bernard rushed for 93 yards and scored on the run, via the pass and on a punt return - all before halftime. With the game well in hand, Fedora called off the dogs in the third quarter, sticking to plays intended to run clock and keep the Tar Heels healthy.
The excitement surrounding the first game of the Fedora era began early Saturday, just as it does for every home game. Tar Heel Town opens on campus three hours before game time, with food, fun and face painting. About two and a half hours prior to kickoff, the players and coaches arrive for the Old Well Walk. The team walks from Cameron Avenue through campus to Kenan Stadium, high-fiving fans along the way. Once inside the stadium, hot dogs and drinks are half-price until 30 minutes before kickoff, and the Marching Tar Heels have a new pregame show for 2012. Carolina's pregame entrance was enhanced by a terrific new video.
Saturday's listed attendance was 50,500. Fans take their time getting to their seats, especially for early games, and the crowd swelled midway through the first quarter. However, the temperature was extremely hot, particularly on the North side, and with the game well in hand, many, many people checked out at halftime. Some will criticize the early departures, but if you weren't there, it's best not to talk. These people were not leaving to beat traffic; they were leaving for their health. The conditions Saturday - the weather, the opponent, the score, and the holiday weekend - don't make Game One an ideal indicator of the season to come.
Quote of the Game
Despite the Tar Heels not digging too deep into the playbook, quarterback Bryn Renner recorded the first reception of his college career. Highsmith lofted the ball 18 yards downfield to Renner, who was hit immediately by Elon's Chandler Wrightenberry. It was Renner's first catch since his sophomore season of high school. "I was getting nervous, so I was using the towels, using everything. I was about to ask for some gloves, but I didn’t want to give it away," Renner said. "We ran it like four times in practice, and I got outthrown the first time we ran it, so Coach Anderson almost pulled it out of the playbook. But luckily he called it in the game, and luckily I caught it. 'Mook' threw a great ball."
Carolina hits the road the next two weeks to take on Wake Forest (3:00 Saturday September 8) and Louisville (3:30 Saturday September 15). They return to Kenan Stadium on Saturday, September 22 to take on in-state rival East Carolina.
What did you think of your football experience Saturday? Let us know in the comments below.
Previously on Project 28