Letterman's Roundtable

Inside Carolina's weekly 'State of the Heels' discussion with former Tar Heels Scott Lenahan, Deems May and Mark Paschal ...

Despite UNC's ongoing personnel issues, Virginia Tech didn't seem to dominate on the field the way they did on the scoreboard, at least in terms of the players on the field. Do you see it that way, or do you think Virginia Tech was just a more talented team than the Tar Heels?

Scott: You hear it time and time again: "It's not about the other team, and it's about us." Well, those words couldn't have rung more true when describing the outcome of this past Saturday. We clearly didn't play very crisp and that manifested itself with an insurmountable 6-0 turnover margin. Obviously Virginia Tech has talent but in no way was it their talent or play-making ability that made the difference; it was what they didn't do, and that was making mistakes. I thought most of the game we played extremely physical but we had too many crucial errors at pivotal points in the game that we just couldn't overcome.

Deems: There were certain places that they were clearly more talented than we were and conversely there were positions where we were more talented. Overall, I think our first eleven on both sides were fairly even; however they were much deeper than we were throughout the entire team due to our attrition this season. I looked up one time when we were punting and saw at least six defensive starters on the punt team unit. That right there is enough to show how incredibly thin we are – plus six turnovers against any team will result in a lopsided score.

Mark: Buck, I told you before the game that I felt Virginia Tech was not as good as everyone believed they were. And I still feel that way. I believe they have some good players, and a good coaching staff, but I would take our guys and our staff over theirs right now. I stand by my belief that we are building something special at the University of North Carolina, and I encourage everyone to see that with me, even when we lose.

Tar Heel fans were sky-high last week at this time coming off a win at Florida State, but after this weekend's loss and generally poor performance against Virginia Tech, now many appear steeled to the inevitability of a loss this weekend to N.C. State, a team that has had UNC's number since Butch Davis became head coach. What would you say to UNC fans whose spirits are flagging after the loss to the Hokies?

Deems: I would ask them that when the bus left for the airport for Atlanta/LSU without 18 players (15 suspended, one transfer, one torn ACL, one quit to play baseball, all of whom were in camp for the first practice) that we were counting on to contribute significantly to this team this year, would they take a 6-4 record right now? A 6-4 record heading into the State game with road wins over Rutgers, UVa, and Florida State? Throw in losing your leading receiver and RB for the season and playing good offensive teams with no depth at defensive line and true freshman corners starting. Would you take 6-4 heading into the State game? That is just the physical part.

Throw in the fact that everyone outside of our Carolina family crucified our chancellor, AD, coach, and players, labeling them cheaters and presuming everyone was guilty before hearing any of the facts other than what they wanted to hear. We (myself included) were angry at our administration for sitting these players and jeopardizing our dream season. Meanwhile, our chancellor, AD, and head coach steadfastly put our university first and given some recent events around the country, I can honestly say that I'm damned glad they did.

I'm so proud of this team and what it has endured that I don't know what else to say except that given everything, I'll take 6-4 going into the State College game.

Mark: Guys, there is nothing harder than remaining focused and even-keeled for 14 weeks. Players, coaches and fans, more often than not, can get too high or too low coming off a big win or a big loss and that is why you see so many letdowns each week in college football. If a team is coming off an underdog win, they usually struggle the next week, no matter who they are playing. It is human nature.

Scott: Let me ask you, following the loss to Georgia Tech and kicking off the season 0-2, did you ever imagine us being where we are now? The fact that this past Saturday we still had a shot to compete for the ACC title is unfathomable when you take into consideration the adversity and distractions which have presented itself to this team time and time again.

If your heart doesn't go out to this team for the way that they have represented this University and fought tooth and nail to get where they're at, then you're standing on the wrong side of the line drawn in the sand. Coach Davis is an incredible leader and visionary, I'm honored to say that I had the privilege to play for him as well as other great coaches while at UNC. He's certainly a special person and has surrounded himself with an amazing supporting cast.

From an X's and O's standpoint, the game this weekend seems destined to be a shootout. Can UNC win that type of game versus N.C. State, or does the UNC defense have to step up and play lights out against the Pack in order for UNC to win?

Mark: Contain Russell Wilson and his big play threat Owen Spencer and the Tar Heels have a good opportunity to be successful on defense. This game will be filled with emotion. This senior class has never beaten N.C. State, minus the 5th year seniors. Trust me, these guys will do everything in their power all week to prepare to win. They want to walk out of their stadium on Senior Day, victorious. You can bet there are a lot of underclassmen that want to send them out that exact same way.

Scott: Well Buck, you couldn't have written a better ending to what's been the story of this season. Although we might not be in contention for the ACC title we sure can spoil it for someone else, and not just anybody else, N.C. State. It's no secret that I'm not particularly fond of the Pack, but the reality is we have a game against one of our biggest rivals at home in Kenan Stadium and a chance to repeat an eight-game winning season and it begins with a win this Saturday. Our success will lie in being able to control the talented quarterback Russell Wilson while minimizing mistakes and turnovers which killed us last Saturday. This being the last home game these seniors play in at Kenan Stadium and to take into the account the rivalry and what stakes are on the line, I'm sure that this game will be nothing short of electric.

Deems: State will play their best game of the year. They do every year. They and their fans would rather win this game than win the ACC championship. It seems in the last three years that we have just pressed too much; we just need to relax and go play. Our coaches and players know how much our fans want to win and are tired of losing to State. Our players are physically beaten up and I'm sure mentally tired as this will be the 10th straight week of playing a game. But it is what it is.

These kids are young and strong and will reach down and grab whatever is left in the tank and once again go to war with whichever soldiers dress. I know Scott, Mark, and I would love to go to war with this group. There is no better feeling than knowing that the guy lining up beside you is going to lay it on the line every play and this team has done that all year. Our fans deserve credit too. As these players participated in the Old Well Walk last week and saw the fans show of support and unity for this team and its coaches, it was a huge boost.

It may not have shown up on the scoreboard but obviously recruits noticed it and our fans deserve thanks for sticking by this team. It's our seniors last day playing in Kenan, let's get there early and thank them for establishing a foundation that is going to elevate Carolina Football to the next level.

Scott Lenahan manned the center position in Chapel Hill from 2003-07, overlapping two coaching regimes. Nicknamed 'Tank' for his weight room exploits, he earned the top senior honor on the '07 Tar Heel team.
Deems May excelled at tight end for UNC and was drafted in 1992, playing eight seasons in the NFL. He's since become a fan favorite for his candid commentary on the Tar Heel Sports Network.
Mark Paschal was a team captain for the Tar Heels in 2008. As a middle linebacker, he led the team in tackles prior to a career-ending injury and didn't miss a game in his career up until that point.

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