Letterman's Roundtable

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

I know I am speaking to the right crowd to ask about how it feels to lose to N.C. State, and losing to the Wolfpack for the fourth straight time has Tar Heel nation feeling wounded and angry. The outcome of the game hung in the balance several times during this game - what was the crucial turning point from your perspective, and what could UNC have done differently to make that point turn in its favor?

Scott: Well, the touchdown off the batted ball was a hard blow to take and shortly thereafter once the punt was returned for a touchdown, I think it was an up-hill climb from there on out. It's funny how football works sometimes in that no matter how well you execute a play the ball still might bounce in the other team's favor. I think that happened multiple times against State but most notably the momentum swing came after the bizarre play in which the ball that was batted from out of bounds, off our own guy. I mean, really? It's certainly frustrating losing to State but even a harder pill to swallow when the defeat wasn't due to being out-played. If there was anything that we could have done differently it would clearly have been to capitalize in the red zone and get touchdowns instead of kicking field goals. Casey Barth did a great job kicking for us, especially on the 49-yarder, but we have to convert those into touchdowns.

Deems: The turning point was when we were dominating on both sides of the ball in the third quarter and had to settle for field goals. We had a chance to get it to a three-possession game with just one touchdown out of those drives. We failed to do that and kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns cost us the game as it did the previous week against Virginia Tech. When you are as thin as we are on the defensive line you have to score as many points as possible early in anticipation of wearing down some in the second half and allowing yardage from the other team. State was extremely lucky on the tipped pass but losses are rarely tied to just one play. We didn't get one break. We sacked Wilson on their five, he fumbled and the ball bounced right in the hands of their lineman. They muffed a punt with Zach Brown standing a foot in front of the returner and it bounce right back up to him. We just didn't get any breaks.

Mark: No question that the Hail Mary fourth down touchdown followed by the Tar Heels going three and out, resulting in the punt return for a touchdown - back-to-back-to-back was the breaking point in this game. I hated it for those seniors and for the rest of the guys out there. Losing to State four years in a row is a tough pill to swallow but this team has a whole lot to still be proud of and two games left to finish out on a strong note. I urge and encourage everyone who feels like the sky is falling to relax and enjoy the remaining two games of the season.

This team is going to go bowling, but has a game remaining over in Durham against the Blue Devils this weekend. In terms of this season and next season, what would it mean for the Tar Heels to win this weekend and close out the regular season on a positive note?

Deems: In terms of this season it will make the record look better and a nice shot at a bowl in Nashville against an SEC opponent - those are pretty obvious. Nothing we do in terms of wins and losses this year will have an impact on next year's team. Everything will be a fresh start and the returning players and incoming freshmen will all battle for starting spots on next year's team. What this season has done has developed some really good younger players earlier than we would have liked. I think this season is what I envisioned next season being; not so much a rebuilding year, but a developmental year. Before the attrition this was set up to be a very special year. It didn't turn out that way, but the development, maturity, and experience that our younger players got is invaluable.

Mark: Winning over in Durham would be exactly what these seniors deserve. I could not be more proud of this team and that group of guys. It is crazy how fast the last four years have gone by. It feels like just yesterday I was doing my best to try and teach two freshmen cornerbacks how to line up on defense their first spring. With every year that passes, this team and program will continue to grow under the leadership of Butch. It is up to the lettermen, the alumni and the fans to continue to support this program and remain focused on all the positives that have come from this year. We are headed in the right direction, I promise you that.

Scott: It's always great to end the season on a high note and especially against one of our in-state rivals on their home turf. Realistically though, this game won't have much of a bearing in terms of how we start next season, but it doesn't mean that this game isn't important. Every game is important.

Win or lose this weekend, you can't say enough about this group of guys and the way they've played this year. In my book, this team has already etched themselves into the history books with what they've accomplished. Whether you're a fan, student, alumni, or former player, I'm sure you're with me when in saying that this team makes me swell with pride every time they take the field to represent our University. To win this game and send our seniors out on a high note would certainly be a feather in our cap on an already memorable season.

At several points during the season it seemed possible that North Carolina would be going through another coaching search in football once the season concluded, yet now there doesn't even seem to be a serious question and that Butch Davis will be back as head coach next year and beyond. Unless there are additional damaging revelations, do you see any possibility in a change of the leadership of the football program on the horizon at UNC?

Mark: God, I hope not. That would be bad. I'll leave it at that.

Scott: When people mention the University of North Carolina, the first thing that comes to mind is basketball, and rightfully so. But for so long people have wanted North Carolina to be not only known for basketball, but for football as well. With Coach Davis we're certainly entering that realm and for once in a long time brought our football team onto the national stage. Since coaching here he's changed the culture of the campus, created an atmosphere with his different ideas behind stadium renovations, the Tar Pit, fireworks, all which have resulted in sold-out stadiums and winning teams which are now going to yet another bowl game. He's been able to accomplish all this, and not to mention weather the storm of this year's rollercoaster, in just four years.

How much more do you think he could accomplish in four more? Coach Davis is one of the best leaders I've ever been around and played for, and to be honest I couldn't imagine any other coach heading up the ship of this Carolina football team. I think he'll be our coach next year no doubt, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Deems: Buck, I think people know where I stand if there is a change in leadership. We go back to being irrelevant.

There wasn't much talent on this team when Coach Davis arrived. If we had what happened to us happen then; we wouldn't have won a game this year. I dare say we wouldn't have been remotely competitive in a game this year. What he has built in four years enabled us to be competitive this year. We just ran out of gas these last 2 games.

I know everyone hates losing to State four years in a row. I lived it with Coach Mack Brown's first four years here. It is not fun. To say Coach Davis doesn't put much in to this game is to not know what in the hell you are talking about.

I remember being in the same spot as this year's seniors, not having beaten State. I was sitting in the locker room with my head down and Coach Brown came over to me and put his arm around me and said, "I know this is tough, but you have laid the foundation for the future of Carolina Football. We will not lose to them again for a very long time and you'll be a part of these upcoming wins." He called me after every one of the wins that followed and there were a bunch of phone calls. This week was certainly tough, but I firmly believe the future is bright.

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.

Inside Carolina Top Stories