It may be a case of better late than never, but North Carolina will take a little momentum into its season finale at North Carolina State Saturday after winning its last two games.
"I think what our team has done under the circumstances has played extremely hard," coach Larry Fedora said as the Tar Heels (3-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) turned their attention to the rival Wolfpack (7-4, 5-2 ACC). "I think we're starting to make fewer mistakes.
"I think a lot of the young guys that are playing are making fewer mistakes, and we're able to overcome the ones that we are. So we're playing better as a football team right now.
"I do like the way we're playing at this point going into our last game."
In particular, sophomore quarterback Nick Elliott, who lost out in fall camp to redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt and graduate transfer Brandon Harris in the three-way competition for the starting job, has come through at the right time since given his opportunity while the others dealt with injuries.
Since throwing three interceptions coming off the bench in a loss to Miami, Elliott has completed 38 of 59 pass attempts (64.4 percent) with six touchdowns and no picks in the wins over Pittsburgh and Western Carolina.
He has provided a steady hand at the position and has become more comfortable as he gains playing time. Fedora said that Elliott, who saw limited action playing back up Mitch Trubisky last year, has been consistent all season, in practice if not in games early on.
"There's never been a doubt in my mind that Nathan's prepared himself to play and be the starter," Fedora said. "He's known whenever his number is called I can assure you he'll be prepared. He wouldn't go out there and not know what to do.
"There's one thing about that kid. He's going to be prepared."
Elliott's decision making, his recognition of coverages and reads, and throwing continue to improve, Fedora said.
"He is getting better in each of those areas," the coach said. "He's going to continue to grow. What's happening now is that he's gaining confidence with each play that he's out there."
That said, when asked if Elliott would start this week, Fedora demurred, insisting that like every week and every position, the competition would remain open.
"He obviously has the edge because he's been the starter the last couple weeks and he's had success," Fedora said. "But they'll still compete this week."