41-9: No help this year

John Bunting doesn't want to hear anything about the Tar Heels' 41-9 pasting of Florida State two years ago, but Bobby Bowden sure does.

Being reminded of Carolina's biggest football win of the modern era has become drudgery to UNC's third-year skipper, while it's the sweet music of bulletin board fodder for the Seminoles and their legendary coaching patriarch.

No, as good as an early season match-up at home with the Atlantic Coast Conference champs should be, the Tar Heels won't sneak up on FSU this Saturday thanks to that memorable afternoon in Kenan Stadium.

"I don't have to mention it but I will," Bowden said. "The way we got beat up there, you think we're going to be complacent? That's where history plays a part, ‘Are you going to be overconfident, or are you going to be ready to play?'"

Bunting, on the other hand, not only chooses to downplay the emphasis of his first win as UNC's coach, he would prefer not to hear about it all together.

"That's great for the newspapers to talk about, but I'm not thinking about it," Bunting said. "I don't think our football team is thinking about it. This is the beginning of the 2003 season, and what happened in 2001 has no reflection on what are football team is all about this year."

FSU is 15-8 since Sept. 22, 2001 – not what fans in Tallahassee are accustomed to. While the Tar Heels used the win as a confidence building catalyst, for an 8-5 season capped off with a Peach Bowl championship.

"It's amazing how quick you can lose confidence, and nothing will shake your confidence more than a loss," Bowden said. "So anytime you lose a football game, whether you like to admit it or not, there is a little doubt that jumps out at you. When you lose two and three games, then next thing you know you're really doubting yourself."

  • Most would agree that for Carolina to pull the upset over FSU this year, it is important that the Tar Heels don't get down early. But if recent history is any indication, it's the late stages of the game where UNC will need to step it up.

    "We played great in the first half of a number of games last year," Bunting said. "I've said since I came here, ‘It's a long game.' Now if you're getting your tail whipped in the first and second quarter, it makes it even longer, and tragic. But since I've been here, we've played pretty well in the first half of most football games – well enough at times to go ahead and win a football game. We haven't come through in the second half, and I attribute that to inexperienced football players.

    "You can do all the talking you want, lift all the weights and do all the conditioning, but it's still a matter of being able to handle third and fourth quarters. It's mostly mental."

  • Against FSU in 2001, Darian Durant threw for two touchdowns in a platoon role with Ronald Curry. He missed last year's game due to injury; a fact not lost on Bowden.

    "Durant cut us to pieces up there two years ago," Bowden said. "I'm very impressed with him."

    Durant said Wednesday after practice, that he is optimistic that he can perform even better with the talent that surrounds him this year.

    "I'm very excited," Durant said. "We've got some up and coming talent out there at receiver, and we've got an offensive line that can take some of the hits off of me. We can make a lot of things happen in our passing game.

    Despite his abbreviated 2002 season and the Tar Heels' disappointing 3-9 finish, Durant still managed to lead the ACC in total offense per game, averaging 285.8 yards. At Carolina, the 2003 Davey O'Brien Award candidate ranks first in career completion percentage (.614), Second in career pass efficiency (147.14), tied for second in career touchdown passes (33), fourth in career passing yards (3,966), sixth in career total offense (4,255) and seventh in career pass completions (289).

  • Although he earned a spot on the depth chart as a backup defensive end, true freshman Kyndraus Guy will probably redshirt sometime during the Tar Heels' bye week after the Syracuse game. Bunting also said that defensive tackle Isaiah Thomas will also likely redshirt, citing his need to get into Division I shape.

    "Kyndraus and I have talked, and he is right now in a position to redshirt; that's more his thought process than mine. He has had a great camp and I think he could contribute this year. But we may let him sit the year out so that he can be an even better player in his fifth year. That has yet to be determined, but that's where we are at today."

    Still, Bunting said he expects at least 10 or more true frosh will not redshirt this season. In the last two years, 13 true freshman have seen playing time.

    The current Tar Heels that played as true frosh are OT Jeb Terry, WR Brandon Russell, WR Chris Curry, DE Jocques Dumas, DT Chase Page, OT Jason Brown, TB Jacque Lewis, DB Chris Hawkins, WR Derrele Mitchell, DB Tommy Richardson, DB Cedrick Holt, DT Kendall High, WR Michael Gilmore, DB Mahlon Carey and OG Kyle Ralph.

  • Bunting's blueprint for victory against the Seminoles:

    "We've got to play the game," he said. "A lot of things can happen. In football, a lot of things take place on every single play. Momentum swings. We have to do the details. We have to execute well. We can't have missed assignments. We can't have penalties. We can't have turnovers. I understand that and I think my team understands that.

    "Theirs is a football team that has excelled over the years. I can't think of one program that has been any better over the last 20 years. There have been situations where they have struggled. They're on our schedule and they are awfully, awfully talented."


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