I’ve been a UNC fan for as long as I can remember now and I’ve been to more than my fair share of UNC football games. I’ve seen great teams and I’ve seen some teams that are not so good, but lately, we’ve been witnessing as fans teams that are extremely talented that just cannot get over the hump. It’s a very frustrating process to have to witness. We all know that a school like North Carolina, with the resources that it possesses, should field a perennial contender on the football field year in and year out. For whatever reason, something is lacking and in my honest opinion, it’s emotion.
Now I’ve seen North Carolina win some magical games that they weren’t favored to win. I think back to 2004 when the Heels stuffed T.A. McLendon on the goal line on 4th down to beat the Wolfpack and then two weeks later the same unlikely group shattered Miami’s national championship hopes on a game winning field goal by Casey Barth. How about a couple of seasons ago when the Tar Heels traveled to Blacksburg, VA to take on top 10 Virginia Tech and forced a Ryan Williams fumble late that set up yet another game winning field goal this time by Casey Barth? Those were some big time wins.
However, while there have been some bright moments, too many times have I seen the Heels drop games in which they were supposed to win, end up on the wrong side of a last minute drive and get completely outclassed in games that could’ve been an opportunity for a big upset. I just feel, especially against teams such as NC State and Duke, the Carolina has a problem of coming into the game too casually.
Take last weekend’s disappointing loss vs Duke. There is no way on earth that Carolina should have even been in the situation that they were in. You mean to tell me that the Tar Heels, who dominated a Virginia Tech team in Chapel Hill, cannot beat a team that Virginia Tech dropped 41 unanswered points on? I’m not buying it. I just feel like UNC came into the game expecting Duke to roll over. The only time that North Carolina really played well was when they made their monster run late in the game that resulted in the Tar Heels taking their first lead of the game, since the 11 minute mark of the first quarter, with a little over three minutes to play. I feel at that point, the team knew they had to step up and they made sure that they did.
Once Carolina took the late lead, I felt pretty confident in the outcome I’m not going to lie. However, I’m just an innocent fan. The Tar Heel defense apparently felt the same way as I did and Sean Renfree took full advantage of it. He marched his Blue Devils right down the field and put them in the end zone with virtually no time left for North Carolina to recover. To me, the defense felt the game was over before it actually was and that if they just went through the motions, then they would hold on to an almost improbable comeback. Little did they know, Duke had other plans and they cost Carolina a win. I wholeheartedly believe that if Carolina played with more purpose then the outcome would have never been in question.
I know that this season doesn’t really count for much, but that doesn’t mean that winning football games aren’t important. I was really hoping that a new coach and offense would really spark the Tar Heels into showing up for every game with the same intensity. For the most part, it has.
North Carolina probably faces the biggest game of their season this Saturday against NC State. Not saying that Duke isn’t a big game, but at least the Tar Heels have beaten them consistently in recent years. NC State is a very different story. Too many times has North Carolina gone into this game with the mindset that they’re the superior team and too many times NC State has put them in their place. If North Carolina is going to compete with the Wolfpack this weekend, then they will have to match the Pack’s intensity. NC State always brings that hate for Carolina out on the field and it’s proved successful for them in recent years.
I think the Tar Heels do have the better team this season regardless of the recent history and the caliber of NC State’s big wins this season. However, until they can win, they will be considered the underdog. I hope Coach Fedora has his boys angry and hungry after last week’s heartbreak because they will surely need to utilize both in order to capitalize against their arch rivals from Raleigh.